Northwest Passage - RCAF
R.C.A.F. CONTROLS ROUTE 'Northwest Passage" By Air Speeds War Job This is the seventh in a series of articles dealing with the wartime developments in Canada's northwest undertaken by the United States and Canadian governments. By E. W. HARROLD Special CorrMpond.nl of Tht Tribune tnd AiiocHtM Southern Newpaperi M'ATSON LAKE, Y.T., Oct. 7 Tales of the Alaska highway have ' ' crowded the news pages of the newspapers since the United States embarked upon the stupendous task of building a military road through the Canadian northwest from railhead In Alberta clear to Fairbanks, In the heart of Alaska. The construction of the road was truly a heroic feat of engineering. But equally Important as a Una of communication In the war against Japan today it the Northwest Staging Route. This airline It the 20th century Northwest passage to the Far Eatt. It is the path by which most men travel who want to get to outposts along the Alaska highway in nor thern Br,Ush Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska bent the business of beating the Jap. Yet too little has , been heard of the route In relation u us wartime signincance. Five Key Airfields : Staging Route in an R.C.A.F. trans port. What I saw at the five key airfields between Edmonton and Whitehorse opened my eyes. Squadron Leader McLean spends! a busy life. If he is not engaged , in tasks inseparable from his job i as station chief, he is going places: In his Norseman pline, the run - i about of the air, which can per - 1 form some astonishing chores, i such as fetching anthracite from Hudson Hope, 70 miles away. Still Expanding I Fort Nelson is much like Fort St. ! John, but here the airport is being enlarged considerably. Squadron Leader A. C. Heaven Is in command. He is a first Great War pilot. Another spacious airport Is Watson Lake, alongside a beautiful sheet of water, 250 miles northwest of Fort Nelson. Here, too, I have just flown the Northwest ld fixed These key itationt are Grande Prairie, Alta.; Fort St. John and Fort Nelson, In B.C., and Watson Lake and Whitehorse In the Yukon all with paved, full - length runways. Between these stations and the Alaskan boundary are six supplementary stations which offer landing strips at approximately every 100 miles along the route. Each one is equipped with radio range and each of the key stations has port facilities equal to many well - traveled commercial airlines to the south. The federal department of transport pioneered this route, built the fields, the radio range and other aids to navigation. Today, the department of transport still maintains the radio and meteorological services, but since the fall of 1942, the R.C.A.F. has been in charge of the airports, manning the control towers and regulating all flights. North By Air You head northwest from Ed - ' monton, passing over the Peace River country, startlingly lovely in the late summer sun, with its golden farms crowning the tablelands and divided by the deep gorges of many rivers. Grande Prairie is soon below, and then you come to the fabulous town of Dawson Creek and the Imposing new steel suspension bridge which the Alaska Highway engineers have thrown across the Peace river at Fort St. John. Fort St. John Is typical of the fields along the northwest airway Craft constantly take off and land, refueled by U.S. army trucks, scr viced, if necessary, by U.S. Air I Corps crews. In command is c ...... .J r i r ......... . I - n oqufiiiiuu i.rnuci mutiny miieni,, a vciemn nyer, as are mosi oi me IrC.AI. station commanders along the route. if mi mnHiiv $ea6uZ& WITH 1 " f ENGLAND ' 6a& Some I saw were Bell Alra - cobras, pointing to the Alaska combat zone. Whitehorse Is the fifth ke station along the route and is an other 220 miles from here. At Whitehorse you come down on to one of the largest fields in Canada, and it is expanding still. It is set on the bench of land that overlooks the town. A busy officer who knows his flying, Squadron Leader J. E. Rogers, is in command. From the sky above Whitehorse drop craft from Fairbanks. An chorage and other points in Alaska as well as from placej to the south. Two days ago, a couple of Klttyhawks came In from the north. One carried Fit. Lt. J. G. Gohl, of Winnipeg, and the other Wing Commander R. E. Morrow, D.F.C., Vancouver, who commands the R.C.A.F. wing in the Aleutians. Commander Morrow is the son - in - law of Charles Bishop, the Ot tawa parliamentary correspondent or The Tribune. His wife, Mr. Bishop's daughter, Is presently residing In Ottawa. Far - seeing Department This Northwest Staging route Is performing a vital job today. For its existence and capacity for full operation the moment the Japanese declared war, the department of transport is to be thanked. Those charged with the ad - ministration of civil aeronautics in Canada have for long been war that one of the great aerial highways of the world ' would follow the path of the present staging route to Alaska, Siberia, Manchuria and China. They conceived the airway In the light of that idea. Development of the route was iradual. In the '20's flights were made into the Upper Liard country by several pioneer airmen, notable, among them being Lt. - Col. J. Scott Willinms, M.C., A.F.C.; Stanley MacMillan, of Edmonton. and Grant McConachie, also oi Edmonton. It was not until 1935 that the route was finally pronounced the best for climate and terrain. The necessary surveys were made by A. D. McLean, Ottawa, now controller of civil aviation. A further check of the route was made by J. A. Wilson, Ottawa, director of air services, In 1936. In 1937 the post office awarded a contract for a weekly delivery of airmail over the route floats to be used In summer and skis In winter. In 1939 the final survey was authorized and the department ol transport promptly began locating the exact sites of airports for all - year operation at the five key points already listed. When Canada entered the war. the survey parties were still in the field and the question arose as to whether they should not be recalled for other Important air projects. With commendable foresight It was decided instead to prosecute the work with greater vigor. Subsequent events have completely Justified that decision. The building of the fields was an epic chapter in Canadian aviation. Today the reward of the patient effort and long - range planning of the department Is a fully - functioning air route, efficiently controlled by the R.C.A.F., which affords the quickest means of travel between cities where major decisions are made and a combat front where they are carried out.