OTD: First official Arctic airmail dispatch

On today’s date in 1929, Wilfrid Reid “Wop” May reached Aklavik in the Northwest Territories during the first official airmail dispatch to the Arctic.

On Dec. 21, two planes left Fort Simpson, N.W.T., but were forced to turn back because of inclement weather; however, the following day they departed for a run down the Mackenzie River to WrigleyFort Norman (present-day Tulita); Fort Good HopeArctic Red RiverFort McPherson; and finally to Aklavik on Dec. 27.

Between Dec. 10 and Dec. 20, mail was delivered to communities in Northern Alberta as well as the South Mackenzie District. Following the Dec. 27 arrival in Aklavik, the return flights began before the final leg to Edmonton was flown on Jan. 3.

According to Frank Henry Ellis’ 1973 book Canada’s Flying Heritage, 125 flights were made by six pilots. Four aircraft were used, and the total flying time was more than 180 hours. May flew 58 flights.

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