Skillman Resident Writes the Intrepid Story for Children
By Barbara Figge Fox | December 8, 2022
Former Navy pilot Peter Weiland took his then seven-year-old granddaughter on a tour of the USS Intrepid, the aircraft carrier that is now a museum looming large on New York’s Hudson River.
After two hours of tramping around the huge ship she exclaimed, “Oh Poppa, it’s so big.”
“It seems big when we stand on the flight deck,” Weiland told her, “but from the sky, when I was landing my plane, it looked so small.” She couldn’t understand how such a big ship could be “small.”
Pete Weiland begins the tour of the USS Intrepid at the bow of the carrier and the 12-ton anchor.
Based on his granddaughter’s remark, Weiland wrote a children’s book. “So Big Yet So Small,” is available on Amazon. It has lively illustrations and intriguing facts about carriers and the skill needed by pilots who take off from and land on them – and concludes that an aircraft carrier is both big and small at the same time.
Pete Weiland with his book.
When an aircraft takes off from a carrier, a catapult accelerates it from zero to 150 miles per hour in two seconds, and that the reverse happens when the tail hook on a landing aircraft catches one of the arresting wires strung across the deck. — Pete Weiland
As an engineering student, Weiland participated in Princeton University’s Regular NROTC, was commissioned as an Ensign, and went through the Navy flight program. He was deployed on the Intrepid in 1958 and 1959. After leaving the Navy, he earned his MBA, joined Price Waterhouse, and was promoted to partner in 1973. Upon retirement the following year, he joined the Intrepid’s docent team as a volunteer.
Recently he moved from the Cherry Valley Country Club community, where he was the first president of the Homeowners Association, to Stonebridge at Montgomery, the continuing care retirement community on Montgomery Road.
At age 89, Weiland relishes the opportunity to help civilians understand how the difficulties pilots face in operating off the tiny runway provided by an aircraft carrier. On day-long excursions he gives fellow Stonebridge residents the “insider” tour, revealing aspects of shipboard life that most tourists don’t see.
“Pete’s description of the size of the Intrepid didn’t begin to prepare me for seeing it in person,” says Carol Wehrheim, Stonebridge resident. “Landing a plane so precisely on it seems impossible to me. But what really boggles my mind is the storage needed for the food and everyday necessities for that many people who might be on board for a month or more.”
Article continues after ad from our sponsor.
From Weiland, the Stonebridge residents learned that when an aircraft takes off from a carrier, a catapult accelerates it from zero to 150 miles per hour in two seconds, and that the reverse happens when the tail hook on a landing aircraft catches one of the arresting wires strung across the deck.
A favorite stop on the flight deck is the plane that Weiland flew — a Douglas A-1 Skyraider. It is a single-seat, propeller-driven attack aircraft in service from 1946 to the early 1980s. It prompts some hair-raising stories, such as the time on a pitch-black, cloudy night when visibility was so poor that he almost landed, not on the Intrepid, but on the destroyer that was escorting the carrier.
A Douglas A-1 Skyraider attack aircraft.
Weiland recalls the pride he felt in flying off the USS Intrepid. But he also remembers his pilot friends who perished doing the same thing. The risks are real and the mournful tones of TAPS are never far from a Navy pilot’s mind.
“What struck me particularly on the trip that I took with Pete — one of three he led for approximately 40 Stonebridge residents — was the meaning that it continues to have in his life,” says Jeff Tener. “His service provided a solid basis for his love of the country and generated in him a desire to promote and share that patriotism.”