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Lakeland AirwaysCapture the Spirit page 4

StorY by Robert S. Grant • photos by BOB BAGLOW

Lakeland Airways has not operated skiplanes since 1991 and has no plans to do so, although Darren ensures that wheel/skis remain on hand should a customer make a request. At one time, aerial animal census, especially moose survey during January and February, brought in winter revenue. However, agencies like the cost-conscious Ontario government switched to helicopters. In winter, Lakeland staff confirms spring and summer bookings and distributes information from a booth at Toronto’s annual Sportsman show.

Having spent much of their lives associated with tourist-oriented bush flying operations, Darren and Judy have noticed considerable change. Like most people in the business of aviation, Judy despairs at the paperwork demanded by Transport Canada. Her tasks involve nearly the same procedures as airlines operating large transport category types–much of it superfluous since Lakeland has only two light aircraft. Nevertheless, she complies with whatever details result from constant government audits.

“The operations and dangerous goods guys, we get along great with,” admitted Darren, referring to Transport Canada’s Sudbury and Toronto offices. “I’m not a big fan of the maintenance guys. We’re very particular about our aircraft and we maintain them very well. Right now, all we need is a paint job on our Beaver but no matter how much we co-operate, we’ve still locked horns a few times.”

Customer attitudes have also changed in recent years, said Darren. In the past, passengers, particularly those from the United States, had no hesitations about climbing into any sort of aerial rattletrap. Riding on sleeping bags or orange crates sans seatbelts became part of the adventure. Some commercial companies even encouraged the image of daring Canadian bush pilots ready to plunge into whatever weather happened to dawn.

Fortunately, the days of careless daredevils have gone forever. People expect far more–flight briefings, well maintained airplanes and professional attitudes. Also, explained Darren, they want on-time departures as a result of becoming accustomed to scheduled airline travel.

“We’ve had people who demand their money back because it rained for the weekend they’re in our camps or if they see a mouse in the bush, it’s almost the end of the world.”

Judy and Darren plan to cater to whatever the customers of Lakeland Airways want. Neither has hesitated to put their full efforts into the company acquired by the late Robert Gareh. Without question, this profitable, efficiently run organization would be snapped up quickly if offered for sale. However, Judy has no intention of leaving and intends to continue working in her A-frame office decorated with moose antlers and posters with large white letters “Temagami Adventure.”

As for Darren, the prospect of escape from dawn-to-dusk hours and the opportunity to devote his talents to other careers has little appeal. Dedicated to continuing his father’s legacy, his efforts ensure that the bushplanes associated with Canadian wilderness flying will be seen for decades to come in the community of Temagami. |

Go to www.lakelandairways.ca for information about Temagami fly-in vacations.

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