History is hardly new at the Canada Air and Space Museum in Ottawa, but the eclectic display of vintage and modern aircraft was enhanced on May 30 by the presence of living history – specifically, the 2013 inductees into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame (CAHF).
The museum was the venue for the 40th anniversary of CAHF, at which three long-retired fighter pilots – Victor R. Bennett, James “Stocky” Edwards, and Joseph Fernand “Frank” Henley – were inducted, along with industry pioneer John Sandford, whose career highlight was introducing de Havilland’s world-beating Dash 7 and 8 turboprops.
The jam-packed event, with citations handed out by MGen Mike Hood, deputy RCAF commander, was book-ended by videos of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, recorded aboard the International Space Station before he wound up his five-month stint as ISS Commander on May 13. The former Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 pilot, a 2005 inductee into the Hall of Fame, opened the evening with congratulations to the new inductees and closed it with his guitar-accompanied rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
Back on Earth, meanwhile, the Hall of Fame inductees were clearly entertained by Hadfield’s performance – and possibly a little envious of his time in space.
Bennett, 84, a St. John’s, NL, native and son of a decorated Royal Flying Corps pilot in WWI, took his first lessons in a Piper Cub as a teenager. He graduated from the RCAF Flying Training School at Centralia, Ont., got his wings and commission as a pilot officer in 1950, and joined 438 City of Montreal Reserve Squadron. He earned his private and commercial licences in short order, as well as a commerce degree from McGill University, and a law degree from the University of British Columbia. He paid his way through university by flying Douglas DC-3s in Quebec. He left the RCAF as a flight lieutenant in 1956 but rejoined in 1958, taking a second release in 1964.
Having tasted the corporate world by co-owning a Fairchild Cornell trainer shortly after getting his commercial papers, Bennett was hired by Timmins Aviation in Montreal in 1956, the start of a 35-year civil aviation career. With the help of Innocan Investments, he bought Timmins Aviation in 1974, renaming it Innotech Aviation, which built a reputation as Canada’s largest private aircraft full-service company, servicing domestic and international clients with maintenance, engineering, avionics upgrades and refurbishments for civil and military aircraft. It eventually was sold to Halifax-based IMP Aerospace.
In addition to chairing the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, Bennett has also been a member of the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council of British Columbia, vice chair of the International Aviation Management Training Institute, chair of Airshow Canada, and the 2005 recipient of the C.D. Howe Award from the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute. He is also an honorary life member of the Canadian Business Aviation Association.
Edwards, 92, was a combat ace who spent nearly 32 years with the RCAF, holding several commands in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. The Saskatchewan native joined the RCAF in 1940, graduating as a sergeant pilot in 1941, and was posted a few months later to North Africa, where he flew Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk fighter-bombers with 94 Royal Air Force Squadron over Egypt’s western desert. In one day, he shot down two Messerschmitt Me109s and destroyed a third on the ground; on another, he bombed a pair of Junkers Ju88s and strafed three Me109s, a combat pattern that prevailed through more than 190 sorties.
After helping to form and instruct at the Middle East Central Gunnery School in El Ballah, Egypt, in December 1943, Edwards was posted to RCAF 417 Squadron in Italy, flying Spitfires, and then was shuffled to 92 East India Squadron, where he shot down four enemy aircraft in 26 sorties over the Anzio beachhead south of Rome. Promoted to Squadron Leader with command of 274 RAF Squadron, he then flew Spitfires again, this time in support of Allied bombers. He flew his 373rd and final sortie in May 1945, helping to shoot down a Ju88 two days before the war ended. His official air-to-air tally was 18 aircraft destroyed, 16 damaged and seven probable, with another 14 destroyed on the ground.
