Remembering the start of Stettler’s new airfield

In June of 1969, a crowd of more than 1,000 attended the grand opening of the new facility

By Carson Ellis

So. Depending on when this goes to print; the annual Fly-in Breakfast is either coming up or passed. Either way, I thought a brief look at the early days of our little aerodrome would be fitting.

In June of 1969, a crowd of more than 1,000 town and district residents, and pilots attended the grand opening of Stettler’s new airfield.

Mayor Sloan cut the ribbon, officially opening the 24-hour light aircraft facility. In his speech, Mayor Sloan outlined the efforts and agreements made to make the exciting day come about.

Costs of the facility were split between several groups.

A deposit of $6,000 from the Town was spent to secure the field. The Department of Transportation granted $30,000 of the overall $75,000.

The remainder of the cost was divided between the Town, County, and Stettler Flying Club.

Although I don’t know the specs of the airport at this time, on opening day, it had a hard-surfaced runway that was 2,000 ft. long with a 600-ft. over-run. The new airport also boasted a modern terminal building and a club room.

Battle River MP Clifford Downey was onhand to partake in the event. He was noted as taking pride in the federal government’s recognition of Stettler being an important location.

This had been shown by their financial contribution towards the airfield’s construction.

Alberta Aviation Council President Fred Winters took attendees down memory lane as he recounted the story of 1907 and the Underwood Brothers of Bota and their ‘canvas-covered flying saucer affair.’

The rather famed Underwood Flying Machine had lifted roughly 10 ft. off the ground for a few seconds before touching down again. This made the farmer-built machine the first man-made flight in the area.

On a side note: with Botha being so close, I highly recommend a road trip out there to see the Flying Machine replica near their curling rink.

In addition to the grand opening festivities, a fly-in breakfast was held with 455 people being served.

Dignitaries from various groups were in attendance to the dual-events that day. One of the people of note that came to Stettler that day was Eleanor Bailey who was the Edmonton chair of the International Ninety-Niners – a women pilot’s association. The article I’ve recently read also notes that women pilots came from Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Bonnyville and Lethbridge. The furthest one came from Fairview.

Stettler Board of Trade President Graham Harle served as Master of Ceremonies. At the time of the opening, Tom Armstrong was noted as president of the Stettler Flying Club.

At the time of the article, the airport was located one mile southwest of town. Considering it’s hardly even the edge of town anymore, is rather amusing. Times change.

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