Congratulations to airline pilot, Haslyn Peters who on Feb. 23, made history on his maiden voyage to his homeland Guyana as first officer, just three months after joining the giant airline carrier JetBlue.
In an exclusive interview with Caribbean Life recently, the aviator gushed about his excitement piloting Flight #1965 from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Cheddi Jagan International Airport, and being surprised with a water salute and welcome by the airport management.
He was also privileged to meet President Irfaan Ali, Minister of Tourism Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, Chief of Staff Guyana Defense Force, Brigadier General Godfrey Bess, and Dr. Pauline Yearwood, program manager of Transportation, in the Directorate of Economic Integration, Innovation and Development of Trade and Economic Integration at Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The small-town boy with big dreams, the second, to become a pilot from the same Princes Street, Lodge Village community, where this reporter also grew up, expressed gratitude to everyone, who made it possible for him to feel appreciated on that momentous occasion.
The wingman said he felt euphoric when he heard the words, welcome home from the air traffic controller.
“Being an aviator, I wanted to serve Guyanese in that capacity. It was an exciting moment. Usually, the captain would be the one flying the leg into Georgetown, and I would have flown back, but I was asked if I wanted to fly down to Guyana. That took away from me savoring the view because I had to focus on landing.”
“But in hindsight, I was jolted to the euphoria of the moment when I landed. There was a surprise welcome from the air traffic controller, that caught me off guard, and the fire trucks were there to do a water salute over the plane. It was very humbling,” said Peters.
The birdman, who received notification to fly to Georgetown in his capacity as first officer, just 24 hours before departing JFK, being humble, wanted to keep his arrival quiet, since other Guyanese-born pilots who had landed before him did not receive any accolades.
However, he believes the persons who organized the welcome, did so, because of the impact, “I had in their lives.”
“This is something I wanted to do and had inquired if it was possible to fly into Georgetown when I was hired by JetBlue.” Fortunately, the opportunity came sooner than later.
For three years, Peters piloted ExpressJet Airlines out of Newark Liberty Airport. But due to COVID, flights were grounded. He returned to work in 2022, as captain for PSA Airlines Inc., an American owned regional carrier, and had hoped to fly with American Airlines, itself, from Miami to Georgetown.
Back then he had applied to JetBlue, while living in New York, and as fate would have it, he was hired by the decades old airline.
“I like the JetBlue culture. I would like my career as a pilot to last beyond 65 years old, which is the age limit for a commercial pilot.”
“But for now, I would like to do more than flying. I would like to inspire and teach youths, who are interested in aviation to help them achieve their goals,” said Peters, who had an impressive upbringing.
“In 1991, I was selected by the scouts association to represent Guyana at the World Jamboree in Korea. At the same time, I had an opportunity with Operation Rally a youth group from England to explore Guyana, so I gave up the trip to Korea.
The humble aviator recalled the long journey of determination, focus, and putting his faith into action. “For someone who has the financial means becoming a pilot would be easier to achieve, but for someone like me, from Lodge Village who would not have had that break, financial backing, and opportunity, it was difficult,” he said.
“I encourage young people to dream big, without limitation. There will be distractions and obstacles in every phase of life because of who you are. “There are genuine situations that would arise.”
“I had to choose whether to stay at home and study, or go out and have fun, or cover my ears from the neighbor’s loud music and continue my assignment. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel,” he reasoned.
“If you fail, get up and try again, whether academically, financially, or an ailment that sets you back, you must keep going. It’s all part of the dream.”
“I knocked on several doors in the attempt to learn to fly, that is how I ended up joining the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) in 1997,” said Peters, who despite being questioned if he would survive the rigorous military training, after working in banking, he persisted, despite receiving injuries that almost took him off the course.
“I pushed through physical training, while in excruciating pain.” He however appreciated the opportunity afforded to him, noting that many young men join the GDF to become pilots, but many are not successful because flight school comes after military training.
“I had to stand head and shoulder above everyone else. I did my best, but it had to be the favor of God in the end.” But ultimately, Peters topped his class to become the best graduating student and left satisfied that he was paid to do something he enjoyed. Flying across Guyana, the country he loves.
The brilliant son of the soil who was later granted a scholarship from the government of Guyana to Sunshine Aviation in 2001 to obtain his Commercial Pilot License, and later studied at Liberty University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics/Aviation/Aerospace Science and Technology — opined that because people come from certain societies, others have an expectation, or bias against them.
“If you fail, get up and try again, whether its academically, financially, or an ailment that sets you back, you must keep going,” he advised.
Yvonne and Herman Peters are no doubt proud of their offspring, who assures “You have to have ways and means to achieve your hopes and dreams. I made a lot of sacrifice,” he said.
Peters stayed committed to his journey, working several jobs to save sufficient money for his private pilot’s license, which he acquired in Trinidad.
He is of the opinion that, “Life is bigger than any career, and this particular profession is a very fragile one.”
Commercial pilots are required to undergo medical evaluation every six months to be certified by the FAA. But Peters has proven that his success is measured by his character and commitment to his dream.
He continues to build up his flight hours, plying routes across the United States, as well as the Caribbean region, South America, and Latin America. He was fortunate to island-hop during the 2007 Cricket World Cup as a GDF pilot.
He hopes soon, he will be able to touch-down in the homeland on a more regular basis.