George «Buzz» Beurling
2001

One of the leading fighter pilot aces of his time.

Probably no one in the history of aviation worked so continuously for so many years at improving his vision and the accuracy of his deflection shooting as did George « Buzz » Beurling. This kid from Verdun was to become the top Canadian ace of World War II. With a record of 32 enemy aircraft shot down (of which 27 in only 14 days in the skies over Malta), Beurling was tangibly one of the leading fighter pilot aces of his time. Intangibly he was a mixed up kid. He could be friendly, affable, sociable. He could be wayward, contrary, insolent – particularly to authority. Over the years he was the bane in the existence of many commanding officers. The « buzz » attached to his name came from buzzing – low-fllying and hedge-hopping – in his unit’s training plane, terrifying the English countryside and violating air force regulations. He was never deterred by reprimand, demotion or even threat of court-martial. Of more serious concern to commanding officers was Beurling’s penchant for breaking away from squadron formation while on an enemy sweep.
Inducted June 6, 2001.

The « buzz » attached to his name came from buzzing – low-fllying and hedge-hopping – in his unit’s training plane, terrifying the English countryside and violating air force regulations.

This violated the essence of combat flying – teamwork – but Beurling’s remarkable eyesight detected enemy aircraft where others did not. In one fully documented account, in which the squadron returned from a sweep over France and reported « no enemy action », Beurling claimed an FW-190 destroyed. The combat film synchronized with the cannon on his Spitfire wing showed it completely: he had seen a speck, peeled off, manoeuvred behind it, shot it down (even detailing where the shells hit), and returned to position without any others in the squadron of twelve knowing anything about it. For a period in England before the invasion of Europe he trained younger pilots in shooting. A number went on to becoming aces in their own right. « Civvy street » proved difficult for Beurling so that his death, while untimely, was somehow inevitable in a flying accident in Rome on his way as a volunteer to fly in Israel’s air force.

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