The Great Arctic Air Adventure comes to Television

Doug 1 Comment

Yes friends, it took three years, sixty hours of HD footage, and thousands of production hours, but the film of our grand adventure is finally finished. AND – the Seattle PBS station, KCTS Channel 9 will air the film on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 7:00 PM. KCTS will be airing this as a pledge drive, so tune in and enjoy the show. You can get a copy of the DVD in return for a small pledge, so please consider supporting PBS and the GAAA!

Warm Regards,

Mark and Doug

November GAAA Update

Doug Comments Off

Jim Clark, GAAA filmmaker, fellow adventurer, and hale fellow well met, spent the better part of October logging the video footage. For those of you not well versed in the relatively arcane jargon of filmmaking, logging includes capturing the footage from the various media, and organizing the material by subject matter. In the case of the GAAA, the video was shot from two HD cameras as well as an HD camera pan/tilt unit mounted on the front of the float. With over 60 hours of footage, logging is a daunting task in itself, but yeoman effort from Jim produced a well-organized catalogue of the footage.

On October 27, Mark, Doug, and Jim spent the day reviewing the footage. It was a good time, and brought back many memories that are rapidly fading as we resume our lives. Who could forget Eric dancing a jig sans pants, crawling out on a bucking wing in high winds to refuel, or, ahem, herding musk ox from the air. Anyway, at the end of the day, we felt that the footage could support an interesting and entertaining film about the adventure, and spent some time developing possible “threads.” (story lines) Full disclosure here, the recent economic downturn has not left the GAAA leaders unscathed, so we will be looking for some outside funds to complete the film. Next step is to develop a trailer and go on the road to potential sponsors.

Meanwhile, Mark and Doug are putting together a live travelogue of the adventure for presentation to interested local aviation groups.

Thanks for checking in, and we look forward to our December communiqué.

Doug & Mark

Episode 45 – Home Sweet Home

Doug, Mark 1 Comment

Part 1: Coming Full Circle (Mark)

As was the case the night before at Buffalo Pound Lake outside of Moose Jaw, a full moon enlightened the tents all night long on the shores of Eagle Lake. A full moon seems to carry with it some odd powers, and as was the case the night before, nearby dens of coyotes howled their form of text messages back and forth to each other, gossiping most of the night.

Unlike wolves that have a distinctive howl, coyote howling seems to be a family affair. The coyote song combines a plethora of voices from a high pitched “yip yip yip” to a small-dog-accidentally-kicked-under-the-dinner-table yelp, to a melancholic screech, in a chaotic serenade that crescendos for a moment, and then dies off. Separately located dens provide a stereo affect. Dozing off in your sleeping bag, you convince yourself that they are finished for the night. Then you faintly hear the class clown coyote, (you know the one, he just can’t keep his mouth shut) with his evil coyote smirk and his wimpy little whelp, and the rest of the colony can’t help themselves, and the whole rock show starts all over again. The cacophony is exacerbated by the fact that the classical music lovers of Eagle Lake, the mallards, Canada geese, and frogs that are so plentiful there, try to drown out the imposing rock stars with their own concert.

So much for sound sleep at Eagle Lake. It was magnificent, however, and well worth the lack of sleep on the eve of our homeward leg.

The dawn brought more moonlight, cool still air, a blanket of dew on the tents and a blanket of fog on the lake. Autumn is coming to Alberta. We awoke to country music, as one of the heifers from a nearby farm must have gotten separated from her cow gang and started bawling. One could hear lousy cow impersonations coming from the tents as well.

Leslie Pringle of the Eagle Lake RV Resort ( graciously offered her fax machine for faxing our customs forms to Seattle, as well as a send-off cup of coffee. Thank you again Leslie, for the hospitality.

The Beavers broke glassy water and started the arduous westbound climb towards the Rocky Mountains in smooth air on what promised to be a perfect last day of flying. The day did not disappoint.

As the heavy Beavers got busy with their morning chores in workmanlike fashion, slowly gaining altitude in warm inversion temperatures, we followed the highway out of Calgary up through spectacular Banff Provincial Park. Doug Devries recalled a 1982 venture when he and a friend pedaled 750 miles from Calgary to Vancouver over this same highway, albeit with fewer lanes and less traveled than it is today. This was just an earlier version of ambitious adventure for Doug. My experience is that if you hang out with him long enough, you will find yourself engrossed in some wild scheme to bike, canoe, dog sled or fly to a far region of the earth. The bumper sticker “Get in, sit down, hang on, and shut-up!” comes to mind. I realize that I have been hanging on for 45 days now, and am happy for it. In some way, I realize that I am better for it as well.

