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Chalmers "Slick" Goodlin, "An Honorary Canadian"

Bruce Ricketts

It is said that progress happens when men stand on the shoulders of other men.  

When Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space he rode on the shoulders of the likes of John Glenn, Gus Grissom and many others.

Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947.  At that time he had been a pilot for only six years.  Yeager made his momentous progress standing on the shoulders of Chalmers "Slick" Goodlin, a former-RCAF pilot and, what should be, an Honorary Canadian.  

While not a Canadian citizen, Goodlin's connection to Canada, through the wartime RCAF and another interesting connection that we will discuss in a later story, qualifies him for inclusion on Mysteries of Canada.

Chalmers Goodlin was born in 1923.  In 1941, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force on his 18th birthday, hoping to get some fighter combat over the English Channel. (authors note: the US did not enter the war until 1942)  He became the youngest commissioned officer in the RCAF and in mid-1942, he reached England. In December 1942, Goodlin was enticed to leave the RCAF for the US Navy and training as a Navy test pilot. In 1943, he was released from active duty never having the opportunity to fire a shot at an enemy. 

In December 1943, Goodlin joined Bell Aircraft as a test pilot.  After 26 missions in the X-1, the experimental aircraft seen at the left, he was on track to become the first pilot to take the X-1 to Mach 1.  However, in June 1947, the US government took over the project from Bell and installed its own pilot, Chuck Yeager, in the machine.

Goodlin, in a recent message to this author, stated, "I believe my RCAF flight training was invaluable for my career, and the accompanying military schooling was great character building for a 18 year old fresh off the farm."

Approximately 10% of the RCAF enlistments at the beginning of WWII were Americans like Chalmers Goodlin.

It is estimated that there were 140 "Aces" created in the RCAF throughout the war.  In addition to these heroes, 26 American Ace fliers were made "Honorary Canadians" by their comrades-in-the-air for their service in the RCAF.

The accompanying pictures were sent to the author by Slick Goodlin.  The top image of a freshly-minted and proud Pilot Officer Chalmers Goodlin was taken Dec 5, 1941 in Dunnville, Ontario.  The middle image (autographed by Slick) of Goodlin and the X-1 was taken Dec 10. 1946 at the Muroc Army Air Corps Flight Test Centre in California.  The lower photograph, taken at Winnipeg in the Spring of 1942, is of Goodlin stepping into the cockpit of an RCAF Westland Lysander. 

More information on Chalmers Goodlin can be found on the Internet or you can contact him directly at goodlink@adelphia.net.  For those aero-nuts like this author, Chalmers has a large number of autographed memorabilia for sale.  He is also a great guy with whom to talk.

Also, look at our stories on the Canadian Car & Foundry, which involved Chalmers "Slick" Goodlin.

UPDATE:  Good friend and Honorary Canadian, Chalmers Goodlin died on October 20, 2005 at the age of 82.  He will be missed. 

 

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