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Summit Air’s Dornier Do 228, the “Doorknob” page 3

Story by Dirk Septer

Most of this mining company’s work is being done in the winter from the sites accessible by an ice strip. “They always build a strip to take the Herc, so it is 5,000 feet long and 200 feet wide. We have done some work for them and used the strip on a couple of trips before they pulled out. The freight is flown to Cambridge Bay and then leaves in a Twin Otter.”

Tait also received inquiries from the De Beers diamond mine at Snap Lake about moving its crews as well. In December 2002, Summit Air finally received its 704 licence. Until then, with a crew of two pilots, the Dornier was restricted to a maximum of nine passengers.

One disadvantage of the Dornier is the cost of replacement parts. “Parts for the ‘Doorknob’ are very expensive coming from Germany charged in Euros.” Tait shows a bolt he just purchased directly from Dornier. A similar one from any automotive shop would not have cost more than a dollar or two. “This one cost us about a thousand Euro, which is almost two thousand Canadian!” And a NiCad battery, which has to come from France, will cost Tait about CAN $10,000.

Finishing a Department of National Defence contract from Cambridge Bay, Skyvan C‑GKOA was delayed by bad weather. The Dornier had to be used on this typical Skyvan charter. A load of 70 4 x 8-foot sheets of ½-inch plywood, some boxes of screws and other building materials were destined for the First Nations community of Wha Ti, about 100 air miles northwest of Yellowknife. Formerly known as Lac la Martre, this small settlement is located in the rich fish- and fur-harvesting area that is the traditional homeland of the Dogrib Dene.

Although the Dornier 228 has no problem handling the weight, loading and unloading plywood is somewhat cumbersome and time consuming. Unlike the Skyvan which would easily take a pallet, on the 228 the sheets have to be moved one at a time.

Using his new four-wheel drive Kubota articulating tractor-loader, Tait brings out two pallet loads of plywood from his Coverall hangar, the construction of which became a necessity as it is almost impossible to lease extra hangar space at the Yellowknife airport. “The beauty of the Coverall is that if necessary we can easily move the whole structure and even pick up the big concrete foundation blocks.” Summit’s “facility” sits right next to Diamond Air’s new $1.5 million hangar, which also houses Summit Air, Adlair Aviation Ltd., NWI Jet, Northwestern Air Lease and the Shell FBO.

At $5 a mile plus fuel cost, essentially the same rate as a King Air, customers get a good deal with the fast Dornier 228. The rate for the Skyvan, which can take a heavier load and bulkier items, is $6.50 a mile plus fuel. |

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