Norman St Peter has been flying for 50 years and will be awarded with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award this weekend.
When it comes to aircraft, there are few Norman St Peter can’t fly.
The pilot, who splits his time between northern Maine and Florida, has been weaving among the clouds for approximately 50 years. This weekend, he’s being awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award, making him just the third pilot in Plant City history to be given the honor.
“I’ve wanted to fly ever since I was a little kid,” St Peter said. “I made old World War II airplanes out of cedar and had them hanging in the attic of our farmhouse.”
St Peter joined the military in 1962 and served two tours in Vietnam as an Army helicopter pilot. Over the course of his career he has saved with the Pentagon, built his own helicopter and even built an RV-10, which was recognized as the Outstanding Home Built aircraft at Sun N Fun in 2010.
He learned to fly basically every craft the Army had at its disposal. His skill level soared but, when he faced a third tour, the U.S. pulled out. He joked he had so much time in a helicopter the only logical next step would be to learn how to build his own.
As time passed, he and his wife Donna began to spend half of the year in Florida and half in Maine. He retired out of MacDill Air Force Base, so he was familiar with the area. When Mike Windom, Plant City’s EAA Chapter 1178 member and Tampa FAASTeam Rep., told them about the award, Donna encouraged her husband to apply for the recognition. The award is only for pilots who have valued safety and professionalism above all else and is considered to be the “most prestigious award the FAA issues to pilots certified under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 6.”
“My husband’s personality is such that he has to be the best at everything so that translated into flying where he constantly kept himself up to speed and practiced what needed to be practiced so he would be the best,” Donna St Peter said.
His resume backs up that claim. An Army aviator from 1962 to 1989, he has flown everything from an H23D (Hiller), H13 (Bell), Piasecki, Huey (Models A, B, C, D, H), CH-47 (Chinook) and a Cobra (Gunship). In 1972, he received the instrument ticket for a Cessna 172, Piper PA-28 and a Cessna 150. In 1976, he commanded an Air Cav Troop in Germany and flew a Huey, OH-58. In 1982 he commanded the 4th and 7th Cavalry Squadrons in Korea while flying a Huey and Cobra. In 1985, he commanded the Army Aviation Support Element and flew a C-12 (Beech King Air) and Huey.
He is also a Purple Heart recipient. St Peter joked that he was simply “at the wrong place at the wrong time.” While in Vietnam, he was flying a helicopter and a man popped up out of a “spider hole” with an AK-47 and put 21 holes in the helicopter “all the way down the line.”
“I have a piece of plexiglass at the house where the round came through the bubble and hit the console and exploded the console, and all those little wires in the console exploded,” St Peter said. “We had our visors down so it protected our eyes.”
St Peter has been awarded the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, 10 Air Medals, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Army Service Ribbon, two Oversea Service Ribbons, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Republic Gallantry Cross with Palm.
Despite his many accomplishments, he admits he never would have applied for the Wright Brothers award had Donna and Windom not encouraged him to do so.
“The recognition is well-deserved,” Windom said. “He’s very not bravado about his career.”
Always reaching back toward his roots, St Peter has had a life-long love of amphibian aircraft. He can frequently be found attaching the floats to his helicopter and going fishing or for leisurely flights with Donna over the jaw-dropping landscape.