Viking Helicopters was working through the Canadian Commercial Corporation to obtain contracts in Africa with the World Health Organization (W.H.O.).
The Ottawa Citizen had a short lead article in their Business Notes column on September 1, 1979 announcing the award of a second three-year contract valued at $5.6 million. The contract was for spraying rivers in Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Togo and Upper Volta (now Burkino Faso) to eradicate onchocerciasis (river blindness), which is spread by a blackfly.
A paragraph at the bottom of the article mentions that Viking Helicopters was at that time Canada’s second-largest helicopter operation.
There are a couple of fuzzy images of the Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) operation and some of the participants here.
Prior to this, Viking Helicopters had been working with WHO in Ethiopia on a smallpox eradication program. Here’s a link to a Montreal Gazette article, dated April 12, 1977, concerning the fate of one of Viking’s employees on that program. Bill Waugh was captured by Ethiopian rebels and released three days later, unharmed.
Then, in 1978, George Krois was taken prisoner by guerillas in Ethiopia.
George was new to helicopter operations in Canada, but he caught on quick and learned fast. Shortly after he was hired by Viking Helicopters, we spent some time flying on fires west of Thunder Bay near Atikokan, and then ferrying turbine equipment north to Churchill and points beyond for summer contracts in the Arctic.
George was a great guy, and I was happy to learn that he had been released unscathed. You can read a Montreal Gazette article about one of his escapades here.
According to this November, 1982 article in the Ottawa Citizen, some Viking employees continued to be never far from the follies of adventure in Africa well into the’80s.