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Lakeland AirwaysCapture the Spirit

StorY by Robert S. Grant • photos by BOB BAGLOW – first published summer 2001

Lakeland Cessna 185

The Cessna 185 made its maiden flight in 1961. Sold new for US$18,950 on wheels, prices skyrocketed to US$78,450 within 20 years. On floats, aircraft like Lakeland Airways’ C‑GUFH have been responsible for launching numerous aviation careers. After a decade of service, Lakeland sold its Cessna in 2010.

Years ago, when not pushing Stoneboats (DHC-3 Otters) above Northwestern Ontario’s forests, I sometimes made road trips into southern Ontario. Frequently, a gasoline stop at Temagami, 207 nm north of Toronto, became necessary. At this tourist-oriented community, watching the airplanes of Lakeland Airways was a pleasant diversion for an hour or two.

Years later, I spoke with Robert Gareh who had acquired the company in 1973 and with it, several Beavers and Cessna types as well as classic Stinson SR-9, C-FBGM. The business prospered and at one point, helicopters joined the fleet. Gareh, an arm-waving aviation aficionado raised in Englehart, 76 nm southeast of Timmins, certainly appeared to enjoy his place in aviation.

Lakeland Airways came into existence during the late 1940s at a roadside lake that had sometimes served as a satellite for Sudbury-based Austin Airways. During Gareh’s late teen years, he became a night telegraph operator assigned to the Ontario Northland Railway’s Temagami station. When not sending Morse codes or retrieving messages from passing locomotives, he earned a private pilot licence at Georgian Bay Airways’ New Liskeard, Ontario, base and a commercial pilot certificate in Toronto. With personal savings and foresight enough to see that Lakeland Airways would always be in business given its excellent highway location, he purchased the company.

Gareh and his wife Judy not only managed Lakeland but also raised two daughters and a son. Eventually, they trimmed the flight line and today, only de Havilland Beaver, C-FJKT (msn 1023) and a 1976 Cessna 185, C‑GUFH, carry the company’s stylized wing logo. Sadly, the sleek gull wing Stinson collided with trees during Gareh’s first year as owner and never flew again.

In 1986, the Garehs added a unique houseboat rental branch called Three Buoys Houseboat Vacations. Each 40-foot Sportscruiser slept 10 and chartered with command bridge, four-piece bathrooms and bedrooms included, as well as a number painted on the deck so overflying company pilots could be signalled down for service calls. With over 2,000 miles of shoreline, the “mighty Temagami” (Lake) drew water lovers of all nationalities between May 15 and September 30.

A good life. Judy commuted to Earlton and earned a private pilot licence in a Cessna 150. Son Darren went to Gimli, Manitoba, and returned with a commercial certificate from Interlake Aviation in 1988. Daughter Debbie signed on as a flight attendant for Wardair and later switched to Air Transat while second daughter Nancy opted to apply her talents to interior decorating.

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