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Jamie and Barb Tait’s Summit Air Charters page 3

Story by Dirk Septer

For mining customers, the Skyvan’s carrying capacity is quite impressive. A complete diamond drill can be transported without having to be disassembled. In the case of a Bobcat, the cab and bucket were removed and the machine delivered in two loads.

The Skyvan is also used in the salvage of aircraft wrecks. C-FHOI, a company Cessna T207 on wheels, was removed from an icefield east of Juneau, Alaska, in one load. The aircraft’s wings, tail and landing gear had to be taken apart. To date, Summit Air has also salvaged three other aircraft using the Skyvan, including a Cessna 185 on floats, a Piper Super Cub and a Luscombe.

Over two winters, from the end of October till early March, one of the Skyvans went down to Arizona as a skydiving platform. The aircraft operated for Skydive Marana, which used it on a wet lease. Tait himself visited once a month to perform maintenance on the machine. That was a fringe benefit of the lease arrangement. “It’s nice to trade the frozen North for some warmer climes for little while,” Tait says. His wife Barb, who is the company’s operations manager, probably does not agree, as she has to stay in Atlin to keep the home fires burning–literally. “She phoned me one winter when it was –52 degrees at home … having problems with frozen waterlines,” chuckles Tait, who at the time was in Arizona taking the phone call standing in his shorts. This past winter, both Skyvans went to warmer climes for skydiving work, one to Hawaii and the other to Florida.

In 1997, Summit Air tried the air medevac business, acquiring a Mitsubishi MU-2. The company had a contract with the Yukon government to supply one aircraft as backup. According to a pilot, the MU-2 was as fast as a jet and as smooth as a Cadillac, and flew like a bullet. C-FKIO was also used for other work. One of its more unusual tasks was in support of the travelling court circuit, flying judges into remote communities. Unfortunately, the medevac contract did not generate the necessary hours and the aircraft was sold.

In a sense, Summit Air benefitted from one of the effects of the strange 1997–98 winter weather. Many small settlements in northern Canada depend on ice or snow roads across frozen lakes and rivers for their annual resupply of fuel, food and construction materials. These arduously constructed roads serve as temporary supply routes between the major centres and isolated communities and mine sites. However, temperatures were so warm that the ice roads disappeared too soon. In March, Summit Air sent one of its Skyvans to Thompson, Manitoba. It joined many other aircraft, including a fleet of Twin Otters, DC-3s, DC-6s and Hawkair’s Bristol Freighter, to fly fuel and food to many of the tiny places in northern Manitoba that had begun to suffer shortages.

With its ability to move awkward and heavy loads, Summit Air has successfully found a market niche in the Yukon air transportation business. And for anyone who’s interested, the boys at Summit Air want to show you their Shorts–that is, their Shorts Skyvan, and all the advantages it has to offer. |

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