Although Fern has aged since his last Sabre
flight, he is still able to rattle off dates, places,
and names in rapid succession, and when he is
in the cockpit, his reflexes are just as crisp as
they were coming out of flight school.
Paul Keppeler, EAA 646951, got a taste of Fern’s abilities in 2007, when Paul traveled to Canadian Forces
Base (CFB) Mountainview to ferry a T- 33. He asked
Fern if he wanted to join him on a hop from
Mountainview to Trenton.
“Let me get my flight suit out of my truck,” the
80-year-old Fern responded, heading off in a dead run.
The guys at the shop reminded Paul to go easy on the g’s
with Fern, and Paul assured them he would be careful.
After takeoff, Paul gave Fern the controls. “All of a sud-
den he wheels the old bird in a knife-edge turn and brings
it back around for a low approach over the runway!” Paul
recalled. “All at once we’re over the Mountainview run-
way and pulling up at the end with 4+ g’s!”
When asked about the F- 86, Fern’s eyes light up,
almost as if he were back inside the cockpit of his
favorite fighter. He takes no credit for himself and
praises the camaraderie and teamwork of all those
who flew with him and maintained his fighters. To
describe Fern as humble would be an understatement,
but in his mind he simply did his job the best he could.
Joseph Armand Gerard Fernand “Fern” Villeneuve cut
his teeth at the start of the Cold War defending
Europe with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
The boy from Buckingham, Quebec, first dreamed
of flying with the RCAF in 1939 as a world war was
breaking out. “I had a one-track mind—flying was all I
ever thought about.”
With no money for flying lessons, Fern took an aca-
demic approach and hit the books reading everything