Written for Skies Magazine – June 16, 2017
A sell-out crowd celebrated the 2017 inductees to Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame (CAHF) during a gala event at Vancouver International Airport on June 15.
Skies was on hand as over 430 people gathered for the 44th annual event. Host Denis Chagnon welcomed the crowd and introduced the four inductees–Erroll Boyd, Robert “Bob” Deluce, Danny Sitnam, and Rogers Eben Smith–each of whom has made significant contributions to Canadian aviation.
The CAHF launched in 1973, and this year’s inductees join the 224 extraordinary men and women who have been previously honoured.
The evening’s special guest, Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, shared her personal aviation history. Having married a bush pilot, she spent many years flying in the North, and said: “I never get tired of the view from above.”
This year, the CAHF has declared John Gillespie Magee Jr. its honourary poet. Magee was a 19-year-old Spitfire pilot serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in the Second World War when he penned “High Flight,” an intimate, reflective sonnet that famously became a touchstone for aviators. Magee’s life was cut short in December 1941, when he was killed in a mid-air collision in England.
2017 inductee Erroll Boyd joined the Royal Naval Air Service in the First World War from the Canadian Infantry. Postwar, he flew record-setting flights to Bermuda and Haiti. Then, in 1930, Boyd made the first west-to-east trans-Atlantic flight by a Canadian in a Bellanca WP-2, named the Columbia/Maple Leaf. Boyd also co-founded the Air Scouts of Canada, laying the foundation for the Air Cadet League. He died in 1960, after spending his life promoting aviation in North America.
Bob Deluce might be best known for launching Porter Airlines in 2006, but he began his aviation career as a teenager in the 1960s, working for his parents’ White River Air Services. Deluce held positions with a host of airlines before creating Porter, his new concept in regional air travel. Based at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Porter flies a fleet of Canadian-built Bombardier Q400 turboprops throughout Eastern Canada and the United States.
“It is a special honour for me to be included in the company of so many distinguished members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame,” said Deluce, who joins his father, Stanley, as a CAHF honoree.
Danny Sitnam, president and CEO of Vancouver-based Helijet International, established the company in 1976 to provide harbour-to-harbour helicopter service between Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. Using two-crew, twin-engine Sikorsky S-76 helicopters, Helijet was recently recognized by Sikorsky for 30 years of safe operations. The company has also been a pioneer in promoting female flight crews.
In addition to its scheduled services, Helijet flies helicopter charters, and provides fixed-wing and helicopter air ambulance services to the Province of British Columbia. One of a handful of successful helicopter airlines worldwide, Helijet reflects Sitnam’s mentoring and development of staff, along with the core values of safety, customer dedication, mutual respect, and trust and professionalism.
“My father mentored me and always said, ‘look deep for the goodness in everyone you will meet,’ and I try to live to that,” said Sitnam. “This one’s for you, Pops.”
“The journey for me from Dawson Creek, B.C., to the SR-71 has been a long one, and fascinating, and I have been able to achieve many of my dreams,” said Rogers Smith, the final inductee of the evening.
Smith is one of the most renowned test pilots in the western world, having first flown as a fighter pilot with the RCAF before becoming a test pilot with Canada’s National Research Council.
Smith is recognized internationally by his peers, and is known for flying automated stability trials in helicopters, and the development of fly-by-wire systems. His dual U.S./Canadian citizenship gave Smith the opportunity to work with NASA, where he ultimately spent 18 years at the Ames Research Center, from which he retired as chief pilot and director of flight operations. Smith went on to test flying with several international aircraft manufacturers, and to lead the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
The 2017 Belt of Orion Award for Excellence was presented to the RCAF Golden Hawks aerobatic display team. Flying Canadair Sabre Mk. V aircraft decorated with an iconic metallic gold and red livery, the team was established in 1959 and flew 317 shows before being disbanded in 1964.
The final speaker was Craig Richmond, president and CEO of Vancouver International Airport.
“We need to imbue young people with the idea that aviation is amazing and make them want to be part of it,” he said. “So rekindle your sense of wonder, and pass it on. Let’s all commit tonight to redouble our efforts to bring more young people into aviation in every capacity. Surely, that is the best way to honour those inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.”