Pete Peterson has been a part of the Canadian helicopter scene for many years, but did you know that he began his aviation career as a young teenager, eventually flying Corsairs off carriers in the second World War as a U.S. Marine? His military flying career took him to Saipan, the Philippines, and China, where he flew patrols from Peking (now Beijing) along the Great Wall in support of General Chang Kai-Shek.
Post-war, he married a Canadian girl, but as an active reservist, Pete was called to serve again in Korea. This time he was off to helicopter training in the Kaman, Bell 47 and Piasaki. Once that was complete, the First Marine Division put him in a tent camp on the south end of the DMZ and gave him a Sikorsky S-55 with which he performed casualty evacs to a Navy hospital ship, troop supply and other missions.
In 1955, newly-discharged from the Marines and with 500 hours of helicopter flight time, Pete found a job with the helicopter division of Spartan Air Services in Ottawa, and thus began Pete’s new life in Canada and his devotion to commercial helicopter operations in this country. In his book, A Flying Story, now available for download, he writes about
- his first commercial job towing a bird in New Brunswick, quite a feat considering the underpowered nature of the 47 at the time;
- being in the Arctic barrenlands in summer and winter;
- flying on forest fires in the early ’60s for the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests with a Bell 47D complete with untrained fire personnel recruited from beer parlors and logging camps;
- tagging moose with the tagger stretched out on the Bell 47 float rack;
- working on the Mid-Canada Line with the Vertol H-21, among many other experiences.
Along the way we get engine failures, engineering advancements and an amazing story of early helicopter use in Canada, all accompanied by a ton of photographs. Ed Godlewski, Tom Murray, Phil Istance, Larry Camphaug and many, many others are mentioned throughout the book for their tireless devotion and endless contributions to helicopter aviation in Canada.
Pete also fills us in about the beginning of his company, Helair Ltd. and its location at his home on the shores of Lake of the Woods, west of Kenora. The Helair operation eventually ended up moving to north of Kenora, where he built a hanger and an operation that at the time would have been the envy of any operator in the country.
If you haven’t already heard about it, you can learn the story of how he and Larry Camphaug came up with the name for the company they started near Ottawa. From a simple beginning in an old school house close by Orleans to being a provider of helicopters across Canada and around the world, Viking Helicopters Ltd. became one of Canada’s largest helicopter companies in the ’70s. A Flying Story details many of the prominent events in the company’s history.
Pete’s last flight was at age 75, but I’ll let him tell you about that adventure.
Pete Peterson: A Flying Story, 183 pages. In .pdf format. With plenty of pictures accompanying the publication.
Review written by website author.
Click on the link and the download will begin immediately. It’s a lengthy download, 45mb in size. Depending on your connection speed, it could take up to five minutes.