Robert B.C. Noorduyn
|Robert B.C. Noorduyn|
Robert B.C. Noorduyn c.1940
April 6, 1893|
Nijmegen, the Netherlands
|Died||February 22, 1959
South Burlington, Vermont
After Noorduyn had received a technical training in the Netherlands and Germany, in 1913, he moved to England. There he trained to fly in a Caudron G II and worked as a technical draughtsmen for the Sopwith company.
In 1917, Noorduyn was recruited to become the chief draughtsman for the British Aerial Transport company. (Chief designer of the company was another Dutchman: along with Frits Koolhoven) British Aerial Transport or BAT however was short-lived. A victim of the changing tides following the end of World War I, it folded in 1919. By that time however, Anthony Fokker had returned from Germany and established a new factory in the Netherlands. Noorduyn returned just as well and found work with Fokker. Since Fokker wanted to expand into the USA, the company sent Noorduyn in 1921 to Teterboro to supervise a new manufacturing plant.
In Teterboro, Noorduyn was responsible for the Fokker Universal, a popular utility transport that was particularly suitable for northern conditions. Many examples were sold to Canadian air carriers. The Fokker Universal and its follow-up Super Universal helped open the frontiers, fostering settlement and development of the north. In addition, Noorduyn worked on the re-design of the single-engine Fokker F.VIII into a twin-engined version.
Noorduyn moved at the beginning of 1929 to Bellanca in Wilmington, Delaware, where he designed the Bellanca Skyrocket. He was also heavily involved in the design of an improved version of the Bellanca Pacemaker, another favourite of bush flyers in Canada.
With the background of working on many groundbreaking designs at Fokker, Bellanca and Pitcairn-Cierva, Noorduyn decided to create his own design in 1934, the Noorduyn Norseman. Along with colleague Walter Clayton, Noorduyn created his original company, Noorduyn Aircraft Limited, in early 1933 at Montreal, while a successor company bearing the name Noorduyn Aviation, was later established in 1935.
Noorduyn's vision of a bush plane revolved around a few basic criteria: it should be an aircraft with which a Canadian operator utilizing existing talents, equipment, and facilities could make money; it should be a high-wing monoplane to facilitate loading and unloading of passengers and cargo at seaplane docks and airports; and it should be an all-around superior aircraft to those currently in use in Canada. The final design layout looked much like a Fokker with all-welded steel tubing fuselage structure and wood stringers were applied to it for attachment of a fabric skin. The wing was all-wood construction and fabric-covered except for the flaps and ailerons, which were made of welded steel tubing. The resulting utility bush plane, known as the Norseman, flew for the first time in 1936, and, due to its acceptance as both a military and civil cargo aircraft, has become known as one of the premier bush planes of its time.
In postwar production, the Canada Car and Foundry in Fort William, Ontario acquired rights to the Norseman design, producing a version known as the MK V, a civilian version of the wartime Mk IV. In order to exploit the market further, the "Can Car" factory designed and built the Mk VII. This version had a bigger engine, a new all-metal wing and greater cargo capacity but was fated never to go into production. Noorduyn always hoped he would be able to resurrect a new version of his beloved Norseman, but it was not to be.
In 1953, Noorduyn headed a group of investors who bought back the jigs and equipment from Canadian Car & Foundry and started a new company called Noorduyn Norseman Aircraft Ltd. Bob Noorduyn became ill and died in his home in South Burlington, Vermont on February 22, 1959 but the company he had created, provided support for operating Norseman aircraft and even built three new Mk Vs before selling its assets in 1982 to Norco Associates. Norco provided service only, as the manufacture of a new Norseman aircraft, being very labor-intensive, made it very expensive.
Norseman aircraft are known to have been registered and/or operated in 68 countries throughout the world and also have been based and flown in the Arctic and on the Antarctic continent. The last Norseman built was sold and delivered to a commercial customer on January 19, 1959. A total of 903 Norseman were built and, even today, approximately 18 Norseman are still plying their trade in Canada and elsewhere, as the visible embodiment of the design genius of Robert B.C. Noorduyn.
- Milberry 1979, p. 110.
- Milberry 1979, p. 111.