We lost two members of our aviation museum community in recent months. Owen Cornish, a World War II bomber pilot, who also flew after the war, died on Remembrance Day at the age of 94. Tony Allinson, a post-war military aircraft mechanic, who went on to a long and distinguished career as an accident investigator, also died in November. He was 77.
Cornish spent more than two decades as a military aviator. He was a flight instructor and Halifax bomber pilot during World War II, completing 24 missions. Then he returned to Edmonton, where he became a prominent dentist and continued to fly part-time with 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron. Cornish rose to the rank of Commanding Officer and Wing Commander before his retirement in 1961.
But to many of his friends in 418 Squadron, Cornish will be remembered for another reason. He was given the title, ‘Master of Abdominal Landings,’ for the three belly-landings he made in B-25s.
Cornish acknowledged the rather dubious honour with humour.
“The reason Her Majesty never looks me up when she visits is I buggered up so many of her aircraft,” he told me with a chuckle during a 2014 interview for the museum’s Blatchford Tales Oral History project.
Allinson’s love affair with aircraft spanned decades.
“I’ve known Tony since 1955, when we were both in Grade 11,” says long-time museum member and historian John Chalmers. “We signed up as aero engine mechanic trainees with 418 (City of Edmonton ) Reserve Squadron. We gassed up B-25 Mitchells and changed sparkplugs in their engines at the hangar that is now home to the Alberta Aviation Museum.”
Following high school, Allison enlisted in the regular RCAF and trained as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer. He went on to served for many years as Chief Engineer for the Edmonton Flying Club, and later as an accident investigation officer with the Transportation Safety Board, from which he retired as Superintendent of Technical Investigations, Western Division.
“Tony was an ingenious, meticulous, clever and careful craftsman in everything he worked on,” says Chalmers. He was a long-time member of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society and a member of the Alberta Aviation Museum for almost the entire length of its existence.
We extend our condolences to the many friends and family members of both men who played major roles in Edmonton’s aviation history.