The books behind Alis the Aviator

I joke that I didn’t have to do too much research for Alis the Aviator – at least not specifically for it. What I did instead was immerse myself in aviation history for seven years leading up to it.

I started that journey in 2007 when I first sat down with John Bogie, former president of Laurentian Air Services (and Air Schefferville). The days and weeks I spent with him at his Ottawa office talking while digging through photos and documents, became the foundation for my first book.

(You’ll notice the Otter in Alis the Aviator has a distinctive paint scheme…)
I knew “G” had to be for Goose, like CF-BXR in that book. But also because my grandfather, Andre “Andy” Chenail, flew a Goose back in the 1950s.
And “W” would be for Waco – not for the city in Texas, but for this bi-plane that I’d first learned about during my Laurentian research.
My second book, Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North, had me in the Western Arctic for months – which was my plan all along! I love it so much up there. So quite a few of the aircraft featured in Alis the Aviator appeared in that book (like this York).
One of my favourite things to research for Polar Winds was the airships, blimps and Zeppelin. And guess what starts with ‘Z’ in Alis the Aviator? You got it!
The story of Professor Leonard and his aerobatic feats above the skies of Dawson City, Yukon in the early 1900s filled the first chapter of Polar Winds. What a fascinating character!

And growing up near Gatineau, Quebec, I remember the sky filled with hot air balloons for the annual festival.

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