Edwards, who remained in uniform until his retirement as a LCol in 1972, served as commander of RCAF Station Centralia after the war, and also flew and instructed on Vampire jets in Trenton, Ont. He later checked out on Consolidated PBY Cansos and Avro Lancasters while at RCAF Station Sea Island, south of Vancouver. After time as a senior recruiting officer, he formed and commanded the first RCAF squadron to fly the F-86 Sabre, in North Bay, Ont. He also flew the Sabre in Europe before a posting at U.S. Air Force Air Defence Headquarters at Colorado Springs, Colo. That was followed by CF-100 Canuck flying at CFB Cold Lake, Alta., before he took staff positions in Ottawa, North Bay and B.C.
Henley, 91, evidently spoke absolutely no English when he signed on with the RCAF, having grown up in a small village in Quebec’s Gaspé region. Still, he managed to acquire enough to take the initial exams in just three weeks! Graduating as a pilot in 1942, he qualified as an instructor before training in anti-submarine patrol, flying the twin-engine Douglas Digby and Cansos with 161 Squadron in Halifax, before moving on to the four-engined B-24 Liberators with 10 Bomber Reconnaissance Squadron in Gander.
He left the RCAF in late 1945 with 1,942 hours in his log, and flew bush operations with three Quebec companies until 1951, when he joined Maritime Central Airways. Henley became a senior captain for the Prince Edward Island-based operator in 1954, responsible for northern operations, mainly in connection with MCA’s contracts in support of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line of Cold War radar stations.
Henley was made MCA’s director of transatlantic charter operations in 1955, and the following year was appointed general manager of two MCA subsidiaries, Boreal Airways Ltd. and Mont Laurier Aviation. He amalgamated them as Nordair in 1957, using Douglas DC-3s and DC-4s and eventually Lockheed Super Constellations to service the North. Nordair was purchased by Canadian Pacific Airlines in 1987, but its turboprop operations were absorbed into Inter-Canadien, which operated until 1999.
Meanwhile, Henley was executive consultant to Hydro-Québec when it was developing the huge James Bay project, overseeing operating standards, selection of airport and heliport sites, development of communication and navigation systems, and general managing cargo and passenger operations. He was appointed VP Operations at Québecair in 1983 and from 1985 until retiring in 1990, he was president of his own Zenith Aviation consulting service. By then, he had flown 14,732 hours in 31 types of aircraft.
Sandford, 78, who apprenticed as a machinist at Westland Aircraft at the age of 14, went on to the prestigious Cranfield Institute of Technology in England, from which he graduated in 1957 with an MSc in aircraft design and aerodynamics, which led to him being snapped up immediately by Avro Canada. The infamous cancellation of the Arrow program two years later prompted Sandford and a small group of other ex-Avro folk to set up Avian Industries to design and manufacture an autogyro.
After the first flight, he moved to Denver, Colo., for two years as pre-design manager at Stanley Aviation, before being headhunted by Rockwell International to work on the U.S. Space Program, where he eventually led the team that won the NASA Space Shuttle contract. Sandford returned to Canada to run Rockwell’s Canadian Admiral Corporation, and then was named president and chief executive officer of de Havilland Aircraft Canada. During his 1977-1985 tenure there, he led the team that saw DHC become the primary supplier of turbo aircraft for the world’s commuter airlines. This meant completing the introduction of the four-engine DHC Dash 7, followed by completion of the highly successful twin-engine Dash 8, certified on schedule in September 1984. While he subsequently went on to senior positions at Rohr Industries, Gulfstream Aerospace, Rolls Royce US and its UK parent, Rolls Royce plc Aerospace Group, Sandford is perhaps best known for managing the development, certification and launch of the Dash 8, which secured DHC’s place in modern aviation history.
The gala evening – at which Canadian Skies was acknowledged as a sponsor – was rounded out by the awarding of the Belt of Orion award to Canadian Pacific Airlines, represented by Donald Carty, who was its last CEO. The award was created in 1988 to honour outstanding contributions to the advancement of Canadian aviation. CP Air got its start in 1942 with the amalgamation of 10 small bush operations, and by the time it was sold to Pacific Western Airlines 45 years later, it was providing passenger and cargo service on five continents.
Canadian Skies sincerely congratulates all 2013 inductees into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.