The Rockies regaled us with striking granite monoliths sporting dustings of snow on the upper ledges, hanging glaciers, and small glacier-fed lakes in every conceivable shade of green and blue. We buzzed our good friends John Hamler and Cindy Helgesen at Big White Mountain outside of Kelowna, BC. Chatter on the radio and within the cockpit was friendly and fun, as the six of us tried to capture one last time and hopefully for all of memory the joys of our hours together. Jocular ribbing was frequently accentuated with a “woo hoo!” or a “hoo ahh!” or a “What’s your position?” or a “Roger that.”

We touched down for our last fuel stop on beautiful Skaha Lake in the arid town of Penticton, BC. We were cutting the corner for home like horses returning to the barn, deviating from our original published course, which included two stops after Calgary in Vernon and Mission, BC.

As we slid onto the beach, our good friends Fred and Dawn Hamilton of High Arctic Lodge were pulling their Beaver C-GSUE out of the water and across the highway to the Penticton airport for the winter. Fred had quite coincidentally, just moments before our arrival, returned from his season at Cambridge Bay. We joked that poor Fred had been flying across Canada trying to avoid the two pesky Beavers from the US, but no matter where he went, from the 69th parallel of Cambridge Bay, to the 49th parallel of Penticton, he just couldn’t get away from us. It was a friendly reception on the beach under the hot BC sun.

With a mere three and a half hours of fresh fuel on board, and flight plans filed for two hours to Kenmore Air (KS60), we took off in formation for our final leg, turning an early crosswind to avoid one of the many fire bombers based in Penticton. She was taking off on another run to douse a forest fire in this scorched country. The skies were also a-buzz with helicopters, tethering water buckets replenished in Skaha Lake and zipping off towards ribbons of rising smoke emerging out of nearby deep canyons. What a contrast to our Arctic ports of call!

Another slow climb ensued and the last vestiges of this mountainous region of Southern BC passed by under the EDO’s. (The floats on the Beaver.) As we crossed the 49th parallel into familiar US airspace, Doug and Mark shared some thoughts on the radio, mostly thanking each other for making such an adventure a reality. We recalled the high points of the Yukon, Bathhurst Inlet, landing at Resolute Lake, ice bergs, polar bears, the Maine Fly-in, Ottawa, and of course, our magical evening with the legends of De Havilland in Toronto. We also recalled some tough times such as the difficult leg to Resolute, the treacherous arrival at Baker Lake, the endless low pressure trough swirling around the 60th parallel, and the biting Arctic wind that somehow pierces the best windbreakers money can buy.

The real high point though for both of us has undoubtedly been the people: The wonderfully diverse cultures of Canada; The warm and generous Canadians in every corner of this amazing country that came out to greet and assist us when we needed it most; The RCMP officers that came to our aid in the Arctic villages; Our gracious hosts in Maine, Ottawa and Toronto; Our valued team members Tom F., Tom M., Jani, Dan S., Michael, Steve, Dick, Vince, Dan N., David, Lisa, Robbi, Norma, Rick, Doug N. and Brian, who supported us in so many ways, lifted our spirits from segment to segment with fresh team chemistry, brought in food and treats from home as well as good weather, did so much of the hard labor required to load and unload airplanes on windy beaches in driving rains, and set up the camps and got dinner going night after night; Our camera crew of Eric Thiermann and Jim Clark that willingly traded the comforts of a studio for the rigors of the Arctic to capture some amazing images of our adventure for a movie later. They are both consummate professionals, always ready with a smile and a laugh to lighten the sternest mood; The web subscribers that have faithfully followed our progress, sent us emails of encouragement, endured our occasional technological shortcomings, and flattered us with your genuine interest; Our support crew at home of David and Carol Good, Robbi Devries, Emmy Schoening, Carol Murphy and Brian Marquardt; And finally, our dear family and friends that encouraged us, tolerated our absences and financial excesses without complaint, and welcomed us back with open arms. Thank you all for making this trip possible.

