CAHF dinner sparkles on the West Coast

June 19, 2017 | Richmond, B.C.
Written by Paul Dixon
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) hosted the 44th annual Canada’s Aviation Hall Of Fame Dinner Thursday evening and it was a veritable who’s who of the Canadian aviation and aerospace industry.

Almost 500 people filled the area between Gates 260 and 298 for the opportunity to meet and applaud this year’s inductees into Canada’s Aviation Hall Of Fame – Errol Boyd, Robert Deluce, Daniel Sitnam, and Rogers Smith. The Belt of Orion Award for Excellence accepted by Lt. Col (ret) Fern Villeneuve on behalf of the RCAF Golden Hawks aerobatic team.

After the dinner had been called to order, the inductees and honoured guests were escorted in behind the Vancouver Police Pipe Band and a colour guard drawn from local air cadet units.

Lt. Governor Judith Guichon welcomed attendees and took the opportunity to confide with the audience that at the age of 18, she had “got high” ¬– though she was quick to point out that she was referring to Skyway Aviation in Abbotsford. Aviation has always played a significant role in her life, as her husband flew bush planes in the Yukon and later the family used aircraft as part of its large ranching operation in B.C.’s interior.

As dinner was served, a video presentation detailed the accomplishments of the honorees:
  • James Erroll Boyd James went overseas with the Canadian Army in the First World War, but was able to transfer to the Royal Naval Air Service.He was initially tasked with intercepting Zepplins over southeast England, he was eventually posted to France. Shot down, he landed in neutral Holland where he was interred for the duration of the war. After the war, he pursued several non-flying paths, before becoming the first Canadian to fly the Atlantic in 1930. He flew for Pan American during the 1930s, and then after war broke out in Europe, he recruited American pilots to come to Canada before America entered the war.
  • Porter Airlines president and CEO Robert Deluce. An active pilot, he has held management positions at a number of airlines White River Air Service, norOntair, Austin Airways, Air Creebec, Air Manitoba, Canada 3000 and currently, Porter Airlines which has grown since its inception in 2006 to become a major commercial carrier in central and eastern Canada and down into the U.S. Robert joins his father Stanley Deluce who was inducted into the CAHG in 2007.
  • Daniel Sitnam, founder of Helijet Airways and Pacific Heliport Services. In 1986 Daniel established Helijet with one helicopter and 14 employees. Today, Helijet is the world’s largest scheduled helicopter airline, serving southwestern B.C. and Vancouver Island and has flown more than 2.2 million passengers.
  • Rogers Eben Smith first flew with the RCAF before moving to the National Research Council as a test pilot. From there, he moved to NASA where he flew many aircraft, including the SR-71 Blackbird, while concurrently flying F-16s with the US Air National Guard.
  • The Belt Of Orion Award for Excellence was awarded to the RCAF Golden Hawks, the team that set the bar for all those who have followed. The award was accepted by Lt. Col (ret) Fern Villeneuve, the squadrons first CO.

Once dinner was cleared, the recipients had their opportunity to address the audience. There were several common threads that ran through the lives of this year’s honourees. There was plenty of humility sprinkled with a little humour. In one way or another, the realization of each of them that they didn’t do it on their own and in fact, could not have done it on their own. There were mentors at various stages of their lives, and also the parents who gave them the inspiration to mix with the perspiration.


Rogers Eben Smith got the biggest laugh of the night when he showed photo of himself at the age of one, taken all those years ago in Dawson Creek, B.C. All those years ago, his mother had written on the back of the photo, “save this for the Hall Of Fame.” Some things are written.

The keynote speaker was Vancouver Airport Authority CEO Craig Richmond. A former RCAF CF-104 and CF-18 pilot, Richmond spoke briefly of the continuing growth in traffic through YVR. Proof of that being that while the airport has this area of the terminal for meetings and dinners in the past, this would be the last time as the level of business has grown to the point where they need the gates.

On top of that, for the 8th consecutive year, YVR has been named the best airport in North America by Stytrax.

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