Thursday, August 23, 2007

William S. 'Bill' Longhurst AFC 1919-1990

Born in Saskatchewan, Bill Longhurst became interested in aviation at a very young age, receiving early training in Toronto in the 1930’s. When WWII started, Longhurst sought an interview with Air Marshall W.A. “Billy” Bishop, who was in charge of recruiting pilots. Bishop told Longhurst to forget about this idea, as he would never make it as a pilot! Determined, Longhurst embarqued for England where he was accepted by the RAF. He did two operationnal tours with RAF Coastal Command before transferring to Ferry Command. On July 1st, 1943, Longhurst successfully achieved a ferry flight between Montréal (Qc) and Prestwick (UK) in command of a C-47... towing a Waco CG-4A glider overseas! For this unusual achievement, Longhurst and the gilder crew received the Air Force Cross. In May 1945, Longhurst transferred to the RCAF. Postwar, Longhurst worked at St.Jovite (Qc) as a bush pilot for Wheeler Airlines. In 1948, he became a test pilot for Canadair in Montreal. When Al Lilly retired in 1953, Longhurst was appointed chief test pilot. Until 1971, he made most first flights of Canadair’s aircraft, including: CL13 (Sabre 2, 3, 5, 6), CL30 (T-33AN production Silver Star), CL28 (CP-107 Argus Mk1), CL-66C (Canadair 540), CL44-6 (CC-106 Yukon), CL-44D4 (“Swing-tail”), CL-226, also the revolutionary tilt-wing CL-84 and the famous CL-215 Water Bomber. Longhurst was recognized as a very talented pilot, expert in prototype development. Not the flamboyant or self-centered type, he directed for two decades the Canadair flight test program with an iron hand and skilled determination that earned him the respect of the other company pilots. To underline his contribution to the CL-28 Argus development, a twenty-dollar coin was issued in 1998 by the Royal Canadian Mint displaying a cameo of Longhurst. Retiring from Canadair in 1971, he returned to bush flying in St.Jovite and also did fire patrols for a while. He went back to school at Concordia University, earning at the age of 61 a major degree in biology and a minor degree in computer science. He then engaged in cancer research.