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Summit Air’s Dornier Do 228, the “Doorknob”

Story by Dirk Septer – first published fall 2002

Summit Air Dornier loading lumber

Jamie and Barb Tait ready to load their newly acquired Dornier Do 228. Although the large door will easily handle 4 x 8 sheets of plywood, these will have to be loaded one at a time.

With the acquisition of a Dornier Do 228, Yellowknife-based carrier Summit Air Charters Ltd. continues its long tradition of employing somewhat unusual aircraft. Having been in the business of northern air transportation for over 15 years, Jamie and Barb Tait’s company had already gained considerable attention because of the specialty work they could undertake with their fleet of Shorts SC7 Skyvans.

Summit Air began business in picturesque Atlin, at the far northwest corner of British Columbia. Having worked from Whitehorse, Yukon for a number of years, the company recently relocated even further north to Yellowknife. After losing a substantial part of their fleet of single-engine aircraft in a fire that burned down Trans North Turbo Air’s Whitehorse hangar in 1999, the Taits decided to concentrate more on their twin-engined Skyvans. In 2001, they sold the last remaining single.

The move to Yellowknife dictated by all the flying activity created by the exploration boom with companies looking all over the North for diamonds, gold and other base metals has not made all family members happy. Twelve-year-old son Darryl has already given his parents notice: “This is as far north as I’ll move!”

Summit Air has always seemed to prefer unique aircraft. The magic number seems to be two or three. As long as there are only a few of a particular type registered in Canada, the company is interested in the possibilities. And certainly, a lack of beauty has never been an issue at Summit.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a rare German-built Dornier Do 228-202 has joined the company’s two Skyvans, C-GKOA and C-GJGS. Only two other “Doorknobs,” as the Summit Air boys have nicknamed their new acquisition, are currently on the Canadian register.

Of course, Tait had more realistic reasons for acquiring the Dornier 228. “The range of an airplane is an important factor for us,” he explains. “The biggest thing the 228 will do over the Twin Otter is its load and its range.” The aircraft is a lot faster than the “Twotter” and with 527 cubic feet it has a slightly larger cabin size inside. “It won’t quite go into the rough off-field strips that the Twin Otter can,” Tait admits “but for moving crews and hauling freight like lumber, drums of fuel and sheets of plywood, the aircraft is ideal.”

The Skyvan and the Dornier complement each other quite nicely. “They’re two different airplanes as far as what each type can do,” Tait says. “We carry the heavy and bulky freight in our Skyvan. Actually, because it’s so much faster, the 228 can outhaul the Skyvan on long legs.”

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