We cleared the tall ridges of the North Cascades and started the long high speed slide (if you call 130 mph “high speed”) from altitude to avoid the floor of the Seattle Class B Airspace. Doug remarked that we didn’t have to fly far from home to witness some of the finest scenery in North America, a subject on which we are now experts. As the North end of Lake Washington came into view, we couldn’t resist a low pass over Kenmore and Arrowhead Point on approach. We had to readjust our approach path for the many boaters out enjoying a perfect September afternoon. Boats? Now there’s something we haven’t had to deal with in a while!

As we pulled into the familiar Kenmore Air dock to clear customs, we couldn’t help noticing a small gathering of friends and family there to welcome us home. After customs, long awaited hugs and handshakes were exchanged on the dock. Thanks to friends Van and Eve Van Rennes, Matt Mostad with Cooper and Cos, as well as Phyllis and Ken Smith for taking time out to come down and greet us. Also on the dock were Robbi and Doug’s mom, Mary Lou, with Mark’s wife Emmy and son, Brian. Greg Munro, Director of Operations for Kenmore Air, and Todd Banks, the GM, offered congratulations.

Then it was back to Doug’s house for a neighborhood reception graciously hosted by Robbi. Mark and son Brian jumped off N2SF to cool off. Mark’s two year old niece, Ava, not recognizing her bearded uncle asked “Where’s Uncle Mark?” Our thanks go to our neighbors that joined to make it a special homecoming for all of us. It was a wonderful finale to our Great Arctic Air Adventure.

Tonight’s shout out goes once again to our hosts at the Toronto Aerospace Museum, with some corrections for Episode 40. The Board members in attendance were Ken Swartz, Lyle Abbott and Robert Cohen, the Marketing Chair. Not only did we miss Wayne Barrett’s name, referring to him as “Dwayne”, but we neglected to mention that he is the Chairman of the Museum. It turns out, that Wayne personally sponsored the dinner. Wayne, please do not let the fact that we missed your name interfere with the warm regards we have towards you, and our debt of gratitude to you for making this once-in-a-lifetime event possible for us! We will always remember. Thank you, Ken, for pointing out the errors.

Evening has now settled on the Arrowhead Point community. A full moon rises over Lake Washington, with its ribbon of light sparkling on the calm waters of twilight. They glisten off the wing tops of N2SF, parked at the head of the dock still loaded with freeze-dried food and GAAA gear, a job for tomorrow. Could it possibly be the same Canadian moon that caused the peaks of the Yukon to glow? Could it possibly be the same Canadian moon that electrified the ice bergs off Resolute Bay with their florescent light? Or the same Canadian moon that woke up the coyotes of Saskatchewan and Alberta?

We’ve indeed come full circle.

Part II: Episode 45: Reflections on The Last Imaginary Place (Doug)

On Day 45, the last day of our arctic odyssey, our flight took us across both the Canadian Rockies and the North Cascade mountain ranges. The jagged peaks and icy glaciers provided by any measure some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. Oddly, as this dramatic panorama unfolded below, we were delighted, yet not moved as we were by the relatively drab arctic tundra. The gorgeous beauty of our home turf was a familiar and welcome site, but our lack of awe and wonder started me musing about the allure of exotic places.

The need for change and variation is a basic human need, though it often goes unrecognized and as a result unmet as our lives unfold. How many times have we seen the careers of our fellows begin as a passion, transition to a responsibility, and ultimately end up as a burden? For me, our travels through the arctic, though at times harsh and unforgiving, satisfied that need for change, as it was a land of unknown people and places.

In the book, The Last Imaginary Place, Robert McGhee opens with a discussion of why the arctic so effectively captures our imagination. Historically, we as humans tend to fill in the gaps of our knowledge with assumed truths or myths. The sun was a God that must be appeased, and the earth was a flat plate that dropped off into an abyss at the edges. As both travel and knowledge increased, the myths were replaced by scientific explanations, but not without a cost. The allure of the unknown is a powerful force and makes for a great story, and so it is today that we still enjoy a good yarn about the latest Sasquatch sighting, or the origin of crop circles.

