A celebrated pilot and author was inducted into the B.C. Aviation Hall of Fame on Saturday, alongside North Saanich-based aircraft manufacturer Viking Air Limited and their plane, the de Havilland Twin Otter.
“I’m astounded that I was selected to be inducted into the hall of fame,” Chris Weicht said, speaking at the B.C. Aviation Museum’s annual open house July 29, in front of a crowd that included many of his former colleagues. “I’m sure there’s a lot of other deserving people but I am appreciative of their endeavours.”
Weicht is the author of eight books about the history of aviation in British Columbia and the Yukon, including the forthcoming A Red Star in Canadian Skies, about the first nonstop flight from Moscow to Oregon. An immigrant to Canada at the age of 13, Weicht joined the air cadets at 17 and the Royal Canadian Air Force as soon as he was finished high school. He thanked the former for providing him the impetus to start his aviation career — a career that would span 61 years and 17,000 hours of flight time.
“I would like to give thanks to the Royal Canadian Air Cadets who gave me the impetus to start a career in aviation,” said Weicht.
His work took him all across the province — as far north as the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line in the Northwest Territories with Pacific West Airlines and as close to home as Comox with the RCAF. He finished his career as an author and Air Cadet instructor in Abbotsford.
“Aviation in British Columbia was born of necessity and nurtured by the needs of its far-flung residents,” said Weicht. “The airplane held a unique place in the history of our province in that it was the first mode of transportation to mount an effective challenge to the remoteness of our communities.”
In addition to the induction, this year’s open house included free flights by the Victoria Flying Club and Pacific Sky Aviation, radio-controlled aircraft, military vehicles and re-enactors, and refreshments by the Sidney Lions Club.
The museum’s full collection was out on display. Prominently featured was a de Havilland Twin Otter which was also inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside its manufacturer, Viking Air Limited. The local aviation corporation employs 575 employees and made the first Twin Otters in over twenty years after acquiring the manufacturing rights for all out-of-production de Havilland aircraft in 2006.
The Twin Otter first flew in 1965 and thanks to Viking Air, there are now more than 100 Otters in service. The company will be laying off 212 workers at its manufacturing centres in North Saanich and Calgary at the end of July amid sales shortfalls linked to the decline in growth of the Chinese economy.
Formerly online only, the B.C. Aviation Hall of Fame was given a physical space within the B.C. Aviation Museum in May 2016. With the inclusion of Weicht, the Twin Otter, and Viking Air Limited, the Hall of Fame has 27 inductees.