The sky was blue and the sun bright when Peter Wilson was cleared for takeoff in Algeria, heading southeast en route to Niger.

But things changed quickly.

“For about 90 minutes, I found myself absolutely consumed at 7,500 feet by this dust cloud that had risen high and just came up and up and up,” Wilson said. “I had no experience of it, and the weather forecast didn’t seem to warn against anything like that. That frightened me. I was skilled enough to stay upright and lucky enough to keep with the parameters of the ship.”

He was able to land safely but, years later while doing maintenance, would still find desert dust from that incident. It also was a motivating factor for Wilson to install and continue to use a HeliSAS autopilot system for his future travels, and Wilson said he thinks all choppers should be equipped with a similar system, regardless of whether choose to utilize them.

Wilson also has other issues for which he advocates, with his long-range exploration a springboard for conversations about issues in the world like extreme poverty, the effects of climate change and spurring sustainable development.

“Certainly, through the people I’ve met, I know I’ve changed. And the people around me who know me – I’d like to think I influence people around me in a nice way,” Wilson said.

That influence may spread via his books, which chronicle his journey and dig into those core issues he’s looking to raise awareness for and solve.

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