The arctic is still a relatively inaccessible place – you really can’t book a “Pleasant Arctic Holiday” cruise through your local travel agent. Nunavut, the largest Canadian arctic territory, encompasses 750,000 square miles, yet has a total population of less than 30,000 people, making it one of the least populated places on earth. This is a place beyond the end of the road, a land that does not support the basics of food production such as farming or ranching. Wood, still the most commonly used building material of our society, is non-existent in the arctic. Visitors must adapt – the arctic is unyielding and unforgiving.

Our time machine, the venerable de Havilland Beaver seaplane, provided unique access and insights to this unfamiliar place. By air, from our vantage high above the ground, we observed the “big picture”, a mosaic of lakes and rolling tundra, punctuated by the occasional esker rising from the plain. Upon landing, our craft became a boat, conveying us to the shores where we set up our nightly camps. Once on the tundra, we experienced the other arctic, an unexpected ecosystem teaming with life against seemingly impossible odds. A curious ferret popping up from the tundra like a jack-in-the-box, a pair of sik-siks scolding the intruders, a curious caribou wandering by to gawk at the visitors who dropped in from the sky, a pair of regal arctic swans floating in the distance, all part of a community of life thriving in an unlikely place.

I’m home now, and trying to re-integrate into my old life – a great one to be sure – but as I fumble with the now-confusing digital remote control, or inch along the traffic jam on highway 405, my mind returns to the arctic, the last imaginary place.

Hmmm, we still have that unused fuel sitting up there in Eureka…

From N47d.44m.12s., W122d.15m.59s.,

With warm regards and our heartfelt thanks for your support,

The GAAA Team

PS: What’s Next?

Over the next few weeks, Mark and Doug will be reviewing the video footage with videographers Jim and Eric, devising a plan to bring this amazing adventure to life in the form of a film. We plan to update on our activities around the first of each month, through both the email list and the BLOG, so check back often for new info on our progress.

Episode 44: Trading Places

Doug 5 Comments

From August 3 through September 8 our family vicariously lived the adventure of the GAAA team from the comfort of our home computer. One of our rituals was to check the web site first thing each morning, and continue checking until we were greeted with a recap of the most recent day’s adventure. We found ourselves buying maps and checking web sites to gain more information about locations and the people the team was visiting. We found ourselves cheering them on upon touchdown after a challenging flight or when a milestone was reached. We lived their successes and their challenges.

This all changed September 8 when I flew to Toronto with Doug Nelson to meet the team on the final leg. We would soon be joined by Brian Marquardt and Jim Clark to add support for Mark Schoening and Doug DeVries.

Have you ever become so fascinated with a movie that you wanted to magically slide yourself into the role of one of the characters and the action? As the two Beavers piloted by Mark and Doug and the team on the 5th leg of the adventure pulled up the ramp at Toronto Island on the 8th, the transformation for me began.

Each day has left me with such an appreciation for the opportunity to be able to participate in an event such as this. Today after leaving a lake just outside of Moose Jaw , Saskatchewan , we flew over the breadbasket of Canada , the plains of Saskatchewan and Alberta . Our destination was Eagle Lake , 30 miles east of Calgary , Alberta . What a reception we received upon arrival. Leslie Pringle, the proprietor of Eagle Lake Resort in Strathmore, hosted the team for the evening. Taking time from his family to help the team with a critical fuel delivery at Eagle Lake was Ralph Tiede (thanks also to his wife Joan). Realizing the team’s morale might be in need of a boost after the team had spent an hour or so “schlepping” our gear to our campsite for the night, Dorothy and Bill Werbowski were kind enough to treat the team to some very well received refreshments. Thanks, eh!

Does this movie have a happy ending? With so much good will, kind thoughts, and support from wonderful folks on both sides of the border, it can’t miss.

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for; The questions for GAAA Jeopardy!

How many fuel stops has the GAAA made as of September 12th?
Who is the RCMP Detachment Commander in Baker Lake , Nunavut ?
Who is Dan’s college buddy from Houston , TX that joined the GAAA on Segment 1? Or, who caught the biggest trout on the GAAA trip?
In what month and year did the first Beaver fly off the runway at Downsview? Who was the test pilot that flew the first flight? (Did you know that due to an oil pressure problem, the first landing in the Beaver was an engine out, dead stick landing? Way to go Russ Bannock?)
How many Beavers did DeHavilland of Canada manufacture?
What items have fallen overboard along the route of the GAAA?
What items has the GAAA Team dropped into fuel tanks while re-fueling?
What item is still inside a tip tank on N2SF?
How many drums of fuel does the GAAA Team have cached at Eureka at the 79th parallel? Or, how many drums of fuel did the GAAA Team cache at Resolute at the 74th parallel?
In which town did the GAAA Team stop for a seaplane fly-in?

