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Viking Outpost’s classic bushplane page 5

Story and photos by Robert S. Grant

Since acquiring their first camp check airplane, the Carlsons have never skimped on maintenance. If an aircraft goes out of service, they order what they need and tolerate the necessary downtime. Whatever the cost, Norseman CF-FQI must remain on line. At engine overhaul time, for example, they demanded new cylinders instead of remanufactured units, which increased the cost from $25,000 to $60,000.

Transport Canada previously stipulated corrosion checks for the Norseman’s three-blade propeller every five years but recently decreed an “as required” policy. Nevertheless, Canadian Propeller in Winnipeg receive CF-FQI’s every two years, not five. Some operators discovered the hard way that grease does not always reach the unit’s inner mechanisms. AME “JB” Blaszczyk pointed out that some propellers become scrap once dismantled and damage is discovered.

Usually, Hugh flies CF-FQI, although at various times, Joe Sinkowski and Lakeview Restaurant owner Ron Gangloff have logged time on the classic. Recently, Blaszczyk became a full-time employee serving as AME and pilot as circumstances permit. Hugh, who modestly understates his own experience, has accumulated over 8,000 hours, almost entirely on floats. When he first flew the Norseman, he found the transition painless, claiming the type as the “easiest in the world to land and take off.”

“They’re absolutely idiot-proof and exceptionally good in a crosswind,” he claimed. “A lot of airplanes, you get 15 mph at 90 degrees and you’re fighting the damn thing. With the Norseman, you roll in full aileron, hold the stick right back and open her up. When she comes up on the step, keep in full aileron and just let her run and she’ll pick one float out of the water, and she’s gone.

“Landing? Back off to 75 mph and you don’t have to do anything at all–it lands itself. Of course, they land nicer full but there’s absolutely no sensation–never, that you don’t have control.”

Enid added that the Norseman has sufficient range for tourist operators, a factor she knows may someday become a major selling point. In CF-FQI’s case, each wing holds 50 gallons but two belly tanks of 37 gallons and 68 gallons bring the total to 205 gallons. Nothing, she said, beats a Norseman within 25 miles and Hugh explained that useful distance averages 100 miles with anything beyond demanding more fuel with less payload. Even fuel gauges are maintenance-free, consisting of a cork in a glass tube projecting beneath the wing. Pilots speak in terms of “one pin” or “two pins” when referring to fuel remaining. “One pin means you’ve got a half tank,” remarked Hugh.

“You know, I remember the old days when Ontario Central Airlines and Green Airways used to come into Douglas Lake, 20 miles west of here, to pick up six people and gear; they’d taxi to the far corner of the lake and take off,” Hugh reminisced. “Now, with FQI, I pick up seven and gear and go from the island [approximately half the distance] in whatever kind of wind and get off real quick and we’re gone.”

Suddenly, Hugh and Enid’s 16-year-old daughter, Harriet, entered the office. She had pumped CF-FQI’s floats, loaded cases of Molson Canadian and funnelled several quarts of oil into the engine. The King Air pilot noticed rows of neatly arranged red plastic fuel kegs on the dock as well when the pretty teenager announced the airplane waited. The Chicago-ites, surprised to be departing ahead of schedule, didn’t move until Canadian Fly-in Fishing Camps Cessna 185 CF-WNV step-taxied by the office and Chimo Air’s DHC-3 Otter CF-ODQ popped and snarled through an engine run-up.

Moments later, they boarded the shining Norseman and Hugh engaged the engine starter for a flight to Telescope Lake, 30 miles west within Woodland Caribou Wilderness Park. No question–Viking Outpost Camps has prospered since the first tourist arrived over 54 years ago. (Arthur passed away in 1996 and Florence, at 88, still goes to camp each summer.) The success can be attributed to the safety-conscious and economically minded Carlson clan–and a Noorduyn Norseman. |

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our norseman is gone – CF-FQI update by Enid Carlson, June 15, 2010

Back when Hugh was in his 30s and 40s, he wanted to fly a Norseman, but the man is so big that no one would ever hire him. I told Hugh then to go out and buy his own Norseman. When he turned 60, I didn’t want to hear any grumbling about having missed his chance!

Our outpost and lodge business could use the convenience of its own airplanes even if the economics didn’t make complete sense. (You either have ’planes or money, seldom both at the same time.) So, with brother Craig Carlson in agreement, the quest began and Viking Outpost Air was born.

CF-FQI is a great airplane and served us very well. Six passengers and their gear was a typical load. The Norseman would also take 45-gallon drums, 4 x 8 plywood sheets, boats, 15-foot timber and propane freezers. Maintenance is the most inexpensive of all the floatplanes because components are readily accessible, and the type has very few ADs. Hugh and “JB” (Blaszczyk) found it easy to fly.

Selling FQI was a huge decision that took a couple of years consideration. After about two decades, our Norseman finally needed major work: new fabric skin, wooden wing spars/ribs rehab, a rebuilt engine. Hugh is now 63 and saw himself flying the big loads into his 70s while the young “whippersnappers” flew around in our smaller airplanes. (It is much easier to train new pilots to fly the Cessnas and then progress on to Beavers.) Several years of experience are required before a guy or gal could upgrade to the big Norseman. If Hugh and Craig were younger, they would have definitely kept their cherished workhorse.

Fortunately, Peter and Paul Dillon of Virden, Manitoba, bought the Norseman and we are very happy to know that our baby will still be flying in the north hauling a good load and doing a good job. Peter is younger, a pilot, and also knows someone who can properly refurbish FQI–great news. I was really worried FQI might sit on the shore forlornly for years. |
 

Read one of Canada’s most interesting wilderness blogs by Enid Carlson (viking-island.blogspot.com). And, you can learn more about CF-FQI’s 2011 restoration and view photos of the Carlson’s other aircraft, too. (Type a keyword in the Search box at the top left of Enid’s blog to find aircraft-related postings, e.g. Norseman, Beaver, Cessna.)

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