Following the accidental death of a Quebec missionary who could not be rescued for lack of adequate transportation, his brother, Jean Laberge, contacted the American organization Wings of Hope, specialized in the refurbishment of used airplanes. He asked this organization to provide two Cessna 206 to the Canadian Franciscans in Peru who had already briefly attempted an aviation experience with the pilot-priest Louis Bédard (bulletin Automne 2000)
The first plane arrived in Iquitos in 1968 piloted by Guy Gervais. Bob Weninger and Eddy Schertz later joined him. However, the operations turned out to be too expensive for the Franciscans. A group of businessmen from Montreal, led by Noël Girard and Lionel Couture, founded then in 1971 The Wings de l’Espérance, a registered charity that took charge of flight operations. Two bases, Iquitos and Satipo, were established (a third in Bolivia in 1985).
For more than two decades, in a difficult context (disturbed even by the terrorist activities of the “Shining Path”) The Wings of Hope carried out an incalculable number of medical evacuations, the transport of medicines , doctors, teachers, school materials, native agricultural surplus, etc. The organization also served the leper colony of San Pablo administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph Hospitallers.
In the jungle, a minute by plane was equivalent to a day of walking. The trip from Iquitos to Estrecho took 17 days by boat, but barely 1 hour 15 minutes by plane! Almost every village has a landing field. In the mid-1980s, The Wings operated 75 runways and a network of 60 radio stations. The fleet consisted of two Cessna 206, two Beaver, an Otter and a twin-engine Evangel.
About fifteen aviators succeeded each other over the years, including Jean Valiquette, Michel Alexandre, Robert Bélisle, Louis Schink, Pierre Lajeunesse, Phoebe Kingscote, Bruce Edwards, André Gingras, Denis Prévost and Jean-François Taschereau. The latter, who became president after ten years as a pilot, signed in 1994 the agreement ceding the autonomy of operations to Alas de Esperanza Perú, a Peruvian succession formed by the Quebec organization.
Alas de Esperanza Perú continued to operate a Cessna 206, financially supported by Wings of Hope until December 2013.