2006 marks the 10th anniversary of my coming back to Canada to handle the Challenger distribution full time. An obvious benefit of making a living this way is that I enjoy lots of Challenger flying on wheels, skis and floats - a thousand hours in my own Challenger alone.
Another benefit of being part of the Challenger community is that all of us get to meet lots of interesting people. Any person who sees the point of recreational flying in a Challenger is something of a kindred spirit to be enjoyed.
Some of these interesting people are not just interesting they are inspirational as well. This spring Alison and I were on the West Coast and traveled to Sooke on Vancouver Island to visit Andreas and Michele Ruttkiewicz.
Andreas and Michele had come to Montebello for the Challenger Winter Rendezvous in January and had ordered a kit shortly thereafter. When we visited they were eagerly awaiting delivery. There we heard a sad but impressive story.
In 1991 Andreas was flying jets in the air force and looking forward to a career as a fighter pilot flying the CF-18 Hornet. Then in a terrible road accident he lost the use of his left eye and left hand plus had his left leg amputated below the knee. On top of these physical wounds the accident also took the life of his brother and left deep psychological scars. And it put an end to his career as a fighter pilot in the air force.
Most people at this point would have simply given up. Andreas is not most people! He picked himself up and started what he calls "Life Number Two".
He left the air force and took computer and business courses. Andreas and Michele moved from Montreal to Vancouver where they bought a sailboat and refurbished it while living aboard. They sailed the Pacific to Mexico and stayed there for an extended period before sailing back up the coast to BC. Perhaps this was in search of peace and the beginning of a new path for their life.
Andreas and Michele sold the sailboat and moved to Vancouver Island where they opened the Little Vienna Bakery in Sooke. Michele is the head pastry chef and Andreas is the bread baker and general manager. The business has flourished way beyond their expectations and has become the place to go in Sooke, not just for pastry and bread but also for a bistro lunch.
Now in 2006 Andreas has turned back to his roots - to dreams of flight which were interrupted by the tragedy in 1991. The trip to Montebello was the first step in his journey back into the air. Assembling his Challenger is another step. Flying it will not be the last step but rather another waypoint in his journey.
Andreas intends to start a flying school to bring the gift of flight to others. With his determination and track record together with Michele's support you can be sure Andreas will make all his dreams come true, and sooner rather than later!
Please join us in wishing Andreas and Michele success and happiness!
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