Pilot, Mayor, Judge, Lifesaver: Celebrating the career and public service of The Honourable Virgil P. Moshansky, C.M.

Justice Moshansky recognized for his exceptional achievements in law and aviation safety with a University of Alberta Distinguished Alumni Award.

Law Communications - 26 September 2016

The University of Alberta Alumni Awards recognize the professional achievements, community service and innovation of graduates around the globe - people who uphold the promise to use their education "for the public good." This year, 27 people were honoured at an evening ceremony at the Jubilee Auditorium on September 22, 2016. Four of these award recipients - including the Honourable Virgil P. Moshansky, CM - are Faculty of Law alumni. Justice Moshansky was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award. The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes the truly outstanding accomplishments of University of Alberta alumni who have earned national or international prominence as a result of their outstanding professional achievements and service to society.

As a pilot, lawyer, mayor, and judge, the Honourable Virgil P. Moshansky, CM knows what it's like to wear many hats. Long before he graduated from the University of Alberta Faculty of Law in 1954, Justice Moshansky was preparing for his legal career; at age 16, he typed up land transfers for his father Peter, who was a farmer and entrepreneur. Around the same time, while a high school student in Lamont, Alberta, Justice Moshansky attended to his other emerging hobby: aviation, eventually becoming an air cadet during WWII and spending summers at Royal Canadian Air Force camps.

After graduating from law school - where friends called him a bookworm - Justice Moshansky worked as a lawyer, often flying himself between his office and courtrooms across the province. Justice Moshansky and his wife June spent 21 years in Vegreville, where he served three terms as the town's mayor, before moving to Calgary, where he served for 28 years on the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.

In 1989, Justice Moshansky was called to serve in a different capacity, when the Canadian Aviation Safety Board appointed him to lead an investigation into the causes of the crash of Air Ontario Flight 1363 in Dryden, Ontario, which crashed on March 10, 1989, leaving 24 people dead. Justice Moshansky and his team spent three years conducting what was at that time the most exhaustive aviation system investigation ever attempted. The result was a 2,000-page final report that contained 191 recommendations, the most notable of which concerned the lack of proper de-icing fluids and procedures. Transport Canada and international aviation regulatory authorities adopted the report recommendations regarding de-icing fluids and procedures. As a result of his contributions to aviation safety, Justice Moshansky was recognized with the Transport Canada Aviation Safety Award in 1995 and the Order of Canada in 2005. In 2007, he was elected a fellow of the U.K. Royal Aeronautical Society.

"Throughout his career, Justice Virgil Moshansky has demonstrated a commitment to public service beyond the call of duty," said Dean Paul Paton. "His contributions to aviation safety - as evidenced by his leadership of the investigation into the crash of Air Ontario Flight 1363 and the subsequent adoption of his report recommendations by international aviation agencies - have undoubtedly saved numerous lives around the world."

At a lunchtime reception at the Law Centre on September 22 for the four Faculty of Law recipients of 2016 University of Alberta Alumni Awards, Justice Moshansky thanked his many family members, friends and colleagues in attendance, including The Right Honourable Don Mazankowski and the Hon. Allan Wachowich, former Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta. In his remarks, he recalled many pleasant memories at the U of A, noting that "after the passage of many years it is a pleasure to be back and to see the incredible growth and change on campus." He also noted that being called to lead the Air Ontario Flight 1363 crash investigation was the pinnacle of his judicial and aviation career.

"On behalf of the Faculty of Law, I would like to thank Justice Moshansky for his service to Canadians and for setting such a tremendous example for our students of commitment to the legal profession and to the greater good," said Dean Paton. "Justice Moshansky truly embodies the U of A's promise of 'uplifting the whole people.'"

Video: Distinguished Alumni Award - The Honourable Virgil P. Moshansky, CM