Edmonton streets to be renamed for air force heroes

A former Cold War pilot who once saved a fellow aviator from a fiery crash will have an Edmonton street named for him later this week.

'I thought I'd get a back alley, or dead-end street,' says former pilot Bob Morgan

Bob Morgan is one of eight veterans who will have streets named for them at a ceremony in Edmonton on Sunday. (CBC)

A former Cold War pilot who once saved a fellow aviator from a fiery crash will have an Edmonton street named for him later this week.

More than 60 years ago, Bob Morgan helped rescue a fellow pilot on an airfield in France.

On Sunday, as the city wraps up celebrations for aviation week, Morgan and a handful of other veterans who played key roles in Canada's air force will have streets named for them in the Village of Griesbach, a growing residential neighbourhood that was once part of CFB Edmonton.

"It means an awful lot to me," said Morgan, 84. "I was amazed they named a street after me. I thought I'd get a back alley, or dead-end street."

On July 21, 1955, Morgan was a young pilot serving with 439 Squadron in Marville, France.

He was working in the landing shack on the airfield that day when a fellow pilot landed short of the runway and his jet burst into flames.

Morgan dashed to the jet and tried to get the pilot out, but the canopy was jammed. With ammunition exploding around them, he picked up a rock to break the canopy.

A fire crew showed up and someone handed Morgan an axe. He chopped a hole in the canopy and dragged his fellow pilot to safety.

"You don't think," he responded, when asked why he risked his own life that day. "Anybody would have done it, I guess."

Of course, they don't name streets after just anybody.

Two years after that dramatic rescue, Morgan was awarded the George Medal for his act of bravery.

Morgan, who has lived in Edmonton since 1969, said he's proud of the role he and his fellow RCAF members played during the Cold War.

During his 35 years in the air force, he flew Sabre jets, CF-104 Starfighters, twin-engine Otters and huge Hercules transport planes.

Former wing commander Bill Buckham said this week's celebrations mark the city's near-100-year history of military aviation.

"Its part of the heritage and history of Edmonton, and part of the heritage of the air force," he said.

Events are planned all week.

'Honouring a lot of good people'

A specially commissioned 10-metre monument to the Snowbirds, Canada's internationally renowned aerobatic flying squadron, will be unveiled Sunday in Griesbach. That same day, Morgan and seven other former RCAF members will have streets named for them in the community

"They're honouring a lot of good people," Morgan said.

In the 1950s, Canada had a dozen fighter squadrons stationed in Europe, Morgan said.

They were trained to take on the Soviet air force, in the event the Cold War became a real war.

"We had the best over there," he said. "We were going to be fighting the MIGs."

While leafing through a book last week, Morgan came across a photograph of a fighter jet nose-down after a crash landing in France.

"I had a little hydraulic problem," he said, pointing at his aircraft. "Went off the end of the runway at about 100 miles an hour. That's all."

Sunday's dedication ceremony is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. Veterans, RCAF members, air cadets and invited dignitaries will gather at the site of the new Snowbird monument, at McCrae Avenue and Veterans Way. Weather permitting, a flypast will take place with CF-18s, C-130 Hercules and Griffon helicopters.

Morgan plans to be there. Asked about the honour of having a street named for him, he said: "The children and the grandchildren are quite excited about it all."

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