April 7, 2021

Remembering Bill Peppler


Bill Peppler, past president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) and one of the country’s leading contributors to the general aviation community, passed away at the Ottawa Hospital’s General Campus on April 1, 2021, in his 96th year.

The following excerpt is taken from Peppler’s obituary and memory page posted by the Ottawa Citizen, followed below by a personal memory of his impact on Canadian aviation from Tim Cole:

Born in Hanover on June 29, 1925, to the late Norman and Lillian (nee Youngblut) Peppler, Bill was a man with a diversity of talents. With a great inclination towards music, he played many instruments, and was particularly talented with his saxophone and clarinet. He performed as a professional musician in his late-teens and early-twenties, touring around Southern Ontario as part of Hanover’s popular Frankie Banks Orchestra.

While training in the Canadian Army towards the end of WWII, he signed-up as a bandsman where, most notably, he entertained troops returning from overseas services. His love for music never wavered; big band music was forever dear to his ear. His family home was clustered with instruments, and rarely was there a day that he didn’t conclude with a melody on his organ before bedtime. Greater than his passion for music, however, was that which he had for flying.

John Bogie, co-founder of COPA (left), and Bill Peppler, COPA’s past president, June 23, 2012, at the COPA Convention held at the Saugeen Municipal Airport at Hanover, Ont.

He was drawn to the sky by the early exploratory years of aviators who instilled in him the spirit for freedom and adventure that aviation brought. He knew from an early age that aviation would be his career path; and that path is the one he duly followed. Bill flew many different aircraft over a long and fulfilling aviation career. After working his way through flight training, he became an instructor himself, working as the latter at Ontario’s Goderich Airport, where he also served as the facility’s general manager.

Bush pilots were still opening Canada’s vast regions at the time; a chance meeting led to the opportunity to become a bush pilot himself with the now-revered Spartan Air Services. After seven years and thousands of hours of often high-risk aerial activities with Spartan, he settled into working as the general manager for the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, (COPA), a position he held with endless enthusiasm for 39 years. Co-incident with his long COPA tenure, he quietly went about developing the well-regarded aeronautical ground school textbook, From the Ground Up, with which he worked tirelessly with his wife, Isabel, the title’s editor and publisher. His years of exploration as a bush pilot in Canada’s northern regions led to a river and lake being named after him on the Quebec-Labrador border. As much as aviation was his great passion, family and friendships were his greatest passions above all. He will be fondly remembered for his engaging smile, his bountiful enthusiasm, the warmth of his personality, and his unworldly positivity. He will be dearly and profoundly missed by all those who knew him.

Survived by children Carla Peppler, Rand Peppler (Martina), and Graeme Peppler. Loving grandfather of Willoughby Peppler-Mann. Dearly missed by brother Edward (Fern) Peppler, sister-in-law Phyllis Fagan, as well as many nieces and nephews. Predeceased by first wife Isabel (nee Huehn), second wife Aileen Culgin, son-in-law Dan Pope, and siblings Mary Caroline Lippert and Fred Peppler.

The following memory was provided by Tim Cole of Burnaby, BC:

As a young commercial pilot in the mid 1960s, I first met Bill in the COPA offices in downtown Ottawa. If I remember correctly the offices were on Metcalfe Street and the office manager was Joyce Else. I would frequent their offices looking for tips on where to get a flying job and the addresses of the many commercial air services that were members of COPA.

I believe that my efforts helped me land my first job with Laurentian Air Services based out of Ottawa as Bill was a good friend of John Bogie, co-founder of COPA, and I think Bill may have put in a good word for me, possibly just to get rid of this young lad that was such a frequent visitor to their offices.

Bill lived in the Rockcliffe Park area in Ottawa and I would often see him riding his bike to work when I worked out of the Rockcliffe Seaplane Base and out of the airport during the Airtransit STOL days.

Prior to the 2012 meeting shown above, the last time I saw Bill was circa 2003 in Montreal at the ICAO building. I was on a tour with a group of Transport Canada managers and I was surprised to meet Bill in the Library where he was doing some research and still adding value to the industry.

Bill was a strong advocate for Aviation in Canada and he sure paid his dues to our community.

Bill as you fly West, I wish you the old bush pilot’s blessing: “May you have Tight Floats & Tailwinds.”