• Samantha Cowan

How Aviation Took off in the First World War


Aviation was a scary new world propelled drastically forward by the dawn of the First World

War. The average life expectancy of the pilot was a mere few weeks. Those pilots who did survive the First World War were forever changed. The aces, the men who had not only survived but managed to shoot more than 6 enermy aircraft down in the process, had continued to explore the dangerous heights of aviation, benefiting Canada in more ways than one.

"Bush PIlots" - penetrated unexplored territory that no one had seen before. Accurate aerial

maps of this incredibly vast country, unexplored minerals composites (like gold & unranium), and other resources were now easily made available.

Think about how incredible that is. Even as late as 1927, the only Canadian maps available still had vast regions labelled "UNEXPLORED" in large text. It really was aerial photography that gave us the first completely accurate maps. The survivors who had piloted the first planes of the First World War, outstanding characters that we read about in books, William Barker, Billy Bishop, Harold Anthony "Doc" Oaks, Clennell Haggerston "Punch" Dickins, and others, became the founding generation of air transportaion, opening the North, and bringing with it a new vision to the country to Canadians.

Canada Aviation and Space Museum Curator Rénald Fortier explains, Canada’s aviation pilots played an important role in the First World War, with fighter pilots receiving glory and observation pilots doing the important work.


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