Robert Noorduyn was born in Holland. Speaking four languages, he studied in Germany then moved to England where he started in 1913 a career in aviation as an apprentice at Sopwith Aviation, Armstrong-Whitworth and British Aerial Transport Co. In 1920, the famous German aircraft designer Anthony Fokker started operations in America and asked Noorduyn to represent the Fokker organization there. From 1920 to 1929, Noorduyn acted as General Manager and was responsible for design, production and flight operations in USA and Canada. Among other things, Noorduyn directed the conversion of the Fokker F7 into the Fokker Trimotor F-10A (used by Byrd for his North Pole expedition). He contributed to the making of the Fokker Universal and designed the floats for the RCAF Universals chosen for an expedition at the Hudson Straight. In a collaboration project with Canadian Vickers in Montréal, he contributed to the design of the Super-Universal, an improved version of theUniversal. In 1929, Noorduyn became Vice-President of Bellanca Aircraft Corp., contributing to the creation of the Pacemaker and Skyrocket. After a brief stay at Pitcairn Aircraft, Noorduyn started his own business in Montréal, Noorduyn Aircraft Ltd. (which became Noorduyn Aviation Ltd. in 35). His goal was to design the best bush airplane ever, prioritizing comfort in the cockpit and top performances on skis and floats.
After a brief stay at Pitcairn Aircraft, Noorduyn started his own business in Montréal, Noorduyn Aircraft Ltd. (which became Noorduyn Aviation Ltd. in 35).
To achieve this, Noorduyn assembled an all star team, starting with Irénée «Pete» Vachon as Shop Superintendant. Some of the others involved were Walter Clayton, Austin Latremouille, Fred Wheeler, Joe Zinnato. In the spring of 1935, at the Curtiss-Reid factory in Cartierville, Noorduyn and his team started to build the prototype. There were some difficult times, like the three-week period where everybody worked without pay. But Noorduyn’s dynamism and faith carried them all. In the autumn, the first Norseman prototype, registred CF-AYO, took off on floats at Pointe-aux-Trembles (at the old Compagnie Aérienne Franco-Canadienne facilities). It was an immediate success. CF-AYO was even acquired by Dominion Skyways. First world wide best seller of the Montréal aeronautics industry, more the 900 Norseman were built between 1935 and 1959. During WWII, the Noorduyn factory in Cartierville also produced under licence about 2800 Harvard trainer plane.