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Botwood: History of an Airport

Botwood Heritage Centre
Botwood, Newfoundland and Labrador

For a relatively small and little known town in Central Newfoundland, Botwood has played a major role in the history of aviation in Canada. Covering a period from 1920 to 1945 this town was flying high. World renown Australian pioneer aviator, Sidney Cotton, based a flying operation here in 1920, from where he did aerial surveying for the Newfoundland government and experimented with using his three airplanes to spot seal herds, and to deliver mail by air. In 1933 another famous airplane pilot, Charles Lindbergh, and his wife, Anne, landed his plane in Botwood harbour for refueling. He was exploring the coast of the North Atlantic for suitable sites for the takeoff and landing of possible transatlantic passenger flights. His recommendation of Botwood for this purpose was accepted by Pan Am, BOAC and their respective governments. By 1937 all was in readiness for these flights and testing began and Botwood residents gaped in awe at these huge flying machines. By 1939 things had gone so well that regular flights were scheduled. The first act of war on the North American continent may have taken place in Botwood when a German freighter, the Christoph Van Doornum, was taken over by the sheriff with the aid of some local citizens on the day war was declared. But this was not our main claim to fame regarding WWII. Because flying facilities were already in place here due to the sheltered harbour, location and being relatively fog free, Botwood was chosen to be a reconnaissance base for PBY Catalina’s. During the war over ten thousand troops passed through here as well as VIP’s such as Winston Churchill and Bob Hope. By the time the war was over nearby Gander had supplanted Botwood’s role and our aviation history was terminated. Copyright for records lie with the Botwood Heritage Society Archive, in written consent forms, or are in the public domain.



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