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Paul Nopper, aerial adventurer page 2

Story by Kenneth Armstrong • trip Photos by Paul Nopper

But, life was different now. Flying around the circuit and practise area just didn’t cut it for the fledgling aviator who felt a need to spread his wings. Because the flying club wouldn’t rent club aircraft for lengthy trips, Paul purchased a 1974 PA-28-151. Over the next five years, the Piper Warrior carried Paul and family members to Florida’s Sun ’n Fun several times, around the Florida Keys and to the outstanding Oshkosh fly-in three times. Other trips with friends or family members allowed an escape from winter’s icy grip by motoring above the bleak landscape to sunny, warm climes in Alabama and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for golfing holidays. The family became grateful fliers on various missions, such as sightseeing, whitewater rafting and golf outings.

However, all was not perfect as Paul had a few setbacks. On a flight over South Dakota, the intrepid Warrior choked on an exhaust valve. The good news is Paul had overflown the roughly 70 miles of open water crossing Lake Michigan the day before–thankfully without incident. A month later, the engine blew a seal and the resulting damage required an overhaul. A year later, Paul was on a mission to the amazing scenery in Idaho with his father and the sagging performance in high-density altitudes convinced him that the Warrior was not the optimum aircraft for flying outback and beyond in the mountains far from help.

After extended trips with wife Hughanne to Prince Edward Island; Mackinac Island, Michigan; Chincoteague, Virginia; Harrisburg and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Block Island, Rhode Island; Nantucket, Massachusetts; and Lake Placid, New York, Paul’s partnership underwent a change in course. Hughanne confessed she did not really feel comfortable in the confines of a small plane and ceased flying, but provided her blessing for Paul to acquire an aircraft of his choosing. He claims it took him only a few minutes to get over her big announcement and start the search for a bush aircraft.

Since January 1999, Paul and C-GMLT (my little toy) have logged over 1,000 hours in a loving relationship. In the last few years, Paul has had to open a second log book as he nears 2,000 flight hours. Paul observes a philosophy that I find close to my heart much of the time. He points out that the solitude of solo flights is very refreshing to the soul and loves the marriage he has with his trusty aerial mate. Without any passengers, he doesn’t “feel the responsibility of having to entertain or be conscious of another person’s safety.” His recent forays into the wilderness include Idaho several times, Utah more than once, Baffin Island in 2000 and 2002, the northwest Arctic and Alaska in 2001. His most recent expedition crossed Canada following all rivers, lakes, streams and trails the voyageurs and Alexander Mackenzie explored during 1792-93.

Is he running out of potential trips? No way! Before landing from any of his lengthy aerial voyages, the seeds of the next excursion have already begun to germinate. Paul studies history and likes to follow the routes of early explorers–the comfortable way–from above. Of course, aerial views of their routes are not only more picture perfect, but can also be reasonably accomplished in days or weeks. This, as opposed to ground travel which would require months or years. Paul spends hours researching on the Internet, and reading books and articles to find as many points of interest as possible between his home and a distant destination. Because the thrill of the adventure is the enroute flying, he seldom spends any amount of time at the route terminus, and minutes after achieving his goal it’s time to turn around and head back–via a different path.

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One barrel of gas for eight hours of flying. Story and photo by Dirk Septer

Da Swisha tugboat

Dave Oleson’s Husky taxies for takeoff from Yellowknife’s floatplane base at Oldtown. Air Tindi advertises the aircraft as “One barrel of gas for eight hours of flying”. Typically, Oleson carries enough fuel for about five hours in the air. C-FMCN is perfect for radio telemetry and wildlife surveys at a quarter the price of a helicopter.

In the United States most Huskies are used for recreational purposes, but some earn their keep working ranches or towing banners. The U.S. Border Patrol became one of the first major customers, purchasing the aircraft for low-and-slow policing of the U.S.-Mexican border. Border Patrol actually wanted 36 of these versatile two-seater tandem aircraft but due to budget restrictions had to be satisfied with only 15. There are many Huskies in Africa and Europe, and aircraft sales are gaining momentum in Alaska, the long-time stronghold of the Piper Super Cub.

Of the six Huskies registered in Canada, only a few are used commercially. Air Tindi Ltd. of Yellowknife, NWT, who operate C-FMCN, is one of the exceptions. Dave Oleson actually owns the aircraft and leases it to the company, which flies it under their commercial registration and certificate. “They do all the advertising and other paperwork,” Oleson explains. Flying an average of 350-500 hours a year, Oleson has put about 2,600 hours on his Husky.

Oleson operates the aircraft on straight wheels with the big 26-inch tires (as delivered), Baumann 2100 floats or skis. “By the time I added a set of floats and skis the total bill came to CDN $120,000,” says Oleson, who bought the aircraft new six years ago.

Though the Cub and the Husky look somewhat similar, the 180 hp engine in the Husky makes a huge difference. In spring when taking off from ice on skis, the Husky is in the air at 100 feet. “It’s also good in windy conditions manoeuvring on floats in the water; just turn the tail into the wind and it will outperform a Cessna 185,” Oleson notes. “The water rudders and the design of the Baumann 2100s certainly show an advantage over Cessnas on CAPs or Edos.

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