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Lakeland AirwaysCapture the Spirit page 3

StorY by Robert S. Grant • photos by BOB BAGLOW

Besides unsettled Crown land, some designated islands and shorelines have been given over to semi-permanent cottages and camps without modern amenities. As a result, many owners opt for quick 185 or Beaver flights, then out again when weekends come to a close. External loads at Lakeland Airways have become routine, but although pilots have flown almost anything that will fit in or on an airplane, Darren discourages complacency. Carrying bulky objects externally alters flight characteristics and only government-approved racks are used. Standard procedure involves securing the load on the left side of the airplane where the pilot can see it.

“Our pilots move about 10 canoes and boats a day. Nothing goes on that’s longer than 16 feet and even then, the passenger load is restricted to two people with light camping gear,” Darren explained. “We haul steel roofing, wood stoves and windows as well as feather-filled mattresses that must be tied up really well because they flap all over the place. We’ve even carried a dismantled pontoon boat.”

Lakeland Airways operates four remote outpost cabins on lakes carefully selected to “capture the spirit of this magnificent area”. Every sliver of wood, refrigerator, stove and thumbtack has arrived by air. Each October, annual moose hunts mean solid booking sheets–just as full as the first flights of the season in May. Non-stop flying takes place when weather permits and no pilot takes off empty. Even decomposing fish entrails and dirt-spattered tin cans must be moved from the forest to Temagami for disposal.

“Actually, we don’t really fly a lot of fish,” said Darren. “The nice thing here is, most people prefer to catch and release and only keep what they eat in camp. When they want fish at home, they go to a supermarket, and that’s an attitude we encourage.”

Surprisingly, explained Judy, it’s not Americans but Canadians who make up the majority of customers, particularly from the Toronto area. Others travel south from Cochrane, Hearst and Kirkland Lake. European tourists, particularly those from Austria and Germany, have been attracted to spectacular parks such as Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater’s 72,000-hectare wilderness. Not many vacationers can resist forays along its 235-kilometre canoe routes.

Lakeland Airways draws considerable road traffic. The Garehs have found that few drivers encountering the Canadian tableau of an approaching de Havilland Beaver with sunlight splashing from the bottom of a canoe tied to its side can resist pulling over to watch. For a two-passenger minimum, they can board company floatplanes for rides to places like the Ojibwa Indian Reserve of Bear Island for $40 or fly in the opposite direction to the Quebec border for $45. Occasionally, group bookings of 40 children come in and frequently, television news or film crews travel to Temagami to record the wilderness.

Few airplanes suit the tourist business as well as 1956 Beaver C-FJKT on Edo 4930 floats. Acquired by Lakeland from Austin Airways in 1979, it charters for $4 per mile with a $160 minimum and like Cessna 185 C-GUFH at $3 per mile, averages 500 hours annually. With 18,000 hours airframe time, C-FJKT has been modified with bubble windows in the rear doors. For more efficiency, floats have been rebuilt by Edgar Peck in Nova Scotia and battery position changed from mid-fuselage to forward of the firewall. More modifications include replacing the standard ventral fin with lower profile vertical units on each side of the elevator. For routine inspections or minor repairs, Darren usually delivers the aircraft to Omar Aviation near Sudbury.

“We keep the Beaver around because it’s the only type that handles the work, you know–for going in and out of small lakes with lots of external loads– they’re the best,” Darren said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to go into turbines. The only new airplane we’d look at would be a light one for camp checks, maybe a Piper PA-18 Super Cub.”

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