RCAF’s Golden Hawks to be honoured by Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame

News Article / November 23, 2016

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From Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s Golden Hawks aerobatic team will receive the 2017 “Belt of Orion Award for Excellence” from Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame (CAHF).

Four new members will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame at its 44th annual gala dinner and ceremony, to be held Thursday, June 15, 2017, at Vancouver International Airport.

The new members are:

  • James Erroll Boyd – First World War pilot and co-founder of the Air Scouts of Canada
  • Robert John Deluce – Aviation executive; Founder of Porter Airlines
  • Daniel A. Sitnam – Aviation executive; Founder of Helijet Airways and Pacific Heliport Services
  • Rogers Eben Smith – NASA and National Research Council test pilot; RCAF pilot

CAHF inductees are selected for their contributions to Canada’s development through their integral roles in the nation’s aviation history. This year’s inductees will join the ranks of the 224 esteemed men and women inducted since the Hall’s formation in 1973.

 “The CAHF is proud to honour these four well-deserving individuals for their significant contributions to Canadian aviation, and to Canada’s development as a nation,” said Rod Sheridan, CAHF chairman of the board of directors.

“Our 2017 inductees come from backgrounds that span the width of Canada’s unique aviation industry. Aviation has brought Canadians together as a country, unlike any other form of transport. Our new inductees reflect that cohesion through their pioneering activities and spirit.”

The 2017 inductees

James Errol Boyd was an early entrant into the Royal Naval Air Service from the Canadian infantry. He flew anti-Zeppelin operations over Great Britain and coastal patrols from Dunkirk, France, until being interned in the Netherlands. Postwar, he flew mail along the St. Lawrence River and graduated to long distance over water, in record-setting flights to Bermuda and Haiti. His great claim to fame was his west to east trans-Atlantic flight in October 1930 in Bellanca WP-2 Columbia/Maple Leaf. It was the first crossing by a Canadian and completed in the hazardous autumn season, a feat not repeated again until made necessary by the demands of war ten years later. Boyd then put his fame to work to promote "air mindedness" in the Canadian public by sustained work through the Toronto Star and Star Weekly magazines. He also co-founded the Air Scouts of Canada that laid the foundations for the Air Cadet organization. Upon the outbreak of war in 1939 he offered to serve again and was involved with the Clayton-Knight Committee whereby young Americans were recruited to join the RCAF before Pearl Harbor. His entire adult life was spent in furthering the cause of aviation on the North American continent.

Robert John Deluce has been engaged in the aviation industry all of his life since he began working for his parents' White River Air Services as a teenager in the 1960s. His subsequent career has taken him through a succession of positions in a host of Canadian aviation companies operating mainly in central Canada. Chief among them are norOntair, Austin Airways, Air Creebec, Air Manitoba, Air Alliance and Canada 3000. In 2000 he began discussions that culminated in the launch of a new concept in regional air travel from the Toronto Island Airport in October 2006 under the banner of Porter, using 20 new Bombardier Q400 aircraft and providing a "flying refined" experience at modest fares. Porter has grown to become a real power in the heavily travelled eastern Canada area and has expanded into US destinations. A former Minister of Transport credits Bob Deluce with saving the Island Airport, now named Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, from ultimate failure.

Daniel A. Sitnam has amassed an outstanding record as an entrepreneur in rotary flight operations in British Columbia and as one of the industry's most progressive and admired company leaders. Thirteen years after a chance encounter led to his first experience with helicopters, he launched, with partner Alistair MacLennan, Helijet Airways offering two-crew, twin-engine IFR harbour-to-harbour services between Vancouver and Victoria. Thirty years later he is still president and CEO of Helijet International and its subsidiary, Pacific Heliport Services. In addition to guiding this company to success where many others failed, Danny Sitnam is legendary for his proactive mentoring and development of staff, especially female flight crew, and his insistence on core company values of safety, customer dedication, mutual respect and trust, and professionalism. His accomplishments have been recognized by the Helicopter Association International and the British Columbia Aviation Council.

Rogers Eben Smith is one the most renowned test pilots in the western world and has been recognized internationally as such by his peers for many years. He received his aeronautical degrees from the University of Toronto and subsequently served as a fighter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. A lack of test flying opportunities led him to the National Research Council’s National Aeronautical Establishment (NAE) where he was involved with automated stability trials on helicopters. Dual citizenship allowed him to accept an offer from NASA to join its test pilot program and then the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory where he was heavily engaged in developing fly-by-wire systems. A return to the NAE as chief test pilot was followed by 18 years at NASA Ames from which heretired as chief pilot and director of flight operations. His experimental test flying there has been characterized as being at the frontiers of knowledge. Known as one of the "Canadian mafia" among test pilots worldwide, he went on to work for SAAB, EADS and Dornier, and to lead the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

Belt of Orion Award for Excellence

Royal Canadian Air Force "Golden Hawks" aerobatic team

The RCAF’s Golden Hawks aerobatic team was formed in March 1959 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of flight in Canada and the 35th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force. It was the first official Canadian national aerobatic team and its mandate was to showcase RCAF capabilities to the Canadian public. The Golden Hawks were to operate Canadair F-86 Sabre Mk 5 aircraft from RCAF Station Chatham, New Brunswick, and to exist for one year. Under the leadership of Squadron Leader Fern Villeneuve (who was inducted into the CAHF in 2006), the team developed a brilliant program featuring new formations and routines not previously used and had an extremely successful 1959 airshow season. Though stood down at the end of the season, popular demand resulted in the team's reinstatement and it embarked on an unparalleled record of success until it was disbanded in 1964 after 317 shows, a 100 per cent serviceability rate and an estimated 15 million spectators. The legendary team became a symbol of the professionalism, skill and daring needed to be a fighter pilot in the RCAF and its legacy lives on 50 years later in the form of names of sports teams, trophies, films and aircraft on display in the trademark metallic gold and red livery of the Golden Hawks Sabres.

Brief history of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame

Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame office is located at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, south of Edmonton and the Hall’s displays are located in the museum’s hangar. The Hall was founded in 1973, and its inductees have come from all across Canada, having led extraordinary lives as military and civilian pilots, doctors, scientists, inventors, engineers, astronauts and administrators.

The Hall strives to increase the public’s understanding and interest in aviation history by making its displays, archives, records and artifacts accessible to current and future generations. The heroism and courage embodied in the members of the Hall serves to kindle the spirit of adventure in Canada’s youth.

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