Katherine Stinson – Honoured & Remembered

By John Chalmers
CAHS Membership Secretary


01 Katherine StinsonA famous American aviatrix who holds a special place in Canadian aviation history has been installed as a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) in the United States. Katherine Stinson, who flew 259 specially stamped letters for the first airmail flight in western Canada, on July 9, 1918, from Calgary to Edmonton, was honoured at the annual enshrinement ceremonies for NAHF held in Denver, Colorado on September 28, 2019. (Photo via internet)

02 Stinson display

Flying the one-of-a kind Curtiss Special built for her by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation, Katherine set a number of record-setting flights with the unique biplane. This exact reproduction of that aircraft was built over a period of several years by volunteer craftsmen at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton. The aircraft was rolled out at the museum during ceremonies on July 9, 2006, following a re-enactment of the 1918 flight. A second re-enactment of that airmail flight was done on its 100th anniversary, July 9, 2018. Both events were projects of the Alberta Aviation Museum and the Canadian Aerophilatelic Society. The airplane’s V-8 liquid cooled engine and the propeller are original Curtiss equipment. On the wall behind the biplane is a huge image of a painting by Jim Bruce that shows the aircraft in flight from Calgary to Edmonton on July 9, 1918. (Chalmers photo)

03 Tony CashmanIn 1959 in Edmonton, Katherine met broadcaster and journalist Tony Cashman, shown here, who aired a story about her. Katherine had first come to Edmonton in 1916 to provide demonstration flights at the Edmonton Exhibition. In 1959 she came to serve as parade marshal and open the 81st annual Exhibition, which marked the 50th Anniversary of powered flight in Canada. Now 96, Tony remembers meeting Katherine as clearly as if it happened yesterday. A natural-born raconteur, Tony flew as a navigator with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, completing a tour of 30 operational flights aboard a Halifax bomber. Post-war, as a writer he has written many books including stories about Edmonton and Gateway to the North, a history of aviation in Edmonton. (Chalmers photo)

04 CAHS JournalTony’s story about the building of the replica appears in the Summer 2006 issue of the CAHS Journal. The cover image of that issue is the splendid painting by aviation artist, Jim Bruce, depicting Katherine Stinson’s flight from Calgary to Edmonton in July 1918. The original painting was donated by Jim to the Alberta Aviation Museum. A follow-up story by Tony Cashman in the Fall 2007 issue of the Journal includes the talk about Katherine given by Tony at the rollout ceremonies for the aircraft in 2006. The two articles include many photos of the original aircraft, the volunteers who built it, and pictures from the historic 1918 flight.

05 Medal

(Photo courtesy of NAHF)

On September 28, 2019, Katherine Stinson was honoured at the 57th Annual Enshrinement Dinner & Ceremony when she was inducted as a member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF). Her medal was presented by retired USAF colonel and former NASA astronaut, Eileen Collins, left, a member of the Hall herself, who was the first woman pilot and commander of the Space Shuttle. At centre is David Brixey, NAHF president. At right, receiving the medal on Katherine’s behalf is Jan McKenzie, national U.S. president of The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots. Jan paid tribute to Katherine Stinson in her acceptance, and the medal for Katherine will be placed in the Texas Air Museum at Stinson Field in San Antonio, Texas.