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Summit Air’s Dornier Do 228, the “Doorknob” page 2

Story by Dirk Septer

Besides its speed and impressive range of 1,400 nautical miles, probably the best feature the 228 has in its favour is the airstair door and an aisle for passenger comfort. “With a half-hour reserve, an empty 228 can fly for seven hours. The minimum field length requirement for the 228 operating on a 703 licence with nine passengers is a mere 1,500 feet. And for 704 operations with 19 passengers, the minimum will be about 3,000 feet,” concludes Tait.

The Dornier 228 commuter transport is a combination of a new-technology wing with the modified fuselage of the Dornier Do 128 Skyservant and a retractable undercarriage. While the 228-100 seats 15 passengers, Summit’s 228-200 version carries a maximum of 19 passengers like the Twin Otter.

Another thing Tait likes about the Dornier 228 are the aircraft’s two TPE331 Garrett AirResearch turboprops. “I’m a Garrett fan. Summit Air has eight years of experience on Garretts, and we haven’t had much trouble.” Tait’s secret to running these engines in cold weather conditions is to keep them warm with Tanis heaters. “When it gets down around zero [Celsius] we plug them in.” These heaters consist of rubber pads that mount on the gearbox and oil tank to keep the engines warm.

Being a fairly rare bird in North America, it was not easy to find a good pre-owned Dornier 228. “I was trying to purchase the two Dornier 228 aircraft that were in Winnipeg from Ministic Air.” But Alta Flight Charters of Edmonton, Alberta was able to get hold of the airplanes before Tait could.

“The Fairchild-Dornier rep in Toronto, Gord Preece, put me on to this aircraft that was in pieces in Manchester, New Hampshire about a year ago.” Tait flew his turbine Cessna 207 down there to put it on floats and stopped in at Manchester to take a look at the airplane. “I walked around and took a few pictures and decided we should try to make an effort to get it.”

The 1987 aircraft was originally owned by Air Jamaica Express and registered as 6Y‑JQM. “As far as airplanes go, it’s fairly new,” says Tait. But the aircraft was all in pieces. “They had started to do a return-to-lease inspection on it. The tail was off and the interior was out. Bits and pieces were missing from the gear wells and the props and the hubs were corroded pretty badly. Yet they had just put in a brand new $30,000 trim actuator.”

Tait was afraid to run the engines because they had been sitting idle for about five years without a Beta tube in the end of the props. “Fearing water in the engines, they were sent to a shop in Nashville, Tennessee to be gone over and run in test cells.”

The propellers were also overhauled in the United States and then the aircraft was put back together and flown up to Peterborough, Ontario. Here, Flying Colours and Rapid Aircraft gave the aircraft its new paint.

Some of the mining camps to be serviced by the Dornier are up to 500 air miles from Yellowknife. Miramar Hope Bay Ltd.’s operation north of Bathurst Inlet is about 100 miles south of Cambridge Bay. The two camps, Boston and Windy, are about 20 or 30 miles apart and are hard rock gold sites still in the exploration stage.

“I think they’re talking about bulk sampling from Windy this year,” says an optimistic Tait. “They want to use the Dornier to move crews out of Yellowknife, and maybe from Edmonton, with the airplane.”

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