Shout outs tonight:
Pure bred American Eskimo dogs, Nikita and Dakota. Thanks for stopping by.

Thanks to Cynthia, Leslie and Eli for the great campfire. Thanks Betty for the fire wood.

From Eagle Lake , Alberta ,

The GAAA Team

Episode 43: Groovin in Moose Jaw

Doug No Comments

For us, this trip through the great white north has at times tested our skills, tried our patience, and questioned our resolve. This Great Arctic Air Adventure is fascinating to us in part because our experiences are so different from our every day lives. Our concerns center around keeping the planes well fed, finding a good campsite, and marveling at the every changing panorama below us. We also stress over more important issues, such as how to wash our socks, clip our nose hairs, and how to offload certain bodily solid wastes while floating in the middle of the lake.

But for our Canadian hosts, most of this is a part of everyday life, and they seem to dismiss the vicissitudes of northern life with gross understatements such as describing a 40 knot wind as “a bit of a blow, eh?”

Of all the sterling characteristics of our northern neighbors, perhaps the most endearing is their ability come with cool names for their cities and villages. For example, in the U.S. we have places like Juanita Bay , which tells me nothing about the place. Contrast this with our fuel stop yesterday at Thunder Bay , which conjures up visions of a fierce and untamed place. In fact, the Canadian Water Aerodrome Supplement, a book which has taken on biblical significance for the GAAA team, describes the place as having “strong gusty winds and large ocean swells”. A place well named.

Tonight, we are camped about twenty miles north of Moose Jaw . Now I am not exactly sure how they came up with this descriptive epithet but it just kind of sums up the place. I guess they could have named it Mouse Femur, but it just wouldn’t have captured the essence of the place.

After flying some nine thousand miles over the last six weeks, perhaps Mark and Doug have become a bit complacent about our flying. Our landing here at Buffalo Pound Lake (I rest my case re the name thing) jerked us back to the reality of flying seaplanes into new places. Doug managed to log four touch downs with a single approach, while Mark demonstrated some rather unique docking strategies, including a rather interesting maneuver where the plane is docked rudders first. The dock, intended for boats, had several strategically placed steel poles that appear to have been designed to prevent the occasional rogue seaplane from docking here. Not to worry, the GAAA team successfully evaded these hazards and made it to the dock, where the birds are roosted for the night.

Anyway, after entertaining the local boaters with these antics, we got the planes tied and packed our gear up to a very cool Provincial Park , where we set up camp. As we speak, we are probably violating several regulations by tying up our planes at a boat dock and camping in a closed park, but so far we have not been arrested and hopefully we will be out of here before our presence causes an international incident.

Our shout-outs tonight go to local Moose Jawer’s Liam, Tristan, Quinlan, and Kaden, some great kids with a love of airplanes. Also many thanks to Bill Nyman for hauling a couple of hundred gallons of avgas out to us here at Buffalo Pound Lake . Thanks Bill, you’re the best.

From Brian, love you tons Mama and Papa, and looking forward to seeing you soon.

The GAAA Team

From N50d 35.7m, W105d 24.7m

P.S. The “questions” for the GAAA Jeopardy will be posted in tomorrow’s BLOG, Episode 44.

Episode 41 & 42: Over Ontario

Doug No Comments

Lift off from Anjigami Lake was followed by a pleasant ride in light chop past Wawa and Marathon , Ontario along the north shore of the expansive Lake Superior under gray skies and deteriorating weather. By the time we made Back Bay, we were on the deck in the scud making 180 degree turns. We touched down in a small bay on the lee side of Granite Point (N48d.42.2m, W88d.32m) for lunch.

We passed the time fishing in the hard Great Lakes rain, playing 20 questions, and calling flight service on the phone. After several hours, armed with a good report from Thunder Bay , we finally lifted off and followed the highway into town. We settled the floats down inside the breakwater (needed to protect the harbour from the huge swells that rise up out of Lake Superior during the stormy season) an hour before dark.

