Local Aviator Returns to Hometown Celebrate Huge Milestone


Chris Peterson, a Cottageville resident and local business owner returned to his hometown to celebrate a milestone in his aviation career, 30 years of flying! Walk in the Walterboro Airport any given day and you will probably find Chris Peterson with a student-applicant working toward an aviation rating. Chris, an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, is who student-pilots fly with to try to obtain one of the many aviation ratings you can obtain from the FAA. Chris knew since he was a small boy that he wanted to become an aviator. He began pursuing that dream at the young age of 15 when he started taking flight lessons at his local airport, in Hendersonville, NC (0A7). During flight training, a flight instructor will allow the student to “solo” the aircraft somewhere between 10 – 30 hours, when the Flight Instructor deems that the student is ready to safely pilot the aircraft solo. Student Pilots must be 16 years old to solo an aircraft and 17 years old to take the FAA Examination to become rated as a private pilot. Chris turned 16 on February 13, 1994 and was prepared to solo that day. However, as weather in the mountains can change at any moment, it snowed that day and his instructor decided it was unsafe to solo that day. By February 15, 1994 the snow had cleared and Chris was on his way to leave terra-firma and pilot the aircraft alone. His family all stayed on the ground and David, available by radio talked his 16-year old student around the pattern for his 3 landings.

Chris began pursuing his aviation goals by joining Civil Air Patrol (CAP) at the age of 13 at the local unit in Hendersonville. As a cadet, youth can receive flights in the aircraft owned by the CAP, learn basic principles of flight, learn Search and Rescue techniques and attend events that promote aviation. At the time, the local CAP unit was thriving and successful and outgrowing their current facility. They moved into the local hut located on the grounds of the Hendersonville Airport that they affectionately nicknamed the “CAP Shack”.

Chris went on to complete his training and get his Private Pilot Certificate by 17 and continued his aviation ratings and certificates throughout his college career. Chris left Hendersonville to attend College at the College of Charleston in 1997 and continued his aviation goals while attending college. Although Chris’ dreams to become a military aviator did not pan out, he continued his aviation career, serving as a mission pilot in Civil Air Patrol and becoming a Certified Flight Instructor both while in college. While serving as a mission pilot with the CAP in Charleston, SC, Chris got called to search for a downed aircraft between Columbia and Orangeburg. Chris and his then-college roommate, also a pilot in CAP, located the downed the aircraft and assisted emergency vehicles to the crash site and saving the life a female occupant in the aircraft. Chris said, “that award is the highest award on my uniform and the one that means the most to me”.

Following college, Chris went on to run the Aeroclub at the Charleston AFB. A program through the DoD where Active Duty, Reservists, Civilians and retirees can pursue pilot ratings, rent aircraft, stay current and fly general aviation aircraft. As the manager of the Charleston Aeroclub, Chris had the opportunity to instruct, supervise and serve as Chief Pilot, doing stage checks for airmen associated with Charleston AFB. While the Aeroclub Manager, the site served as one of several locations providing IFT, the initial flight training and introduction for Navy ROTC cadets hoping to become Naval Aviators. While at the Aeroclub, Chris earned the Rating of Air Transport Pilot (ATP) which is the highest pilot rating that can be achieved.

Chris continued his career with Civil Air Patrol, eventually becoming the Wing Commander of the South Carolina Wing, the highest position with the state that one can hold and responsible for the 1,000 members within South Carolina as well as the aircraft and assets assigned to the Wing. While in Civil Air Patrol, Chris met his wife, Tina, and together they raised her three children from a previous marriage and the two children they share together. They also have a grandchild from their oldest son, also a pilot in the Army. Chris also works part time as the Chief Pilot for Carolina Skies, the Part 141 School serving Charleston Southern Students’ new Aviation Program. Chris also serves on the Board of Advisors for Trident Techs Aviation Program, an FAA Safety Advisor, and member of AOPA. Chris’ impact on the aviation community extends far beyond the boarders of South Carolina, Chris has trained, mentored and served pilots ranging from airlines to military to general aviation and Civil Air Patrol.

To celebrate 30 years of flying, Chris and his wife Tina, flew from Charleston to Hendersonville, NC to commemorate the special moment. Chris said it was fun going back down memory lane on that special date to the place where his aviation career began. He can’t help but remember the people that helped him achieve his goals. Remembering those that influenced his aviation career he stated, “David Cowan and the others at the Hendersonville, NC airport influenced my early aviation career goals”.

Founded in 1941 and established as the official civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force seven years later, Civil Air Patrol is chartered by Congress as a nonprofit organization for the purposes of youth development, aerospace education, and to promote general aviation. In an auxiliary role as a Total Force partner of the Air Force, CAP operates the world’s largest fleet of single-engine aircraft for search and rescue, disaster relief, training, and education. Civil Air Patrol is dedicated to serving America’s communities, saving lives, and shaping futures.

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