Peter Mallett, Staff Writer — Centenarian Commander (Cdr) (ret’d) Peter Chance is on ‘cloud nine’ after piloting over of Vancouver Island last week.
The 102-year-old Second World War veteran spent approximately 45 minutes at the controls of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk on Feb. 13.
“The entire experience was absolutely superb and the most exciting thing that has happened in my life in quite some time,” said Chance. “My heart was racing with excitement and anticipation, before, during and afterwards.”
His time at the plane’s controls was conducted under the watchful eye of pilot and flight instructor Cdr (ret’d) Darren Rich. A former naval engineer, Rich agreed to donate his time as a flying instructor for Chance. The Victoria Flying Club, stepped forward to donate the aircraft and fuel.
At an altitude of 2,500 feet, their flight path took them over Salt Spring Island and the Stuart Channel. Chance got the opportunity to practice common flying maneuvers after takeoff from Sidney International Airport, including turns, climbs, and descents, Rich said.
“It was such an honor to do this flight and Peter was so energetic and having the time of his life,” said Rich. “I got him to autograph my flight logbook and the experience is one I will cherish forever.”
Chance, who lives in Sidney, previously enjoyed a 30-year career in the Royal Canadian Navy, which included service during the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign of the Second World War. During the war, Chance served in various warships, including HMCS Skeena, HMCS Seacliffe and HMCS Gatineau. These were anti-submarine warships used to attack German submarines.
On his 102nd birthday in November 2022, Chance had mentioned to his long-time friend Lieutenant-Commander (Ret’d) Paul Seguna that he had loved piloting planes during his days as a naval officer. Chance had previously flown a Tiger Moth as part of his basic training during the war and in a de Havilland Tracker in subsequent years.
“As I was driving him home he made the comment: boy I would like to get back in the air again,” Seguna said.
A quick phone call to Seguna’s friend Rich set the wheels, or, in this case, propellers, in motion. Rich quickly agreed to the proposal.
Seguna also came along for the ride. For the past six weeks, the trio had attempted to get airborne several times. But factors beyond their control forced several cancellations. They finally got off the ground last week.
“I don’t know of anyone at my advanced age who gets aloft, let alone takes control of an aircraft, so the whole thing was an unbelievable experience for me,” Chance said.
Seguna believes Chance may be the oldest living Canadian Second World War veteran to ever pilot an airplane.
“Even though he is certainly not the oldest to achieve the feat of piloting an airplane, the moment was truly noteworthy, remarkable and uplifting,” Seguna concluded.
Since his retirement in 1970 (SIC), Peter Chance has served in the Naval Officers Association of Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Program and the Royal Canadian Legion.
In 1986, he was awarded the Admiral’s Medal, and then, in 2022, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal; in 2014 he received the French Legion of Honour Medal at the rank of Knight and was also awarded a Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation.
In 2021, the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum named its permanent Battle of the Atlantic exhibit in his honour.