Thunder Bay is obviously a busy seaplane base with a couple of dozen airplanes based there. It also sports two very nice docks, a ramp and modern hanger. As it was late in the day, things were pretty well buttoned up, so we tied down the Beavers for the night.

This morning we started our search for fuel in the right spot, the office of Alan Cheeseman, President and Owner of Wilderness North, the premier fly-in fishing and eco-adventure operator in Canada . Wilderness North offers first class wilderness fly-in camps, serviced by their own fleet of single turbine Otters and of course, a Beaver. Alan also provides special opportunities for disabled war vets through a program called Project Healing Waters. Volunteers from the US fly disabled vets from the Iraq war up to Thunder Bay , and Wilderness North flies them in and teaches them how to fly fish. (Google “Project Healing Waters”.)

Alan also sponsored a post 9/11 good will flight in a single turbine Otter across the US , symbolically delivering firemen’s helmets from FD’s in Canada to FD’s in the US . He was invited to climb down the ladder at Ground Zero and place the Canadian flag there on behalf of his country. Alan is another warm hearted Canadian whose path has crossed ours along the route of this great adventure. If you would like to join Alan in his good works, or join him for an adventure of your own, we encourage you to contact him at or visit Thanks also to Evan for his help on the dock. Good luck on your moose hunt.

As the fog burned off, we climbed out of Thunder Bay for a magical flight over the Lake of the Woods region of Western Ontario . We flew over literally thousands of lakes and colorful fall foliage before making an early camp on a deep blue lake. A walleye fishing tournament broke out with no fewer than a dozen of the pesky critters caught and released. Doug Nelson also landed a trophy pike that weighed no less than 15 pounds.

Who wants to play GAAA Jeopardy? Email the questions for the following answers to our webmaster David Good in the next 48 hours and win a GAAA hat for the most correct questions. (In the event of a tie, prizes are limited to the first 10 winning participants.) The correct questions will be included in the blog for Episode 43. Hint: Many answers may be found in previous blogs.

1. 27 stops as of September 12.

2. Corporal Cam Lockwood.

3. Michael Putterman

4. August of 1947, Russ Bannock.

5. 1692 (Beaver trivia.)

6. 2 float pumps

1 chart

1 lense cover

1 pair of waders

1 computer

1 cellphone

1 cute blonde

1 baggage cart

2 jerry can spouts

1 folding chair

7. 2 jerry can spouts.

8. 1 jerry can spout.

9. 8 drums of fuel cached.

10. Greenville , ME.

Have fun!

Tonight’s shout outs:

Congratulations Chris Wilsey on making the South Bethlehem HS varsity soccer team, and David Wilsey on making the JV as a freshman. Great work guys!

Pop is sending special hugs to Coopie, Cos, Patter Whack, Sasha and Lucas.

Keep up the good work to the LAPD.

Butch sends his love to Bunny.

Jeez Nels!

We just keep on truckin’! Tomorrow we start across the prairie.

GAAA from N49d58.46m, W94d.58.86m es 41

Episode 40: The Best of the Best

Doug 2 Comments

Last night we attended a dinner in our honor hosted and sponsored by Wayne Barrett, Chairman of the Toronto Aerospace Museum. We said a few words about the trip and Jim Clark showed some video and stills. It’s fair to say that we were overwhelmed by the event. In attendance were our new friends; Russ Bannock, an RCAF war hero, former President of DeHavilland of Canada, and the first man to fly the Beaver, George Neal, long time DeHavilland test pilot who did most of the certification flights on the Beaver and the first man to fly the Otter, Fred Hotson, a former DeHavilland test pilot, aviation historian and author, Bob Fowler, long time test pilot and the first man to fly the Twin Otter, Buffalo, Turbo Beaver, Dash 7 and Dash 8, Tom Appleton, a former DeHavilland test pilot and executive, Ross Lennox, a heroic RCAF C-47 pilot in Europe and Pratt & Whitney test pilot that helped with the development of the original PT-6, Larry Milberry, a widely published aviation historian and author, Lance Kessler, 30 year Bombardier employee and Toronto Aerospace Museum Board Member, Paul Cabot, Manager and Curator of the museum, Lyle Abbot, a fund raiser for the museum, and of course, our gracious hosts, included Board members Ken Swartz, and Robert Cohen the Marketing Chair.

