If you’ve been to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in the last few years, chances are you’ve seen Jim Stevenson’s eye-catching 1952 Cessna 170B. We recently spoke with Jim to learn more about his journey to the skies and his passion for backcountry aviation.
How did you get into flying? What was your biggest inspiration?
I have always been interested in flying. One of my earliest memories was getting a ride in my great-uncle’s Cessna 182 off a farm strip in western New York. I had always planned to fly an airplane, but financially I wasn’t able to afford lessons until I was in my mid-30’s. I got my Private Pilot’s License in 2009 and then bought my Cessna 170B two years later.
Tell us about your airplane. What modifications have you made?
It was already heavily modified when I bought it, with a Lycoming O-360 engine, CS prop, STOL kit, and bush wheels. I have added a few more modifications since then, but the biggest improvement in performance was the addition of the Hartzell Trailblazer propeller. It replaced an older aluminum Hartzell, which was a fine prop, but the increased thrust and smoothness of operation of the Trailblazer is just phenomenal.
Where’s your favorite place that aviation has taken you?
Most of my flying now is just in and out of local grass and farm strips. We are very fortunate here in southern Wisconsin to have a large network of private strips and people who are actively involved in recreational aviation. Every year I usually take one or two long-distance trips with the 170, usually to Idaho, Montana and sometimes Utah. The trips are typically in a group of two to four planes, although I have done some solo camping in some remote parts of Idaho. Soldier Bar, along Big Creek drainage in the Frank Church, is one of my favorite places. It’s just an absolutely beautiful area that is best appreciated by watching the sun set across Big Creek.
Along with trips out to the mountains, I spend a week every July in Oshkosh at AirVenture. For me, its only about a 45-minute flight, so I haven’t missed an Oshkosh since I bought my plane!
What’s the best part about backcountry flying?
The best part of backcountry aviation is getting to spend time with great people in beautiful places, people who have a passion for recreational aviation and a love for keeping beautiful areas accessible and unspoiled.
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