50 Years on Wings (Book Excerpt)

Phil and Gail Olsen

Few have had such a wide variety of occupations in the course of their lives. Take innumerable hours in the air as a pilot, add several years as Peace Corps volunteer, with later service as administrator for the education of Peace Corps volunteers, and then spice it up with some nerve-wracking seconds in a plane he had just crash-landed into the sea.

However, it will take more than that to stop this 72-year-old active pilot.

“I love it,” says Phil Buck Olsen who resides on Oahu.

His father was Henry Jomar Olsen from Kabelvåg, where also his paternal grandmother , Johanna Karoline Krane, was born. The family emigrated from Norway to the USA in the beginning of the 1900’s.

His mother was named Hjørdis Elfrida Buck. She was born in Trondheim in 1901 and emigrated to USA around 1912 with her parents Petter Christopher Buck and Laura Marie Jenssen. She was from the old Skogn township. Families Olsen and Buck both settled in Duluth, Minnesota, where Phil’s parents, Henry Jomar and Hjørdis were married.

Chose to become a pilot

When Phil was drafted to serve in the Korean War, he applied for a postponement to take pilot training. His petition was granted and he continued his college studies. By the time he was finished, the Korean War was nearly over.

When finished with his pilot training he served several places including Germany. From there he took trips to visit his parents’ homeland.

After Phil had worked some years as a pilot, one of his friends died in a plane crash. That event prompted Phil to find another occupation, and he used two years to get his journalism degree. Not surprisingly, this led to a job in the public relations department of Western Airlines.

What can I do?

“President Kennedy had said that we should not ask what America can do for us, we should instead ask what we can do for America. At that time I felt that I had done a good deal for my country, but what about becoming a Peace Corps volunteer, wouldn’t that be a good idea?”

He volunteered and was stationed in the Philippines where he worked in a school. After completing some other assignments also, Phil was asked to take an administrative position as the leader for 240 Peace Corps volunteers.

He also accepted a new assignment in 1967 when he was asked to move to Hawaii to lead a program under the auspices of the University of Hawaii. This program educated young people to serve in the Peace Corps in the Pacific region and Asia.

Educated 3,000 Volunteers

“We educated around 3,000 volunteers for service in the Peace Corps. It was a very meaningful job,” Phil says about his years of service there, where he also found use for his competence as a pilot.

Later he was asked to become Associate Dean at the large College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, Honolulu. He accepted the position and remained there for 12 years, from 1973 to 1985.

Flying Wonderful Airplanes

Then a new calling awaited him. He was asked to be Chief Pilot for the company, Alexander & Baldwin (A&B).

“Ten happy years of flying wonderful airplanes,” says Phil. He flew mostly between Hawaii and mainland America, but he also had trips to Europe.

To continue reading, please click here to purchase the eBook
“Aloha from Forgotten Norwegians in Hawaii”

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