Wing Commander (Retd.) Bob Hallowell passed away on Sunday, June 29 at St. Joseph’s Hospital, ending a significant chapter in Canadian military aviation.
As the first official “Red Knight,” in aerobatic performances across Canada, Bob flew a red T-33 jet fighter and trainer, emblazoned with a helmeted figure of a knight in armour on the nose, (Bob’s own design) in dozens of air shows from coast to coast from 1959 to 1961. He performed mostly at small airfields, and kept his aerobatics within airport boundaries, which ideally suited the sub-sonic “T-Bird” and pleased the spectators immensely. Bob’s abilities as a pilot were legendary.
He was born in Brantford, Ont. in February 1930, and Bob worked in the woods before his flying career began after the start of the Korean war at the Aircrew Selection Centre on Sept. 25, 1950. His first reporting station was RCAF Crumlin and he trained as a pilot at Gimli, Man. He next converted to Vampire jets at Chatham N.B., where his instructors were well-known Valley figures Stocky Edwards, Duke Warren and Irish Ireland. (Bob’s Vampire 11031 is now the property of the Comox Air Force Museum, in Hangar 7).
In 1952 Bob converted to the F-86 Sabre and flew them at Grostenquin, France. He received his permanent commission in 1955 with a promotion to Flight Lieutenant and was posted to Portage La Prairie as an instructor and Flight Commander, from 1956 to 1958. While at Portage, he enabled his friend and fellow pilot Syd Burrows to resume flying after Syd’s loss of one eye in a bird-strike accident flying a F-86 Sabre in Europe. (Syd is a member of 888 RCAF Wing, Comox). More postings followed, to Trenton and Saskatoon where Bob’s career as the “Red Knight” began.
In 1961, Squadron-Leader Hallowell served overseas at Baden, Grostenquin and Marville. 1968 saw Bob promoted to Wing Commander, which became Lieutenant-Colonel after unification. Other postings followed – CO of Sioux Lookout, Rockcliffe, CFHQ, Uplands, North Bay, UNEF at Ismailia, Egypt and finally to CFB Comox as Base Operations Officer. In 1979 he was a founding member of 888 RCAF Wing and remained a member, editing the Wing magazine “Contrails,” and serving as copy editor at The CFB Comox Totem Times. Bob retired in March 1980 and until 1982 did a little bush flying. He met his future wife Joyce and they were married in 1983, and they both worked hard at “The Wing,” contributing at many levels, including cook and entertainer. Bob was also the “Token Male” in the Ladies’ Auxiliary, with Joyce as the President. He was anything but token in that role, and his service to 888 Wing continued almost to the day he passed away.
His Celebration of Life at 888 Wing filled the building to capacity, as his many friends came to say farewell to the Red Knight.
Norm Blondel is a member of 888 RCAF Wing and a former editor of Contrails and the Totem Times.