Liz Muir launches new books about Canadian aviation for kids this month!


Shrink Rays and Airplanes: City Hall School

On Monday I got the chance to hang out with the Grade One’s from John A. McDougall school for an hour. It was so much fun!


First we listened to coordinator/instructor Linda Hut take us on a historic walk of downtown Edmonton, with great factoids about everything from City Hall to the Alberta Hotel to an inclined railway up the hill.

Then it was my turn to give a mini-talk about what the “history lady” (aka Historian Laureate does) and share a few stories about Edmonton’s aviation history. It was a blast chatting with them about “parapups”, some of our first aviatrixes, and Wop May’s involvement in stopping the Mad Trapper.

Plus we got to talk about shrink rays, space grass, and fighter planes flying through Edmonton. A pretty awesome way to start the week and I can’t wait for the Citizenship Fair next Friday!


I’m a sticker! How cool is that? The kids get to put this in their journal (and I got to as well!).


December 1st Launch: Wings Over High River

90-year-old Gordon Jones still flies his Tiger Moth from when he was a British Commonwealth Training Plan flight instructor during WWII in High River, Alberta. Meet the man and read his remarkable story as written by Anne Gafiuk at an upcoming launch.


Where: Museum of the Highwood. 406 First Street SW in High River, Alberta

When: December 1, 2012 at 1:30pm.

Event is free. Books will be for sale and the author will be on hand to sign them. Refreshments will be provided.



Book on Spartan Air Services in the Works

Author Robert Stitt has written several articles about aircraft operated by Spartan Air Services and has recently had a book published on the history of the Boeing Fortress with RAF Coastal Command. Robert is now working on a book describing all of Spartan’s aircraft and operations in detail and is keen to make contact with former Spartan employees or their relatives willing to share memories, photographs, logbooks, newsletters and other items.

Please contact him at


Here are some other aviation projects underway. Their authors welcome your help!

Harold E. Wright would like information on the location of the records of the Magee Trophy Committee from the 1939-42 period. He would also be interested in knowing of any pilots or aircraft with a connection to Saint John, NB, from the 1917-1975 period. Contact him at

Elizabeth Chen is looking for some photographs. She writes: “In 1958/59 my Father Squadron Leader Douglas Leckie RAAF was flying in the Snowy Mountains Australia in the Beaver VH-SMB, this plane is now C-FTCW.” Do you have any records or photos of this aircraft? Contact her at if so!
 Matt Jolley (for Fred Aldworth) is looking for help tracking down an individual aircraft history or squadron records for aircraft DH-82-C, construction number 1339, that flew with No. 33 EFTS in Caron, Saskatchewan then was sold to civilian and registered in the USA as NX82CS. Please contact or if you can help.
Jake McLaughlin is spearheading “a project inviting anecdotes about Canada’s short-lived history of naval aviation from those who were directly involved or whose friends or family members might have been part of that world. If you know of anyone who fits in either category, would you be kind enough to direct them to the website on which anecdotes can be posted. We’ll collect, review and publish the results. Any proceeds from the outcome will be dedicated to funding a memorial to the story of Naval Air in Canada.”


Commemorating a Prairie Aviation Legend

John Howe, one of the pioneers of crop spraying in Canada and a member of the Saskatchewan Aviation Hall of Fame, passed away March 22, 2012. His family has created a lovely website to commemorate his achievements and those of his company, Praire Flying Service. As his son Marty wrote me, the company

was formed by four R.C.A.F. veterans in the spring of 1946. The principals involved were Bob MacKnight, Paddy Watson, Art Davis and John Howe. Some dusting of orchards in eastern Canada had been done previous to this time, however the spraying of liquid had never been done in Canada.   On July 11, 1947 they received a license from the Air Transport Board to operate the “flying water can,” the first licensed aerial spray rig in Canada.


The site has a wonderful assortment of photos from Mr. Howe’s private collection, and is a digital archives of sorts.  If you are interested in the history of prairie flying in Canada, crop spraying, or aviation in general, this site is worth a look!

Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame Induction Dinner – Montreal June 14


Tickets are now on sale through the CAHF website. For more information or to buy, please click here!

2012 Hall of Fame inductees will be:

  • Nils Christensen of Salt Spring Island, BC, made his contribution to Canadian  aviation with the founding of Viking Air and the acquisition of the rights from de Havilland Canada to manufacture spares for some of its post-war products. The venture has given rise to an internationally reputed aircraft and parts manufacturing concern.  Born in Norway in 1921, Nils served in the Merchant Navy and the Royal Norwegian Air Force during the Second World War and, emigrated to Canada in 1951.
  • Air Marshal Harold “Gus” Edwards (1892-1952) was born in England and raised in Nova Scotia. He served as a pilot with the Royal Naval Air Service in the First World War and was later intimately involved with the founding of the RCAF. Gus was in charge of the monumental personnel management aspects of the BCATP when it began and then fought successfully for the “Canadianization” of the RCAF’s contributions to Allied efforts in the RAF as Air Office Commanding-in-Chief of RCAF Overseas.
  • Pierre Jeanniot, O.C. C.Q., who was born in France in 1933 and emigrated to Canada in 1947, is a former president and CEO of Air Canada, known as an innovator in the field of airline operations and management. An internationally recognized leader in the airline industry, he contributed to the development of civil aviation in Canada and around the world. His work in Air Canada and with the International Air Transport Association as Director General and CEO has been recognized with honours from Canada, France and international organizations.
  • Dr. Daffyd (Dave) Williams, born in Saskatoon in 1954, is a pilot, medical doctor and a retired Canadian astronaut of outstanding skill, management ability and accomplishment in his work with the Canadian Space Agency. He was appointed Director of NASA’s Space and Life Sciences Directorate, a rare accomplishment for a non-American astronaut. Dave made two flights on the Space Shuttle, 1998 and 2007, and in the second was involved in three spacewalks for installations at the International Space Station.

The Belt of Orion winner for 2012 is Leavens Aviation Inc.

The company began as Leavens Brothers Air Services in 1927, and is one of Canada’s great aviation  success stories. Its life encompassed several aspects of aviation in Canada and operated until 2011, starting with barnstorming a single aircraft, then flight training, running a major training facility under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), spraying operations, commercial airline operations, light aircraft manufacturing and the sale, distribution and overhaul of aircraft parts.

Nominations for the CAHF’s 2013 induction are open until June 30th. For more information, please click here.

Author Q&A on Aviation, History, and Writing/Publishing!

I’ve often said this little apple didn’t fall far from the tree: I was destined to write about aviation because there were so many airplane nuts in my family.

Well, maybe I was also destined to write – period – because of my genetics. I come from a long line of  journalers, journalists, radio play writers, and now…novelists. My mother, Mary Metcalfe, is set to publish her first book this summer. As part of her journey, she’s doing a weekly Q&A with authors on her blog, In the spirit of keeping it in the family, she’s asked me to be one of her first interview subjects.


Here’s just one of my answers… To see the rest, or to see about becoming a future Q&A participant, please click on the link above!

Q. What are you working on right now?

A. “As always, I find myself working on a number of different projects simultaneously, but the main two are a nonfiction book on the history of aviation in Canada’s North (due to be published by Frontenac House in 2013) and a historical novel, tentatively titled Chasing Skies.

Both of these projects were sparked by my first book, For the Love of Flying, a history of a Canadian bush airline that really got my career “off the ground,” so to speak, in 2009. After getting my Master’s in Canadian history, I had the opportunity to put my training to good use. The only problem was, I didn’t know anything about airplanes! After two years of researching and writing, I was hooked and wanted to explore the area more – but with my own spin. So the North Book (as I think of it) has a real social/cultural history angle to it, and Chasing Skies follows a female bush pilot who goes to fly in England during the Second World War (as well as her First Nations friend who enlists in the Army). It deals with the social realities of the time period, and is based on a lot of research.”

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.