Frederick J. Stevenson
April 9, 2010
Manitoba’s aviation history is rich in aspects of commercial flight and military training. But the real pioneers – and the people who continue to venture into remote areas of the province – are the bush pilots. Frederick J. Stevenson was one of those pioneers.
Stevenson fought in WWI, destroying 18 enemy aircraft and 3 observation balloons. When the war was over, he held the rank of captain, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Croix de Guerre. After the war, he flew delegates between London and Paris, and then returned to Canada where he joined the Canada Aircraft Company here in Winnipeg.
He flew throughout Manitoba and Saskatchewan, performing aerobatic exhibitions and taking passengers on short flights between towns. Eventually he joined Western Canada Airways – owned by the one and only James Armstrong Richardson – where he made a name for himself flying cargo and heavy equipment in an open-cockpit Fokker Universal aircraft.
Making dozens of round trips in short periods of time and travelling thousands of miles on different routes – often in extreme winter conditions – Stevenson changed the way people looked at an aircraft. Rather than a tool for military operations, it was now viewed as a means to transport large amounts of heavy cargo into areas that were hard to get to, and costly to access by foot or boat.
Stevenson died in 1928, after an accident while landing a plane after a test run. Stevenson Field was named after him a few months later, which is now the site of Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.
So, that’s your history lesson for today. If you want to learn more, check out the Western Canadian Aviation Museum, and see first hand some of the planes Stevenson and other early pioneers used to fly.
Sources: The Encyclopedia of Manitoba, biographi.ca (Shirley Render)