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Langdon, Henry

Updated: Dec 13, 2021


Langdon, Henry 1957  with Ernie Hunter view radiographic X ray results
Langdon, Henry 1957 with Ernie Hunter view radiographic X ray results

A Career in Aircraft Engine Maintenance


The RCAF had high standards for those it enlisted during the Second World War. This is reflected in the achievements of many of the Black-Canadians who served in the RCAF during the war. Many went on to become leaders in their respective areas. One such individual was Henry Langdon. He had an outstanding career in civil aviation maintenance and even continued to serve with the RCAF.


Henry Johnson Langdon was born in Trinidad in 1911 and came to Canada in 1923. Growing up in the Little Burgundy district of Montreal he had a desire to be a writer, but was working in a gas station at the outbreak of war. At this time he was married, had one daughter and a son on the way. Such was his desire to serve that he was willing to leave them behind, and enlisted in the RCAF on 1 November 1939. At this time the RCAF regulations prohibited the enlistment of anybody whose skin was not white, so somebody in the RCAF recruiting system obviously turned a blind eye to the regulations. Perhaps Henry's course in aero engine mechanics helped.


After training at the Technical Training School at St. Thomas, he served at No. 1 Service Flying Training School at Camp Borden, No. 9 Repair Depot at St. Jean, QC, No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mont Joli, QC and No. 6 Repair Depot, Trenton. At each of these his responsibilities grew. Not only was he an excellent tradesman but also a very good leader. Famed Group Captain Roy Grandy indicated in September 1941 that Langdon would make an excellent non-commissioned officer. An evaluation of May 1943 stated that he was “one of the finest airmen I have ever seen” and had potential to serve as aircrew – to actually serve as part of an aircraft crew. Leading Aircraftman Langdon would be promoted regularly because of his abilities. In October 1944 he was promoted to the rank of flight sergeant. He was released on 7 September 1945.


Perhaps because of his wartime experience and the number of former RCAF aircrew in its service, Trans Canada Air Lines (later Air Canada) hired Henry Langdon in 1945 as an aero engine mechanic. Here he would again do very well. As Trans Canada Air Lines introduced new aircraft he would have to learn how to maintain the new engine types, pass this along to his subordinates and ensure their work was of a very high standard. An engine failure could cause the crash of a passenger-carrying aircraft. He would later become an aircraft inspector with the airline.


Mr. Langdon was also active in the union - the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, lodge 1751 in Montreal. He was one of the first Black mechanics to serve on an IAMAW lodge executive. He was in fact elected to the Montreal lodge's executive for 25 years, serving as recording secretary and also as secretary of the workers' education committee. Henry Langdon was also the Canadian High Commissioner of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, working towards improving race relations with this organization and also in his civilian and military careers.


In March 1955 Mr. Langdon enlisted in the RCAF Auxiliary, the part-time service of the air force. With his experience at Trans-Canada Air Lines it was natural that he would become the aero engine instructor at 3001 Technical Training Unit. This was the school in Montreal that taught aircraft engine mechanics. He served there until February 1961 with a one year spent with No. 104 Composite Unit at St. Hubert on a special duty. Flight Sergeant Langdon then served a year with 438 Squadron before spending his remaining service with 401 Squadron where he was a flight line supervisor. This meant he was responsible for the maintenance of all the squadron aircraft. He retired in January 1967 because he had reached retirement age.


Henry Langdon was a pioneer with Air Canada, the RCAF and his union. Working in predominantly white environments in all three workplaces, he was highly respected not only for his work, but in his efforts towards improving race relations. Henry Langdon had come a long way from his desire for a literary career. His long service in the civil aviation maintenance field was exemplary, and the RCAF played a role in setting him on his way.

A Career in Aircraft Engine Maintenance


The RCAF had high standards for those it enlisted during the Second World War. This is reflected in the achievements of many of the Black-Canadians who served in the RCAF during the war. Many went on to become leaders in their respective areas. One such individual was Henry Langdon. He had an outstanding career in civil aviation maintenance and even continued to serve with the RCAF.


Henry Johnson Langdon was born in Trinidad in 1911 and came to Canada in 1923. Growing up in the Little Burgundy district of Montreal he had a desire to be a writer, but was working in a gas station at the outbreak of war. At this time he was married, had one daughter and a son on the way. Such was his desire to serve that he was willing to leave them behind, and enlisted in the RCAF on 1 November 1939. At this time the RCAF regulations prohibited the enlistment of anybody whose skin was not white, so somebody in the RCAF recruiting system obviously turned a blind eye to the regulations. Perhaps Henry's course in aero engine mechanics helped.


After training at the Technical Training School at St. Thomas, he served at No. 1 Service Flying Training School at Camp Borden, No. 9 Repair Depot at St. Jean, QC, No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mont Joli, QC and No. 6 Repair Depot, Trenton. At each of these his responsibilities grew. Not only was he an excellent tradesman but also a very good leader. Famed Group Captain Roy Grandy indicated in September 1941 that Langdon would make an excellent non-commissioned officer. An evaluation of May 1943 stated that he was “one of the finest airmen I have ever seen” and had potential to serve as aircrew – to actually serve as part of an aircraft crew. Leading Aircraftman Langdon would be promoted regularly because of his abilities. In October 1944 he was promoted to the rank of flight sergeant. He was released on 7 September 1945.


Perhaps because of his wartime experience and the number of former RCAF aircrew in its service, Trans Canada Air Lines (later Air Canada) hired Henry Langdon in 1945 as an aero engine mechanic. Here he would again do very well. As Trans Canada Air Lines introduced new aircraft he would have to learn how to maintain the new engine types, pass this along to his subordinates and ensure their work was of a very high standard. An engine failure could cause the crash of a passenger-carrying aircraft. He would later become an aircraft inspector with the airline.


Mr. Langdon was also active in the union - the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, lodge 1751 in Montreal. He was one of the first Black mechanics to serve on an IAMAW lodge executive. He was in fact elected to the Montreal lodge's executive for 25 years, serving as recording secretary and also as secretary of the workers' education committee. Henry Langdon was also the Canadian High Commissioner of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, working towards improving race relations with this organization and also in his civilian and military careers.


In March 1955 Mr. Langdon enlisted in the RCAF Auxiliary, the part-time service of the air force. With his experience at Trans-Canada Air Lines it was natural that he would become the aero engine instructor at 3001 Technical Training Unit. This was the school in Montreal that taught aircraft engine mechanics. He served there until February 1961 with a one year spent with No. 104 Composite Unit at St. Hubert on a special duty. Flight Sergeant Langdon then served a year with 438 Squadron before spending his remaining service with 401 Squadron where he was a flight line supervisor. This meant he was responsible for the maintenance of all the squadron aircraft. He retired in January 1967 because he had reached retirement age.


Henry Langdon was a pioneer with Air Canada, the RCAF and his union. Working in predominantly white environments in all three workplaces, he was highly respected not only for his work, but in his efforts towards improving race relations. Henry Langdon had come a long way from his desire for a literary career. His long service in the civil aviation maintenance field was exemplary, and the RCAF played a role in setting him on his way.



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