Lars Gleitsmann grew up in Germany, he was unable to serve in the military due to medical issues but volunteered to go to Nepal during the height of the Nepalese Civil War (Chinese Maoist Insurrection) where he spent several months as a photographer and pilot. An entrepreneur, Lars owns Better Aircraft Fabric, Inc. which he founded in 2012. Prior to this he worked as an Earth Science Consultant for the Anchorage, AK based technology company          E-Terra. His work allowed for a broad range of opportunities from acting as an aviation consultant for two movie productions to working for mining companies. He worked on several projects including oil and gas, hydro power, and airport development. While most projects relied heavily on the use of Satellite Imagery acquisition, he also flew as a pilot and conducted his own aerial photography.

 As a scientist in a project of the federal German Science Foundation, he conducted Glacier Survey flights in Alaska. With his survey flights in other countries, he used his time in AK as an opportunity to work on his Ph.D. thesis on Aerial Survey Methods. His upbringing influenced his love of learning and history. He says, “As long as I can remember I have been a history buff, this may have been reinforced by having a lot of relatives that did not survive the Second World War. My historical interest focused mainly on military history and geopolitical issues. As a youngster, I was able to interview a lot of Second World War and Holocaust survivors.”

 As an aircraft owner, his main hobby is aircraft restoration. As a pilot, he has flown in 12 Countries on 5 continents with 52 types of airplanes. His other hobbies including hunting, fishing, and boating. He appreciates the beauty and opportunities AK has to offer. He does not take these opportunities for granted such as being born and raised in Germany “Where those things are not that easy or accessible.”

 Lars is the Curator of Artifacts and Coordinator of Aircraft Salvage operations. He has volunteered with VIPER since its inception and his love of restoration has gained his experience with aircraft disassembly, salvage, and transport of un-airworthy aircraft. Among the many planes, he owns three are historically significant that were brought to Alaska after rescuing them from certain destruction in Germany.

 When asked why he joined VIPER he said, “Too many people take freedom for granted and do not understand the essential role that our military personnel played in past and present to preserve this freedom. As a youngster I traveled to Communist Eastern Germany and Poland, there I experience a true dictatorship. I had a relative murdered by the Eastern German STASI Gestapo and a friend who smuggled refugees out of Eastern Germany was pursued by the STASI into West Germany where we lived. I have witnessed Maoist Guerilla action in Nepal and interviewed Tibetan refugees.

I have had many experiences that make me appreciate the US Military. As a Cold-War-Child in West Germany the danger of War was real and exercises like “Reforger’83” were a great reassurance to us West Germans that Democracy would not go silently into the dark. Most of my friends are military Veterans and their life stories are very dear to me. I have gotten to know them as the most reliable characters, and they should not have had to go through those hardships after leaving the military.

I have seen firsthand that the aviation industry is suffering from a lack of a skilled and motivated workforce and I believe the military forms people to become responsible and ethical. I am glad to join this effort to assist them in acquiring economically viable skills and educate the public on the accomplishments of military personnel in the past and present.”