Neil J Armstrong

By Katherine Simunkovic of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame -
Neil J Armstrong, BASc, was born in Alvinston, Ontario on April 15, 1920. After school he joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) where he served in Ontario and Saskatchewan and was one of the first officers to serve in Dauphin, Manitoba. In 1943 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and graduated as a commissioned officer and pilot and went on to instruct for two years, after which he retired to pursue a degree in engineering.

Graduating with a double major in geology and geophysics, Armstrong went on to become the first known helicopter pilot/geologist in North America. Working with the Geological Survey of Canada, over a two-year period they mapped more than 100,000 square miles (260,000 km2) on a scale of one inch to eight miles, in the Barren Lands of Northern Canada. During this time Armstrong accomplished another first as he made the first helicopter contact with the Barren Lands Inuit who had never seen a helicopter before and referred to it as an ‘unfinished aircraft’.

In 1955 he became the manager of a Spartan subsidy, Aerophysics Ltd, specializing in airborne electronic surveys. While in this position Armstrong pioneered the two-phase electromagnetic system for detecting mineral conductors in the earth. Initially installed in Avro Ansons, the technology was later adapted for use in helicopters.
With his combined knowledge of airborne devices and engineering he developed and patented a helicopter hover-sight, now used worldwide as a cost-saving shortcut in airborne surveying. This system cut to a fraction the man-hours required for surveying and eliminated the need for costly towers which were normally built to obtain line-of-sight over the trees. Success in surveying would bring Armstrong out to Argentina next where he was hired to head a team to survey the Province of Mendoza from the air, using a Cessna 310.

In 1969 Armstrong became a founding partner and President of Liftair International Ltd, a helicopter service based in Calgary, Alberta. He served as chairman of the Helicopter Committee of the Calgary Transportation and Development Authority.
Throughout his life, Neil J Armstrong has been a strong advocate and supporter of general aviation and encouraged others to complete their pilot training and enjoy the freedom of flight. In 1964 he was elected to the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association as President, a position he held for three years. Neil J Armstrong was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974 at the inaugural Induction Ceremony. He passed away on November 23, 1994, in a crash of a de Havilland Twin Otter in Antarctica, along with his son, Captain Corcoran Armstrong and two others.