Bruce Aikenhead, a towering figure in Canadian aerospace whose quiet nature kept him mostly out of the limelight, died in Salmon Arm B.C. last week. He was 95. Aikenhead, who was an Officer of the Order of Canada, was the driving force behind a host of Canadian aerospace initiatives. In his 40 year career as a systems engineer, he worked on the Avro Arrow, NASA’s Project Mercury and the Canadarm that was installed on space shuttles. He also participated in a number of research programs. He retired as Director General of the Canadian Astronaut Program and hired the first groups of Canadian astronauts including now-Governor General Julie Payette, Transport Minister Marc Garneau, and world-renowned speaker and educator Col. Chris Hadfield.
He retired in 1993 to Salmon Arm, B.C. but he wasn’t finished working to promote aerospace. He spoke frequently to student groups about opportunities in the field and was instrumental in the design and construction of space exhibits at the Vernon Science Centre. Aikenhead otherwise lived quietly in Salmon Arm and was remembered for his humility and gratitude for what he considered the “good luck” to have such a notable career. A celebration of life will be held Sept. 22 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery.