Sterling resident, James F. Stevenson, 91, died of heart failure Saturday, June 12, 2010 at home with his family at his side.
Memorial services will be 2 p.m. Sat., June 19, at the V.F.W. Post #10046, 134 N. Birch Street, Soldotna.
Jim was born November 19, 1918 in Canon City, Colorado and grew up in Glendale, Calif. He served with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves from 1936-1940 and during WWII with the U.S. Navy from 1941-1945.
His aviation career began in 1937 as a copilot/mechanic on a Ford Trimotor. He first soloed in Jan. 1939 in a 50 h.p. Porterfield, then on to Pensacola earning his Navy wings in 1941.
He served as an instrument flying instructor and test pilot at Corpus Christi and flew a 4-engine patrol and transport flying boat for the balance of WWII serving in the Caribbean, European and Pacific Theaters. He was honorably discharged as a Lt. Commander in 1945. Jim earned his ATP in a twin Cessna in 1947 and a MARS flying boat in 1948, becoming rated in twelve different aircraft. He flew for TWA and United Airlines on DC-3s and DC-4s until 1949. He left the airlines to become Chief Pilot for Union Oil Co. flying a Douglas B-23 where he made the first coast to coast non-stop corporate airplane flight in March 1953 in 8:51 hrs. He was Chief Pilot for Walt Disney 1963-1969 on the G-1. He left after Disney's death to fly a new Gulfstream Jet worldwide for Ambassador College until 1974. He was a Lear Jet pilot for Clay Lacy until 1975 when Occidental Petroleum hired him as Chief Pilot to fly a Gulfstream Jet, a Jetstar and Boeing 727 until his retirement in 1985. Jim built a formula one pylon racing airplane, competing successfully at Reno, Mojave, and Point Mugu from 1970-1976. In his mid 70s, Jim was flying his Mooney as a deputy sheriff for Santa Barbara County Aero Squadron and as an Aircraft Commander for the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Jim flew over 100 types of aircraft including all the WWII Navy fighters during WWII and the Giant Martin Mars; he had over 40 trips behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. His total flying time was over 27,700 hrs; 7500 hrs in jets and 7500 hrs in tail draggers. He flew many notables such as Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Armand Hammer, Walt Disney, The King of Belgium, Shah of Iran, Prince Charles and Princess Dianna. Jim had been a QB since 1952 and was an Associate Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He also loved sailing multi-hull sailboats. He moved to Sterling in 2006 to live with his sons and daughter-in-law.
He is survived by his sons, Paul and Scott Stevenson; daughter-in-law Laurie Stevenson all of Sterling; daughter, Teresa Clifton of Olachua, Fl. and step-sons, Ron and Lyle Robertson both of Ocala, FL.
Arrangements were made by Peninsula Memorial Chapel.
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