Jerry Billing 1921-2015

Jerry Billing was a Canadian fighter, test and display pilot who flew Spitfires with the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force in Malta and western Europe during World War II.  He achieved six confirmed aerial victories and was shot down twice.  After the war Billing rejoined the RCAF and flew as an instructor, test and display pilot in jet fighters in Canada and, pursuant to a pilot exchange program, in Britain.

From the early 1970s to 1994, Billing flew restored Spitfires for various owners, and was North America’s most proficient Spitfire pilot.  He was best known as the pilot and custodian of Spitfire Mk.IXe MK923, owned by Hollywood actor Cliff Robertson.  Billing’s aerial displays in the Spitfire were graceful and precise, with his respect, familiarity and affection for the airplane evident in every maneuver.  He would have been much better known outside of southwestern Ontario and the midwestern United States if he and MK923 had toured more widely.  His flying was one of the things that got me hooked on vintage airplanes as a youngster and adolescent.

Billing died last Friday, January 9, aged 93.  He lived to see a full-scale Spitfire replica in his wartime markings erected in his hometown of Essex, Ontario.