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Aviator could get Hall of Fame nod

Charlotte Hilling
Northern News Services
Published Friday, August 7, 2009

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Legendary bush pilot Willy Laserich has been nominated for Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame by fellow pilot and Wardair founder Max Ward and former Wardair engineer Guenther Moellenbeck.

nnsl photo/graphic

Paul Laserich stands next to a commemorative wall hanging celebrating Adlair Aviation's 25th anniversary. The airline was started by Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame nominee Willy Laserich - Paul's father. - Charlotte Hilling/NNSL photo

Laserich, who founded Adlair Aviation, was previously nominated for the hall of fame in 2003. He died in 2007 following heart bypass surgery. This time his son Paul Laserich has compiled an extensive and thorough submission package detailing his father's life and achievements, which he hopes will make the difference.

"There are a lot of people that came to the North, opened the North, and saved lives, but aren't recognized," said Paul Laserich.

He said the submission package took about six weeks to put together. Laserich had to collect and organize multiple letters of recommendation and gratitude, as well as articles and biographies from various publications. The submission includes letters of recommendation from a range of people, from MPs to fellow pilots and nurses who worked with Laserich during his many medevac operations.

One of the requirements for consideration to the hall of fame involves contributions to society and the community at large. Paul Laserich said this was a major focus of the submission, given that his father participated in some 5,000 medevac operations. In his letter of recommendation, fellow pilot D.J. Douglas wrote of the effect Willy Laserich had on those around him.

"Willy's contributions to the welfare of Northern aviation, Northern residents and Northern communities are numerous and have added continuing value to the welfare and quality of life of Canadians, particularly those in Northern communities," Douglas stated.

Despite having stopped recording his flight hours several years before he died, Willy Laserich managed to log some 44,000 hours of flying, as well as a long list of grateful survivors he medevaced to safety. The submission package includes several letters of gratitude from the people Willy Laserich and his team assisted over the years.

Two such survivors were John Coats and Robert Johnston, who wrote:

"Words cannot describe the gratitude we and our family feel toward you and your staff. After four long days stranded in an Arctic blizzard, your persistence prevented this misadventure from taking our lives. It's obvious why people of the North admire you guys so much."

Willy Laserich came to Canada from Germany at the age of 19, getting his pilot's licence in 1957 and flying for 50 years, right up to his death. His love of flying was ignited as a boy during the Second World War.

"My father's first recollection of wanting to be a pilot was when he saw a B-17 flying back to England," said Paul Laserich.

The hall of fame committee will meet at the end of summer or the start of fall to deliberate on the nominees, after which four to five people will be inducted. Paul Laserich is philosophical about the outcome.

"What will be will be, right," he said. "If it happens, it happens, but at least we've done it."