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Jamie and Barb Tait’s Summit Air Charters

Story by Dirk Septer – first published fall 1998

Summit Air Skyvan at mining camp

A typical winter scene with rugged mountains, overcast skies, a short strip and another load of freight successfully delivered.

How much does it take to fill our Shorts? This much: 730 cubic feet. In other words, a Shorts Skyvan can carry a lot (4,500 pounds is another way of measuring it). But just ask the guys at Summit Air Charters Ltd. They not only love to fly their Skyvans but also enjoy having a little fun playing with words to advertise the superb qualities of this unusual aircraft.

Though Summit is still officially headquartered in Atlin, British Columbia, the company’s fleet of four aircraft is now based at Whitehorse, Yukon. Twelve years ago, Summit started as a floatplane operator, but more recently the company has shifted its focus. In 1996, their Cessna 185 was sold, and now the Shorts Skyvan is the primary income generator.

Summit became the second charter operator to use this very rugged STOL general-purpose transport in northern Canada. Because of the type’s rear loading ramp, it is well suited to carry bulk cargo into remote locations. In 1996, a second Skyvan was added. “To meet the growing demand we expanded our operations,” says Jamie Tait, who according to his business card is Summit Air Charter’s “grande fromage.”

“Right now there are only three Shorts SC-7 Skyvans registered in Canada,” says Tait. “And we operate two of these, C-GKOA and FSDZ,” he adds. One Skyvan is owned, while the other is leased out of Yellowknife. The third Canadian-registered SC-7 is flown by a survey company in eastern Canada.

The SC-7 Skyvan, described as the world’s largest light aircraft, was built by Short Brothers PLC (Shorts) of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Established in 1908, Shorts is Europe’s oldest aircraft manufacturer; it was sold to Bombardier in 1989.

The rear-loading Skyvan’s interior space is 6 feet 6 inches wide, 6 feet 6 inches high and 18 feet 7 inches long–more than twice the usable space available in any aircraft offered by the nearest competitor. Most medium-sized twin-engine aircraft are not designed to carry loads longer than can be fitted into the fuselage with the doors shut. Since cargo comes in all sizes and lengths, it was only logical to have a large single rear door. Palletized freight can be loaded and unloaded quickly, and generators, vehicles, drill rigs and other bulky equipment can be put aboard without having to break them down. And if the load happens to be too long, it can simply be tied down and the aircraft flown with the freight door open. Using the Skyvan in this manner, operators have routinely transported items such as 32-foot pipes.

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