Humanitarian air service
Humanitarian air service in the Amazon created following the accidental death of a Québec missionnary who could not be saved because of lack of adequate transportation. His brother Jean Laberge contacted the American organization Wings of Hope, specializing in the overhaul of used aircraft, to provide two Cessna 206 to the Canadian Franciscans of Peru (who had briefly experienced aviation operations with the priest-pilot Louis Bédard). Their first airplane arrived in Iquitos, Peru, in 1968, piloted by Guy Gervais. Bob Weninger and Eddy Schertz later joined him. But the cost of operations proved to be too excessive for the Franciscans. A group of Montréal businessmen, lead by Noël Girard and Lionel Couture, founded in 1971 “Les Ailes de l’Espérance” (Wings of Hope Québec), a non-profit and non-confessionnal organization to take control of air operations. Two Peruvian bases – Iquitos and Satipo – were established (a third one in Bolivia in 1985). For more than two decades, “Les Ailes de l’Espérance” performed, under extremely difficult conditions (involving even terrorist threats by the group “Shining Path”), countless medical evacuations, air transport of medical supplies, doctors, school equipment and personnel, native agricultural products, etc.
A group of Montréal businessmen, lead by Noël Girard and Lionel Couture, founded in 1971 “Les Ailes de l’Espérance” (Wings of Hope Québec), a non-profit and non-confessionnal organization to take control of air operations.
The organization also supplied a leper refuge managed by the nursing Sisters of St-Joseph. In the jungle, a one-minute flight equalled a walking day. The trip from Iquitos to Estrecho took 17 days by boat… but only 1h15 by air! Practically every village cleared a landing strip. In the mid 80’s, “Les Ailes” operated a network of 75 airstrips and 60 radio stations, using two Cessna 206, two Beaver, one Otter and a twin Evangel. More than fifteen pilots served over the years, among which: Jean Valiquette, Michel Alexandre, Robert Bélisle, Louis Schink, Pierre Lajeunesse, Phoebe Kingscote, Bruce Edwards, André Gingras, Denis Prévost and Jean-François Taschereau. The latter, acting as President after about ten years as a pilot, signed in 1994 the terms of agreement giving responsibilities of air operations to “Alas del Esperanza del Peru”, an autonomous subsidiary formed by the Québec organization. “Alas del Esperanza” continued operating a Cessna 206, financially supported by “Les Ailes de l’Espérance”.
Inducted October 21, 2002.