About 3,000 young airmen lost their lives training at bases across Canada during the Second World War.
Thirty-three of them died while training in Bowden and Penhold. Another 10 men lost their lives during Canadian Forces Base Penhold’s decades as a NATO base.
There’s one more name that Red Deer Flying Club president Jim Thoreson wants remembered alongside those others.
It is that of Herluf Nielsen, Thoreson’s friend and a dedicated pilot who logged more than 3,000 hours in the air for the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA), whose volunteers help in finding downed or missing aircraft.
Nielsen, 67, had just completed a night training exercise and was heading back to Innisfail from Red Deer Airport when his small plane went down in bad weather around 10 p.m. in November 2008.
Nielsen, who lived and farmed in the Spruce View area, had 47 years of flying experience and was well known in Central Alberta aviation circles.
He was a founding member of the Innisfail Flying Club.
“I was pretty close to him,” said Thoreson, who was search co-ordinator in charge of finding his missing friend the night he went down.
Thoreson said a monument at Winnipeg’s national headquarters honours those who have fallen while participating in CASARA missions.
“But it was only for people who were killed during an actual SAR (search and rescue) mission. So he didn’t qualify.”
Fellow flyers agreed that wasn’t right and as they talked about how to recognize Nielsen, they also discussed how other airmen had not been officially memorialized at what is now Red Deer Airport.
A three-sided monument has been designed that will be placed under the Harvard training aircraft outside the airport terminal.
It is expected to cost about $7,000 to complete the project and more than half has already been raised, he said.
A dedication ceremony is expected to take place this fall.
There has been plenty of support for the project, with the Harvard Historical Aviation Society, Red Deer Flying Club, CASARA and local RCAF association all working together.
Those interested in donating can call Thoreson at 403-346-6731 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.