P.A. historian weighs in on hangar fire

By Nigel Maxwell
April 17, 2018 - 8:00am Updated: April 17, 2018 - 1:55pm

The fire that engulfed the Transwest Air maintenance facility Sunday night was a huge loss of historical importance, according to one Prince Albert historian.

Jon Hopper, a member of the Prince Albert Historical Society and the Prairie Heritage Air Show Society, said the building was the last surviving one of its kind from the Second World War at the airfield.

"You know it's too bad, it's a historically significant building that's gone. What's left is memories and pictures," he said.

Althought used by Transwest Air in its more recent years, the building itself was constructed around 80 years ago as a training facility for the British Commonwealth's air training plan. The British had reached out for help from Canada and its other Dominions to help train British and each other's aircrews. Canada was viewed as a better training ground because of its wide open spaces and ideal weather. Close to $2.2 billion was spent on building the bases and infrastructure across the country.

"What we had [in Prince Albert] at the time was the number six elementary flying training school and it was also the home for a year for the number six air observer school," Hopper said.

By the end of the war, over 167,000 students, including over 50,000 pilots, had trained in Canada under the program. For Hopper, the hangar represented some good childhood memories as well. As a boy, he said he would often hang out at the airfield.

"You know that was the 1960s into the 1970s, there was three hangars and they were all being used and slowly as time has gone by they've either had to be torn down or you know things change," he said.

The cause of Sunday's fire remains under investigation.


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On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell

Vehicles backed up 15 km on Highway 40

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