Once RCAF… Always RCAF – Chalmers “Slick” Goodlin



Issac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

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 John Glenn, Gus Grissom and many others. When Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on 14 October  1947, he had been a pilot for only six years.  He made his momentous progress standing on the shoulders of Chalmers Goodlin, a former-RCAF pilot, a good friend of mine and one whom I consider as qualifying as an Honorary Canadian.

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 experience over the English Channel.  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 to train 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.  He flew 33 missions in the X-1 and was on track to become the first pilot to take the “bullet” to Mach 1.  However, in June 1947, the US government took over the project from Bell and installed its own pilot, Chuck Yeager.

Goodlin, in a personal message to me, stated, “I believe my RCAF flight training was invaluable for my career and the accompanying military schooling was great character building for an 18-year-old fresh off the farm.”

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

Chalmers “Slick” Goodlin died on 20 October 2005, at the age of 82.  He will be missed.

But why do I think he was special to Canada?  He owned an RCAF-crested jacket which he wore on special occasions.  Like the time he was on the cover of First Class Magazine, an American publication.  Or the time he testified in a U.S. Congressional hearing.  And I will never forget the sight of this great American aviator being laid to rest in 2005, wearing his RCAF jacket.

Reference: Bruce Ricketts