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Sudbury Aviation page 4

Story and photos by Robert S. Grant

As well as instructing and outpost work, off-the-street charters and occasional day contracts keep the company’s three pilot/instructors busy. At least 85% of the clients come from the United States and the remaining 15% live in Ontario. The Labatt Skydiving Team also appreciates the Beaver’s capacity and the flat-topped floats as a drop platform.

Perhaps the most unusual demand for an airplane came to Sudbury Aviation in August 1999 when Playboy magazine placed a call. The American publisher required something particularly Canadian for a photo shoot, and since igloos, mukluks and parkas were not in season, they settled for a photogenic de Havilland Beaver on the condition that it carried no logos. Naturally, a log cabin had to be in the background, so they selected a lodge on Obabika Lake, west of Temagami.

A crew of 14 arrived to photograph one of the few Canadians to grace the glossy pages of Playboy. Twenty-two-year-old model Cara Wakelin, clothed in nothing more than black boots or white knee socks, posed at various angles, including a shot draped between C‑FIUU’s float spreader bars. Pilot Guillaume Gagnon drew the duty of “standin’ around watchin’” while the visitors fished off his airplane. When the November 1999 issue hit newsstands around the world, readers could not take their eyes from the curvaceous lines of Sudbury Aviation’s queen of the fleet. Bush flying certainly has changed!

Provincial government agencies frequently call upon Sudbury Aviation’s expertise for aerial surveys. Moose counts for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources take place in winter, and during open-water season, lake sampling with the Ministry of Environment keeps pilots busy at least once a month. Three technicians per trip test pH levels or record micro-organism populations from 0800 until late afternoon. Laidlaw holds the unofficial company record of 60 lakes in two days.

“We go into all different shapes and sizes of lakes. Ideally, you want a light breeze, since at about 15 knots it’s pretty hard to anchor a Beaver,” explained Laidlaw, who learned to fly at Sudbury Aviation in 1959 and began work there in 1962. “We can carry a lot of fuel, but, luckily, while most lakes are remote from surface transportation they are close to Sudbury as the crow flies. Depending on the nature of the sample, we could be down for 10 minutes or 30. Back at Whitewater, everything’s shipped to Toronto for analysis.”

Beavers with approved racks on the left side are great external load haulers. Catering to today’s eco-tourists means carrying items such as canoes and kayaks, which create negligible drag. Fourteen-foot boats, on the other hand, reduce airspeed slightly and, depending on shape, sometimes create noticeable vibration. Twelve-foot rolled-up rugs wrapped in waterproof plastic make up other outside cargo, and awkward-to-load, securely tied freezers ride inside to hunt camps and fishing lodges as far away as Moosonee.

Charter services specializing in transporting tourists often dip into their bank accounts to purchase larger airplanes like de Havilland Otters. Bigger aircraft are not in Sudbury Aviation’s future, Margaret insists. Trim and slim, she comes nowhere close to looking her chronological age, but uses it as an excuse to stay with her beloved Beavers.

“We’d have to give up a Beaver to get ourselves an Otter,” she laughed. “My God, I’m getting close to 60 and, oh, there’d be a ton of stuff to unload on every trip.”

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