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Look who’s turning a hundred years old!

Launched in Sault Ste. Marie in 1924, Ontario Provincial Air Service grew into the world's largest noncommercial air service

Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre is preparing to celebrate the birth of Ontario's Provincial Air Service (OPAS) in Sault Ste. Marie 100 years ago.

OPAS was launched on the Sault waterfront in 1924 when 13 Curtiss HS-2L flying boats were brought here and a hangar was built to house them.

Eastern and western division air bases were subsequently established in Sudbury and Sioux Lookout, with a network of sub-bases extending across northern Ontario.

The original 1924 hangar is still in place, behind a second hangar built in 1947 that's now occupied by the Bushplane Museum.

Over the years, OPAS made many significant  contributions to aviation history, pioneering aerial evaluation of wildlife and forest resources, fire suppression water moving, communications technology and aerial spraying.

OPAS staff were often consulted by aircraft manufacturers and made major contributions to the design of the famous De Havilland Beaver.

Many OPAS staff have been inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.

Jamie Hilsinger, executive director at Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, told directors of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie last week that plans are being made for special OPAS exhibits and commemorations next year, including at the popular Bushplane Days.

Hilsinger also said the museum is planning to resurrect its historical archives, which have been in storage in recent years, since Northern Superior Brewing Co. moved into the original archive space.

Plans for the archive include an online database and a library room with public access, Hilsinger said.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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