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Viking Outpost’s classic bushplane

Story and photos by Robert S. Grant – first published summer 2002

Viking Norseman 1

Rebuilt by Gordon and Eleanor Hughes of Northland Aircraft Service in Ignace, Ontario, 114 miles northwest of Thunder Bay, CF-FQI was listed for sale at $175,000 in 1992. Although sought after by warbird enthusiasts south of the border, the aircraft remains in Canada.

Two thousand feet below the Beech King Air 350, a break in the dull gray undercast revealed Northwestern Ontario’s evergreen woodlands. Moments later, the sleek corporate aircraft overflew a tiny flotilla of canoes plunging across a white-capped bay. Soon the aircraft settled smoothly onto Red Lake’s Runway 08 as a Chevrolet Suburban stood by to drive a group of Chicago-based executives and their pilot into the tourist community.

Their destination–a pine-walled complex on the north side of Howey Bay–was the headquarters for Viking Outpost Cabins Ltd., a fishing- and hunting-oriented enterprise established in 1948 by Swedish-born Arthur Carlson and wife, Florence. Impressed with the hospitality shown by Suburban driver and general manager Enid Carlson, the camp-bound turkeys (tourists) crossed the office floor and peered down at several seaplanes rocking gently against a tire-sided dock. A pristine Noorduyn Norseman Mk V caught the King Air pilot’s eye. Having learned to fly on metal-clad Piper PA-28 Cherokees and moving on to his club-seated, $5-million Beech, he had never encountered a commercial airplane covered with “canvas.”

Hugh Carlson, a 6-foot, 7-inch, 287-pound son of Red Lake pioneers Arthur and Florence, understood that visitors from regions south of the Canadian border knew little about seaplanes and northcountry flying. Co-owner of Viking with his brother Craig, he politely explained that CF-FQI’s covering consisted of doped Ceconite fabric. He added that AMEs, pilots and tourist operators alike considered the “wooden wonder,” a nickname bestowed upon the prototype soon after its first flight from Montreal on November 14, 1935, as the most “overbuilt” aerial freighter to carry Canadian registration.

As the turkeys snickered at the mention of sitka spruce ribs and walnut fittings in airplane wings, Craig’s wife, Roseanne, pointed out that the Pratt & Whitney R-1340-powered aircraft suited their wilderness-oriented business perfectly. This caught the group’s interest since some slaved as bean counters for a midwest American newspaper. They listened, distracted momentarily as a Red Lake Airways’ Beech 18 on Edo 7850s rumbled eastbound into Howey Bay for a passenger pickup and beer run. Ensconced in Viking’s office–more of a living room than a place of business–they began to understand Roseanne’s justification of an airplane designed specifically for bush pilots.

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