Pennfield Ridge Air Station History

Pennfield Ridge Air Station
Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Air Force
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP)

No.2 Air Navigation School (ANS) - July 21,1941 to May 30, 1942 (RCAF)

No. 34 Operational Training Unit (OTU) - June 1, 1942 to May 19, 1944 (RAF)
No.2 Operational Training Unit (OTU) - June 22, 1942-August 20, 1942 (RCAF)
No.127 (Fighter) Squadron - July 25, 1943-Dec 17, 1943 (RCAF)

RCAF Station - May 20, 1944-October 1, 1945 (RCAF)
Operational Training Squadron (OTS) - July 1, 1944-August 18, 1945 (RCAF)
Transport Conversion Unit (TCU) - July 1, 1944-August 31, 1945 (RCAF)

Construction on the airport, designed to train pilots for WWII action in Europe and the Battle of Britain, began 9th October, 1940 after a suitable site was selected on Pennfield Ridge. According to a report in "The Saint Croix Courier" dated January 4th, 1940:

"The proposed site is located at Pennfield, where it seems nature and mankind have combined too provide all the essentials for a modern large-scale airport. Bounded by the Shore Line Railway, the main highway, and the old road, the area possesses outstanding advantages for use by the huge bombers and commercial planes of today, having a large flat area unobstructed by high land for miles in any direction, a self-draining type of soil, convenient location as to highway and railway transportation and ample source of electric power. It also has a good water supply, is close to the sea and near numerous lakes inland which could be used for emergency landings, is located not more than three-quarters of an hour by car from Saint John, and not from the larger centres of population in Charlotte County."

This facility would become part of the "British Commonwealth Air Training Plan".

In October 1940, there were over two hundred men working on the project. Dexter Construction Company was contracted to construct the runways; ACME Construction Company erected most of the buildings; and Storms Contracting Company, Limited put up the hangars and drill hall. The first test flights (day/night) were completed on January 16th, 1941. The air base official opened for training on July 21, 1941. It was part of the No.3 Training Command with it's headquarters in Montreal, Quebec.

Pennfield first served as No. 2 Air Navigation School (ANS). By May of 1941, there were close to 40 buildings including 4 large hangers (each occupying nearly an acre of ground), blocks of barracks to be used as living quarters; a huge building cut up into classrooms, offices, and so on; drill hall, hospital, dental clinic, two canteen buildings, and a complete recreation hall. The air base was also had its own water supply and internal telephone system. The runways would be lengthened in the Fall of 1941. In May of 1942, No.2 ANS departed Pennfield and No.34 Operational Training Unit (OTU) was established at Pennfield Ridge. By 1944, the air station had grown larger with further development on the south side of the highway and the addition of a 5th hanger.

With the end of the war, Pennfield Ridge became the operational location for RCAF's Heavy Transport, where it converted medium and heavy bombers for civil use. In late 1940s, Pennfield Ridge was turned over to the Department of Transport and a few years later, Trans-Canadian Airlines would use the airport to service the city of Saint John as a stop in it's Boston to Halifax route. When Saint John/Clover Valley airport was opened, Pennfield closed as a commercial airfield. The Department of Defense took back use of the airfield for a short time. Small private plans would use the airfield over the years. Even in 2007, several private airplanes utilize the runways at Pennfield. During various parts of the 1950's until the 1970s, one of the runways was used by the New Brunswick Drag Racing Association. Today, the field is used by Acadia Seaplants Limited to dry out seaweed. The Seaweed, once dried, will be used as fertilizer for plants. There is a fuel reserve tank at the field used by Irving and Natural Resources. But very little remains of the once active military airfield... the 3 runways and taxi-way, a firing bat, 4 munitions bunkers, some foundations and a few paved streets.

N.457'12.60" / W.6641'29.49 / Altitude 266'

Three (3) Paved Runways:
1. N.605'30"E. - 150' X 5005.0'
2. S.5040'E. - 150' X 5000.0'
3. S.6920'W. - 150' X 4988.3''

Five (5) Hangers:
1. H1
2. H2 (with control tower)
3. H3
4. H4
5. H5 (added later)

Radio Tower: 104W magnetic

Principal Aircraft:
1. Avro Anson (No.2 ANS);
2. Lockheed Ventura (No.34 OTU)
3. Westland Lysander;
4. Douglas Dakota;
5. Consolidated Liberator; and
6. Bristol Bolingbroke

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