Cap­tain Roger Lovewell Smith Avi­a­tor from Coat­i­cook

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS - Spe­cial Col­lab­o­ra­tion Kelly M. Smith

Bornon De­cem­ber 12, 1912 in Coat­i­cook, third child of Ste­wart Cur­tis and Mary Well­man (Lovell) Smith, a fifth gen­er­a­tion Cana­dian and de­scen­dent of the prom­i­nent Lovell fam­ily, re­spected for its di­verse busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties, and its many years in Fed­eral, Pro­vin­cial and lo­cal pol­i­tics rep­re­sent­ing Stanstead County. Roger Lovewell Smith’s fas­ci­na­tion with fly­ing be­gan when he saw a pho­to­graph of an air­plane in an ar­ti­cle on Charles Lind­bergh. In 1928, at age 15, he con­vinced WWI avi­a­tor and air­mail pi­o­neer Hervé St. Martin of the Con­ti­nen­tal Aero Cor­po­ra­tion to hire him, work­ing as a me­chanic and test pilot in ex­change for fly­ing lessons. At age 16 he per­formed his first solo flight in an OX-5 Travel Air E-2000 bi-plane.

In 1932, Smith be­came Canada’s youngest li­censed com­mer­cial pilot, at age 19. With a small Travel Air E-4000 bi-plane, he started the Roger L. Smith Air Ser­vice, barnstorming across the coun­try, giv­ing rides in his fly­ing ma­chine for $2 at events like the Ayer’s Cliff Fair.

Smith ob­tained his Air En­gi­neer’s Cer­tifi­cate at age 22. Af­ter com­pletely restor­ing a four-pas­sen­ger Cur­tiss Robin mono­plane that had been badly dam­aged in a fire, he be­gan fly­ing as a bush pilot for the McKay Ex­plo­ration Com­pany and St. Martin Air Trans­port. He later worked with Hart­land Mol­son at Do­min­ion Sky­ways Ltd., the first reg­u­lar car­rier to use two-way ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion in Canada.

From 1935 to 1939, Smith faced harsh en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions as he trans­ported sur­vey­ors, en­gi­neers, prospec­tors, de­vel­op­ers and their sup­plies to ar­eas in Que­bec and On­tario that could only be ac­cessed by plane. Smith used his fly­ing ex­per­tise and ex­plorer spirit to open re­mote north­ern re­gions for in­dus­try and de­vel­op­ment, set­ting the stage for eco­nomic ex­pan­sion that cat­a­pulted Canada into a lead­ing in­dus­tri­al­ized nation by the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tury.

In 1936, Smith added a Waco Cabin bi-plane to his fleet. In 1939, his skills and ded­i­ca­tion caught the at­ten­tion of Tran­sCanada Air Lines (TCA, now Air Canada), which re­cruited him. As first of­fi­cer he made the first round trip flight from Toronto to Monc­ton, and was pro­moted to Cap­tain af­ter only nine months. On a his­toric flight a year later, he made the com­pany truly tran­sCana­dian by fly­ing the fi­nal seg­ment of the Pa­cific to At­lantic trip (Monc­ton-Hal­i­fax) in a Lock­heed 14 Elec­tra. Thus Smith helped ful­fil C. D. Howe’s dream of con­nect­ing Cana­di­ans coast to coast through the new ver­sion of the rail­road – avi­a­tion.

Smith joined the war ef­fort, train­ing Royal Cana­dian Air Force and later, U. S. Army Air Force, pi­lots on Lock­heed 10 and 14 air­craft. As a se­nior pilot he was sec­onded to the Cana­dian Gov­ern­ment TransAt­lantic Air Ser­vice in 1943, and in 1944 Smith be­gan fly­ing the AVRO Lan­cas­trian. A year later he be­gan fly­ing to and from the United King­dom, risk­ing his life to en­sure se­cret cargo and equip­ment, mil­i­tary and gov­ern­ment per­son­nel reached their des­ti­na­tion safely in the midst of the Battle of the At­lantic.

Af­ter the war he re­turned to TCA and, in 1946, was se­lected to fly the first all-ex­press trans-At­lantic cargo load in Cana­dian com­mer­cial avi­a­tion his­tory. By 1947, he was fly­ing Canadair North Stars in­stead of Lan­cas­tri­ans, and while at TCA flew many dif­fer­ent types of air­craft, such as the Su­per Con­stel­la­tion and the DC-8 on do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional routes.

Af­ter Joey Small­wood trav­elled to Lon­don, Eng­land in 1949 to of­fi­cially sign New­found­land and Labrador into the Do­min­ion of Canada, Smith es­corted the new­est pro­vin­cial premier back home.

Smith set a world trans-At­lantic speed record in 1961, fly­ing 5874 kilo­me­tres (3650 miles) from Win­nipeg to Prest­wick, Scot­land, in 6:54 – al­most one hour faster than ever be­fore. By the time he re­tired in 1971 he had ac­cu­mu­lated 24,000 fly­ing hours, more than 1000 transAt­lantic cross­ings, and had an im­pec­ca­ble record.

His pas­sion for avi­a­tion con­tin- ued. Smith owned, re­stored and flew sev­eral air­planes, in­clud­ing a Cessna 140, Piper Cub, Repub­lic Se­abee Am­phibi­ous and Stear­man PT-17. By the time he gave up the con­trols in 1999 at age 86, he had ex­ceeded 27,000 fly­ing hours and had flown more than 50 dif­fer­ent types of air­craft, al­most en­tirely as pilot-in-com­mand.

Cap­tain Roger Lovewell Smith died on Au­gust 3, 2003, at the age of 90. He had flown for 70 of the 100 years pow­ered flight had been pos­si­ble. This first­gen­er­a­tion avi­a­tor started with sin­gle-en­gine, open cock­pit prop planes with­out ra­dio, weather fore­casts and other nav­i­ga­tional aids com­mon to­day, and ended with multi-en­gine high-speed jets car­ry­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple. His ded­i­ca­tion to avi­a­tion never fal­tered, de­spite the harsh con­di­tions of re­mote north­ern ar­eas, the dan­ger­ous cli­mate of WWII over the North­ern At­lantic, and the vast num­ber of flights he pi­loted with­out in­ci­dent.

In 2003, Roger L. Smith was posthu­mously in­ducted into the Que­bec Air and Space Hall of Fame. As then Prime Min­is­ter Jean Chré­tien noted, he “left an in­deli­ble mark on the his­tory of avi­a­tion.”

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