With 50 years of flying excellence, Peter Ivan Wilkins, more recognisably and fondly known as Monster, was to say the least a legend in the aviation industry, achieving accolades of which many of us only dream.
Born in 1946, in Zululand, Monster matriculated at ‘Maritzburg College in 1963. He joined the South African Air Force, enjoying a successful career spanning some 37 years. He retired from the Air Force in 2000 and began his civilian career as Base Manager of offshore operations for CHC in George.
Monster received his wings in 1964 and in 1965, converted to helicopters. It was here that he found his passion and holds the record of 5500 flying hours, on the Alouette III which he admitted to being his ‘favourite helicopter’. In 1978, Monster rose to Flight Commander of 19A Squadron at Swartkops. In 1980, he became OC of 16 Squadron, in 1981 OC of 22 Squadron, and thereafter Commander of the Ciskei Air Wing in 1984. Monster was promoted to Colonel in 1985 and became OC of 15 Squadron Air Force Base, Durban. In 1992, he was appointed Air and Defence Attaché in Washington DC, a position he held for 3 years.
During his illustrious career, Monster was awarded thirteen medals, including the Air Force Cross and Southern Cross Medals, and the United States Legion of Merit. He rose to the rank of Brigadier General in 1999.
Monster held the position of Flight Operations Manager and Chief Pilot for Starlite Aviation Operations from 2009. He was instrumental in writing Operations Manuals, Pilot Handbooks, Checklists and other documentation for the Company. He trained and lectured student pilots, and assisted with contract work and operations. Monster was involved in Flight tests as DFE 1 for local Durban requirements as well as for the contracts in which the company was involved. Furthermore, he has been stationed in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Namibia, Mozambique, Mali and Madagascar. Monster completed various ferry flights up the West and East coasts of Africa, from Germany to Mali and made official visits to France, Myanmar, the USA and Ireland, to name but a few.
Monster holds licences on 16 helicopter types and has in excess of 10,800 hours recorded flying time.
On a personal note, Monster has been married to Val for 44 years. He has two sons; Bryan and Roan, and grandchildren. In his leisure time, Monster enjoyed sketching and drawing. He loved to travel, preferring the more rural areas of a country as opposed to the cities.
Monster had a love of books and writing, and in 2000, he published a book titled ‘Chopper Pilot’, a detailed account of his days in the SAAF, a book well worth purchasing.
When asked for motivating and inspiring advice on life, his reply, “All hangs on good communication, keeping an open mind, enjoying good liaisons and relationships with family and peers, and continually improving ones worth to any cause to which one commits.”
Monster carved his successful career in aviation with commitment and passion, and forged lasting friendships and strong bonds with the countless people he encountered on his incredible journey.