Blatchford Field would likely never have come to be had it not for legenday bush pilot, Wilfred “Wop” May.
“My dad was flying out of Mayfield, about a mile west of here (Blatchford) as early as 1919” remembers May’s son Denny, who has been the official keeper of the May family history since his fathers death in 1952.
But he says by 1924 the elder May decided the field was too small. “He talked to the mayor, Ken Blatchford and said could we get this Hagman farm and convert that into an airport. It would be really handy. It’s along Portage Avenue (now Kingsway) which is a nice road. Ken Blatchford and my dad pushed the thing through city council and it became Blatchford field.”
The field opened for flying in 1927, but it would take a momentus event almost two years later for the airfield to prove its worth.
“My dad got a call from Dr. Bowe, the provincial deputy minister of health, saying we need diptheria anti toxin flown up to Fort Vermillion,” says May. “My dad and a new pilot, Vic Horner, got in their (open cockpit) Avro Avion, January 2, 1929, and headed down to Peace River. It became a nation-wide and a North America-wide phenomenon. They sent a photographer here from New York to cover the story. They got the serum to Fort Vermillion. There were 10,000 people here to greet them at the airport when they landed.”
After that, Edmonton City Council approved money to improve the airport, and Edmonton went on to become the aviation gateway to the North. May went on to establish Commercial Airways, flying all over northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. When World War II started, he turned his attention….
May’s contributions to aviation will be recorgnized with the help of his son Denny, who will speak at our Blatchford 90th Anniversary Celebration June 24 at the museum 10 am to 4 pm.
Kids will be able to dress-up as a bush pilot, WWI and WWII fighter pilots, and have their photographs taken with the aircraft on display. Visitors will get access to the cockpits of airplanes normally closed to the public.
At 1 pm we’ll be presenting a re-enactment of the opening of Blatchford Field. The Blatchford Development Group will also be on hand to give a special presentation on the new community springing up from the historic airfield.
This is an event you won’t want to miss. Keep your eyes on our web site and Facebook for more exciting details.