Sea King

Wilfred Austin Curtis


Wilfred Austin Curtis, air marshal (b at Havelock, Ont 21 Aug 1893; d at Nassau, Bahamas 7 Aug 1977). As chief of the air staff 1947-53, Curtis presided over unprecedented peacetime growth in the RCAF. He flew with the Royal Naval Air Service on the Western Front 1917-18, being credited with downing 13 enemy aircraft. In the interwar years, he had his own insurance business while helping to start the Toronto Flying Club and assisting as a RCAF reservist. He was called back to active service in 1939 and was deputy air officer commanding, RCAF Overseas Headquarters in London 1941-44. He became a member of the Air Council in 1944 and then succeeded Robert LECKIE as chief of the air staff.

His appointment, after only 8 years of full-time RCAF service, was controversial. Astute and businesslike, he successfully pushed for the acquisition of the AVRO CF-100 and other modern aircraft. Upon his retirement he became vice-chairman of A.V. Roe (Canada) Ltd and subsequently of Hawker Siddeley (Canada) Ltd. Understandably, he lamented the cancellation of the AVRO ARROW. He was one of the founders of York University in Toronto and was its first chancellor.