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Willy And The Bandits

Willy And The Bandits

The story of the NWT's beloved air maverick, in numbers
By Katie Weaver
Aug 15
From the August/September 2016 Issue

Willy Laserich was one of the most famous bush pilots in the North. He flew every kind of medical emergency to a hospital: a man carrying his severed arm in a suitcase of ice; a woman with a knife sticking out of her chest; child after child during a bronchiolitis breakout. His dedication to Northerners was legendary, and so strong that their welfare often outweighed other considerations—like federal law. His rogueish nature earned him and his flight crew the moniker Willy and the Bandits, but it was always said with love and admiration. How could it not be? Look at these numbers. 

40,000: Flying hours—equal to the time it would take to circle the globe 800 times

0: Blemishes on his safety record over 50 years of flying in the North

3,000: Medevac flights

100: Search and rescues 

6: Babies were born aboard his plane, while it was still in flight.

1: Successful aviation company still run by his family today: Adlair Aviation

1: Song written about him by Yellowknife group The Gumboots

$1,000,000: Cost of Learjet meant for Arctic flying—complete with medical equipment

205: Citations for breaking flying rules—the judge found him guilty of only one count of running an illegal charter service. He ended up with a $250 fine he had his lifetime to pay. When he went in to pay it, a community member had already done it for him.