It is a sad fact of collecting Edmonton’s aviation history that we are now losing many of those who have contributed so much. Such is the case with Michael Kutyn, who died January 3, at the age of 95.
Kutyn was a World War II navigator who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), then returned to Edmonton where he flew for another 20 years as part of 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron.
Growing up in Wildwood, just west of Edmonton, he remembers being enchanted after seeing his first real airplane.
“One Sunday as we were having dinner we heard this strange noise,” he wrote in Diary of an RCAF Serviceman, a memoir of his years in the military. “It was an airplane flying directly over the house. It looked beautiful against the blue sky. From that moment on, my ambition was to fly airplanes.”
But after joining the RCAF in 1941 he changed his mind. He got into a spin during a solo flight. That incident scared him so much he decided to become a navigator instead.
And what a navigator he was. After training in Britain, he finished at the top of his class with 87 per cent. He was assigned to a special unit flying two Halifax bombers and two Lancaster bombers to India, the first time British bombers would make that trip.
In the fall of 1944 Kutyn was lead navigator for a 1000 aircraft raid on the German city of Duisburg. That flight, along with 30 other bombing raids in which he served as navigator, earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1945.
At the end of the war, Kutyn returned to Edmonton, where he joined the post office. But he missed flying and in 1949 joined the ranks of “weekend warriors” flying with 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron.
Tragically, Kutyn’s own brother John was killed in the crash of a 418 Suadron Mitchell bomber in January 1955. But Kutyn himself says he was never fearful about his own safety while in the air, despite the fact that he was involved in three crashes during the war and four more post war.
“I had faith above I guess. I was never scared. I was always felt like my life was in good hands,” he told our Blatchford Tales Oral History Project in 2013. “And to have that kind of feeling when you have been in all those airplane crashes. And you’re still talking to him.”
We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Mike Kutyn. He is a true aviation legend.