Lieutenant Commander Charles T. ("Tommy”) Booth, USN, and Major Desmond (“Des”) E. Canavan, USMC, the First Navy and Marine Corps Helicopter Pilots, 1943-1944-A Marie O’Keefe Canavan Photo-Nancy Heslop Collection

“The photo is from late 1943- early 1944. It shows Lt. Commander Charles T. (“Tommy”) Booth, USN, and my father, then Major Desmond (“Des”) E. Canavan, USMC– each gentleman was his service’s “Helicopter Pilot Number One.” My mother, Marie O’Keefe Canavan, was the photographer at this casual get-together at N.A.S. Patuxent River, MD. Booth and Canavan were at Flight Test until 1945, before there was a Test Pilot school.” Nancy Canavan Heslop 

March 30, 1944. – COL Desmond E. Canavan, USMC (Ret.), serving as test pilot at NATC, Patuxent River, flew his first helicopter dual flight in the XHNS-1 BuNo 39034. After twelve dual flights with LCDR John Miller, COL Canavan soloed the XHNS-1 on 3 November 1944, thus becoming the first Marine pilot to obtain a helicopter qualification.

Click his picture to read the NHA ROTOR REVIEW article, “MARINE CORPS HELICOPTER PILOT NUMBER ONE,” by Nancy Canavan Heslop, ROTOR REVIEW Magazine, Volume 116, Winter 2012, page 33.

“Desmond Earl Canavan was the first to admit that he was one of the luckiest men who ever lived. He was born just when aviation was taking hold, but nearly died doing what he loved. Whenever he spoke of his flying helicopters, he had a twinkle in his eye…
When Des could no longer fly, he retired to be the assistant dean of Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. To relax, he went fly-fishing and became the President of the St. Bernard Fish & Game Club. Born and raised in the San Juan Islands he was as at home in the water as he was in the air. In fact Norm Anderson observed that Des was the only Marine Corps and Naval aviator he ever knew who requested permission to become a qualified navigator… which he did just before the bombing at Pearl Harbor……” Nancy Canavan Heslop

Additional research articles about COL Desmond E. Canavan USMC (Ret.) and his work as military test pilot written by his daughter, Nancy Canavan Heslop and used with permission:

“A Story of the Budd RB-1 Conestoga” by Nancy Canavan Heslop

“Reconsidering The Budd RB-1” by Nancy  Canavan Heslop

“Aviation Cadets” Chapter III~”Letters From Des: The Life of a Marine Corps-Naval Aviator and Test Pilot,” 2012 by Nancy Canavan Heslop