A very special pilot celebrated his 100th birthday with friends and family in Ohio.
Pete Wilkins of Hornell was a pilot for Bernard Macfadden and recalled all the stories from the glory days of the Castle on the Hill.
On Feb. 6, "PPA member #32," Pete Wilkins, was honored for his 100th birthday (Feb. 23) during a dinner presentation with the Professional Pilots Association (PPA) in Columbus, Ohio.
Pete was born in Bath in 1919 and grew up in Hornell. He served in the Army Air Service in 1937 and he soloed a Waco 10 aircraft. He managed the Dansville Municipal Airport 1950 through 1952 and gave flight instruction there. He also flew for Bernard Mcafadden, the operator of Castle on the Hill resort. There is a news article in the Dansville library about Bernard jumping out of an airplane to demonstrate his new version of jump boots worn by military parachute personnel. The press was there and military officials as well. Pete was the pilot flying Bernard this day, and the demonstration was a success.
Pete moved on to Corning Glass as a corporate pilot, then to Columbia Gas in 1952 at LaGuardia airport. In 1959 he was named Chief Pilot of Columbia Gas and in 1961 the aviation department was moved to Columbus, Ohio. Pete has flown many corporate aircraft including Lockheed Lodestars, Twin Beech’s, Grumman Gulfstream I’s and Merlin IIA’s.
After 28 years at Columbia Pete retired in 1981 and went back to college and met a young guy from Dansville named Jeff Roberts. “He told stories of Dansville and Castle on the Hill that you could just listen to all day,” according to Jeff, who was just starting a 30-plus year career in corporate aviation. Jeff ended up flying for Columbia Gas for 12 years.
He closed the Flight Operation with his Chief Pilot Bill Kretschmer in 2000. On Feb. 23 they all gathered for his 100th birthday celebration in Columbus, Ohio.