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Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame turns 50, inducts 5 new members in northeast Calgary

Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame is celebrating its 50th anniversary and inducting five new members this week.

The Hall of Fame is located on the mezzanine of the Hangar Flight Museum in northeast Calgary, and as well has displays sprinkled throughout the museum on the floor level as well.

Names like Max Ward- the bush pilot who founded what became Wardair, at the time Canada’s largest charter airline grace the walls

Other exhibits celebrate those behind the scenes in Canada’s aviation history, like Elsie MacGill. MacGill was the lead engineer in designing and building the Hawker Hurricane aircraft.  

MacGill was recently honoured by the Canadian Mint, and her image now graces the Canada’s one-dollar coin.

Elsie MacGill is one of five Canadians being inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame Thursday night.

Hall of Fame historian Jonathan Scotland said aviation likely did more to open up Canada for development than even the railroad.

"It is the story of in many ways, the development of modern Canada. So if you're interested in in Canada and Canadian history, you cannot separate aviation from that. And it's a way of sort of viewing that history through a different lens," said Scotland.

"The Wright Brothers flew before Alberta, (and) Saskatchewan were provinces," he added, "So, really the development of sort of modern Canada in many, aligns exactly with the development of aviation."

The five new inductees include:

Harvey Friesen, who was instrumental in opening up northern Ontario to aircraft, building gravel airstrips in small communities and operating his company Bearskin Lake Air Service throughout the area, servicing remote indigenous communities

Ken Lett, an RCAF fighter pilot during the Second World War. . On D-Day Lett flew top cover for the allied troops at Normandy. In 1976 he became Chief of Staff at NORAD Headquarters in Colorado.

Ken Lett, a veteran of the Second World War, has donated $2.4M to Mount Royal University's aviation program. (supplied)

Dr. Gary Gray, a leading expert in aviation and aerospace medicine. Gray was asked to direct and lead the medical screen of Canada’s astronauts. Gray also taught all Canadian Forces flight surgeons for over 4 decades.

Keith Hopkinson is considered the ‘father’ of homebuilt aircraft in Canada. Known in aviation circles as ‘Hoppy’ he fought successfully to have Canada’s Department of Transport recognize and allow homebuilt aircraft. He went on to hold permit number 001 for a homebuilt aircraft in Canada.

No. 1 Air Division was instrumental in maintaining Canada’s commitment to NATO in Europe from 1953 until 1993 by flying missions ranging from interceptions to nuclear interdiction.

John McKenna, director of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame says while they are not well known, he’d like to see them become household names

"These are not people that are known internationally, but domestically, locally, they're heroes,"said McKenna."When I read the resumes of these people I say, ‘My god! You know, I've been wasting my life."

The five new inductees who will be awarded the ‘Belt of Orion’ and have their names added to the list of over 240 other Canadian aviation pioneers, at a Thursday night gala headlined by  2005 Hall of Fame inductee, astronaut Chris Hadfield. Top Stories

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