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Meier Wilhelm (Willi)

Wilhelm (Willi) Meier was born in Matten/BE near Interlaken/BE on the 17th of March 1933. After the compulsory school he did an apprenticeship as a mechanic at the local airport. During his free time he built airplane models and had a passion for music. After the recruit school he began to work on the diesel engines at the Sulzer company in Winterthur/ZH. This job was not really what he wanted. Willi desired a job in the aviation field and for this reason he moved to Geneva to work for Swissair. There he became a DC-3 propeller and instrument specialist. Much later he moved to Emmen/LU to work as an instrument controller. He continued to make music and played in an orchestra.
In 1957, along with two friends, he decided to leave Switzerland and went to Canada where he got a temporary job in an airplane factory. One year later he left Canada because he didn’t obtain the renewal of his work permit. Consequently he decided to go on a 19’000 miles journey across the United States and then down to Mexico and Cuba.
One year later he went back to Vancouver where he got a new job at Pacific Western Airlines. However during the following summer he decided to work with a group of geologists who were looking for oil in the north of Canada. There he worked as a mechanic taking care of the maintenance of two floatplanes and three helicopters. He also got used of living in a tent in remote areas surrounded by bears, elks and caribou.
On the 13th of October 1959 he did his first training flight with a Piper PA-12 at the Mc Call Field in Calgary where he later obtained the airplane commercial pilot licence.
In 1960 during a stay in Switzerland he did a flight course which enabled him to land on glaciers and mountains. His instructors were the famous Hermann Geiger and Fernand Martignoni. When he returned to Calgary, along with his friends Jim Davis and Eddy Ammann, he started to land in the Rocky Mountains. During his free time he continued to play music in a rock’n’roll band.
After a stay of five years in Canada he obtained the double citizenship. Because of the lack of work in Canada he decided to go to Peru where he transported the personnel who were building a 400 km road across a forest. At the end of the contract he returned to Canada where he flew with a floatplane transporting groups of firemen.
Smoke, winds and poor visibility made this job quite dangerous. Evermore attracted by the rotary-wing Willi decided to become a helicopter pilot. On the 16th of March 1962 he did his first training flight with the Hughes 269A CF-OVL instructed by Roy Webster and K. Blackwood.
In 1963 Willi definitively left Canada and returned to Switzerland. At the airport of Geneva he continued his flight training with the Hughes 269A N8870F. His instructor was William (Bill) Powell Lear, the self-taught American electrical engineer and industrialist whose Lear Jet Corporation was the first mass-manufacturer of business jet aircraft in the world.
Willi accepted Lear’s work proposal to work for his company named Rotorcraft and wents to Algeria to instruct a group of helicopter mechanics. He then attended a six weeks training course on the Lear Jet.
During his stay in Geneva he flew with the Hughes 269A N8070A (or the N8807F) and the Hughes 269B N9319B. With the latter he did a demonstration flight with Hermann Geiger on the 16th May 1964. During the following month of June Willi did a series of demonstration flights in some Swiss localities such as Geneva, Ecuvillens, Montreux, Sion. During his free time he also helped the local flying club.
While he was in Geneva he also met his wife Roswitha with whom he then had his children Sandra and Norwin.
On the 6th of July 1964 the OFAC issued him the helicopter commercial pilot licence n° 48. Between 1965 and 1966 he did numerous demonstrations and training flights, even if he only officially got his instructor licence on the 2nd of August 1967. Among his students there were Baer, Farine, Jacquat, Flory, Furler, Allet.
On the 28th of May 1967 Willi did a rapid transition course on the new Hughes 500 N9000F with the American instructor Hal Hawkins.
In 1968 he started to work for Heliswiss and moved to Belp/BE. He was employed as a helicopter mechanic, test pilot and sometimes as a flight instructor. He had the possibility to fly with new helicopters and attended numerous technical courses for mechanics.
On May 1969, along with the pilot Markus Burkhard, he went to Saudi Arabia where they had the task to transport a group of geologist working for the AGIP company using a Bell 47G-3B-1.
The following year he was charged to transport supplies and personnel south of Thessaloniki, where a ship was used as an oil platform.
In that period rich Greek businessmen such as Livanos or Niarchos realized that the helicopter was a rapid and practical mean of transport. Consequently Willi was charged of the maintenance of their helicopters and spent several days in Greece where he was a honoured guest. From warm Greece he then went to Greenland where Heliswiss was charged to transport equipment and personnel. During the '70s he was employed by Helitrade (a sister company of the Heliswiss group) where he worked as a chief-project. Willi entered in a group of specialists charged to elaborate the formation courses of the aviation mechanics apprentices. His help was very important for the section dedicated to the rotary-wing.
On the 19th of January 1979 Willi did officially his last flight as a helicopter pilot flying a Hughes 269C. For medical reasons in fact he abandoned the flying activity. Under his belt he logged 985 hours of flight with the following helicopters: Hughes 269/300, Hughes 500, Bell 47G/J, Bell 206 Jet Ranger, Alouette II.
After having devoted his life to the civil aviation with a big spirit of adventure, nowadays he is retired and lives with his wife Roswitha in Kehrsatz/BE. He cultivates his hobbies such as the care of his beautiful garden, and takes trips on foot or by bicycle.

HAB 12/2010