James Stevens worked as a bush pilot before joining the Pacific Rim Aviation Academy as a float plane instructor.

‘Arizona Jim’ loved to fly

Jim Stevens, who was killed in the float plane accident on Pitt Lake on Monday, remember by colleagues

Jim Stevens loved to fly.

The man killed in the float plane accident Monday afternoon was “a man among men and a gentle giant whose instructional capabilities, were beyond exception,” said Chris Georgas, owner of Pacific Rim Aviation Academy.

Stevens, 71, of Surrey, died when the Cessna 172 float plane, in which he was instructing, flipped over on Pitt Lake.

He had been demonstrating touch-and-go landings when the accident occurred in stormy weather.

His 55-year-old student pilot survived after clinging to the pontoons of the overturned plane for about an hour, until his rescue by a passing boater.

Georgas said Stevens was known at the flight centre at Pitt Meadows Regional Airport as ‘Arizona Jim’ because of his yearly excursions to the U.S.

He also was known as ‘Grandpa Jim'” to his kids and grandchildren and was a friend, “respected colleague and dedicated co-worker.”

Georgas remembered him in his hat, black jacket, life vest with a lunch box and rubber gum boots that he wore anytime his students were about to solo in his blue float plane.

Georgas said the Transportation Safety Board is continuing to investigate. The plane was barged down from Pitt Lake on Wednesday for inspection at the airport.

Saftey board spokesman Bill Yearwood said weather conditions were challenging at the time with strong wind gusts on the lake. He explained it’s often difficult to exit an aircraft that’s overturned and submerged.

A Comorant search and rescue helicopter and a Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft responded to the rescue scene in the Grant Narrows area.

• Read Chris Georgas’ blog post about “Arizona Jim“.

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