Louis Bisson
2002

Pilot

Louis Bisson first wanted to become a priest but health problems prevented him from achieving his goal. After visiting Ottawa airport in 1927, he wanted to become a pilot and worked days and nights to find the money to pay the flying lessons. His first instructor commented: “he is the most intelligent aviator I have trained”. Bisson soon won piloting contests in Canada and USA. To accumulate flying hours, he offered rides for 1 cent per pound of passenger weight! In 1932, Bisson met Father Joseph-Xavier Couture who, at 47, wanted to learn to fly to better serve his huge ministry scattered across Northern Ontario. Bisson became his personal pilot, working voluntarily while studying theology. Piloting at the same time for Nipigon Airways, Bisson shared his salary with Father Couture. With the help of Bisson, Father Couture earned his private licence in 1936, becoming the first priest-pilot in Canada. From 1936 to 1939, Bisson worked for the Oblate missionnaries, supplying about twenty distant posts in the North-West Territories and the Canadian Arctic. The plane, a WACO called the “Santa Maria II”, reached as far as latitude 72o north. By then, his expertise in northern flying was unequalled. As a tribute, Bisson received from the Pope the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” medal.

Bisson was possibly the first Canadian pilot to cross the Atlantic 100 times. He was also more than once a VIP pilot for famous personnalities such as Winston Churchill.

He then worked two years for Prairie Airways. During WWII, his key role with RAF Ferry Command earned him the King’s Commendation and the OBE. Using his vast experience of the Arctic in 1942, he lead polar missions (with Don McVicar at his side) that established the famous ‘Crimson Route’. Bisson was possibly the first Canadian pilot to cross the Atlantic 100 times. He was also more than once a VIP pilot for famous personnalities such as Winston Churchill. After the war, Bisson worked briefly for British Airways. In 1979, Bisson received the Order of Canada. Reaching his dream, he was finally ordained priest in Mexico in 1986 and bishop in 1989. A bridge on Highway 13 bears his name. His younger brother Jean-Emile , following his trail, also had a brillant career in aviation.

Honors

1942: King’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the air.

1944: Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

1980: Order of Canada.

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