James David Nilson

James David Nilson

NILSON, James David

September 01,1932 – July 11,2012

James ‘Dave’ Nilson died peacefully on July 11, 2012, at 11:00 p.m., in Campbell River, BC. He is survived by his loving wife, Mary Lou; by his children Ben (Ruth), Blythe (Dan Brochu), David (Brigit), and his step daughter Erika (Jeff) Stewart; his grandchildren Edmund, Annika, Zoe, and Sydney; his brother John (Lenore).

Dave is predeceased by his first wife Lydia, sister Ruth, and brother Larry. He is also predeceased by his parents Anton Nilson and Sylvia Nilson (nee Taylor).

Dave was born in Regina, Sask. He was a pioneer in the B.C. aviation industry who will be remembered as one of the best mechanical minds in the business. He was well recognized for his innovation throughout the many decades that he worked. Already as a young man he had won Aviation Engineer of the Year, and from there he went on to claim many successes. Those who remember him say “He could fix just about anything that flies.”

Dave’s aviation career began working with fabric-covered wings when he flew a Tiger Moth at the Regina Flying Club. He moved west after working with Max Ward in Yellowknife and spending time in England and northern Manitoba.

In 1962 he took a job as the chief engineer for Island Airlines where he worked through the bustling times of the early 70s when the logging industry was booming and aviation soared to unbelievable heights. He enjoyed 14 years working with Island Airlines, but his passion for innovation was always there and so Dave went on to establish his own company, Nilson Aircraft, in 1976. He specialized in maintenance and modification. Over the years Dave developed and patented several of his inventions for use on Otters, Beavers, and other aircraft.

He will also be remembered for his work on the conversion of the Beech 18 into a more efficient, higher performance seaplane. As well, Nilson Aircraft manufactured Otter float legs for both amphibian and straight floats. Dave’s passion for aircraft and his technical expertise garnered him coverage over the years in newspaper and magazine articles, books, and on various websites.

In 1990 Dave won the prestigious Robert Hope Pursuit of Excellence Award in recognition for outstanding contribution to the aviation industry in the field of aircraft maintenance.

He loved to fly and his career took him to several remote parts of Canada, including the high arctic. He also wrote a tech Log Column for Aviator Magazine for several years.

In 2003 Dave retired, closing down his company, and spent much of his creative passion working on his painting and singing. While he had no real ambition to exhibit his work, a number of his paintings were hung in galleries on Vancouver Island, and his beautiful depiction of the Stranraer is hanging in Vancouver International Airport, having been purchased by the BC Aviation Council as the first painting of a group to depict early aviation in BC.

His love of singing led him to spend many years performing as a bass in Campbell River Singers and Quadra Singers.

In the early years Dave was an active member and at one time president of The Gyro Club, a group dedicated to wholesome activities with a focus on families. Many lasting friendships were formed in these years. Dave was a friend to many, and a loving father and husband. He enjoyed a rich and full life and immersed himself in nature, stories, and creative thinking. Friends and family remember Dave as a very social, humble, good man, with a great sense of humor.

Dave’s last wishes are for his friends and family to celebrate his life and remember him in memories of the times shared.

There will be no formal service by request. A gathering of friends will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to The Altrusa Adult Care Society of Campbell River.

“But try to remember that a good man can never die. You will see him in the streets and in all the places of the town…in all the things that make this a world for us to live in. The person of a man may leave or be taken away, but the best part of a good man stays. It stays forever. Love is immortal and makes all things immortal.”

William Saroyan ( paraphrased)


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