Well if a couple of Beaver pilots from Kenmore can’t find something to talk about with this crowd, they’re just not trying. It was like a dream come true for me, to be surrounded by all these accomplished men, all these aviation pioneers, all these heroes, all this history. But the evening was made extraordinary not just by the presence of these men, but by the fact that to a man, they are all really great guys! All were articulate, engaging, genuinely interested in our trip, asking questions about our Beavers, and willing to share stories and information about their careers. All seemed aware of their place in history, but only in a most humble way. The hours sped by as all members of the GAAA Team tried to properly absorb this once-in-lifetime event, our only regret being that we didn’t have time to talk at length with everyone. How can we ever properly thank Ken Swartz, the Board of Directors, Russ Bannock and the rest of these special men for such an amazing evening?

The Toronto Aerospace Museum is located in one of the original DeHavilland hangers (where the first Beaver was built) at the Downsview Airport . The location is rich in Canadian aviation history, but the Board faces some tough challenges to retain the site. We implore anyone interested in preserving the rich legacy of the Beaver and the DeHavilland Aircraft Company to contact Manager and Curator Paul Cabot at 416.638.6078 or and ask how you can help. For more information, see .

Yesterday we said goodbye to Dr. Dan Noble who has been with us since Resolute on August 23rd, which seems so long ago. Thank you, Dan, for all of your cheerfulness and steadiness in some of the toughest times. On the next trip you will be sitting in the left seat!

In the morning we said goodbye to the two blondes, Robbie and Norma. Thank you both for all of your contributions, and for bringing us more good weather. At every meal we think of Robbie’s tireless efforts to procure all of our food and coordinate our food drops. You’ve both added so much and we will miss you.

This morning, Ken, Russ and Sheldon Benner came out to see us off at Toronto City Centre Seaplane Base, Russ with last minute routing advice and Sheldon and Ken for a few more photos. After lift off, we banked north bound for Sault Ste. Marie in fair skies and light bumps. We enjoyed lazily following the jagged cliffs of the Niagra Escarpment on the east coast of the Bruce Peninsula . Don at Air Dale in Sault Ste. Marie made fueling easy. A comfortable camp was found and we gently splashed down and started dinner, initiating our new team of Brian, Rick, Doug N. and Jim to camp life. A gorgeous sunset ensued, followed by a half moon rise. It is great to be back on the trail again.

From the shores of Lake Anjigami ,

N47d.49.2m, W84d.37.4m.

The GAAA Team

Episode 39 – Toronto, Part 1: Mecca for Beaver Lovers

Doug 3 Comments

As a pilot, I’ve often wondered what it takes to earn a really cool “handle” like the guys in the1986 movie Top Gun, who went by Maverick, Iceman and Goose. See, I’m originally from California, where what you do is way less cool then how you look and sound while you’re doing it. I mean, come on, if Major Boyington of the Black Sheep Squadron had gone by Gregory instead of “Pappy”, would his legacy have entertained us all in the TV series Baa Baa Black Sheep? If a beagle had shot down Manfred von Richthofen, instead of Snoopy shooting down “The Bloody Red Baron”, would the song have become a top 40 hit? I think not.

So it was with no little curiosity that we today met Russ “Buzz” Bannock, the first pilot to fly the legendary Beaver, hoping that he could unlock the mystery of how to procure a cool moniker. At the age of 88, Buzz has not lost a step, and in his articulate yet humble manner enthralled us as he told the story of a life well lived. Born in the northern city of Edmonton in 1919, by 1940 he had received his pilot’s wings in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After serving as an Instructor and Ferry Pilot, Bannock was transferred to RCAF Squadron No. 418, flying intruder missions over Europe with the de Havilland Mosquito Mk VI fighter-bomber. By April 1945, Bannock had destroyed 11 enemy aircraft, damaged 4 more, and destroyed 19 V-1 buzz bombs, leading to the award of the Distinguished Service Order. In 1945, Bannock became Director of Operations, RCAF Overseas Headquarters.

“Buzz” joined de Havilland in 1946, and in 1947 flew the Beaver prototype for the first time. The initial flight went well, until he noticed that the oil pressure had dropped to zero, precipitating a successful “dead stick” landing on the first flight. Not to worry – a quick check revealed an improperly installed valve, and flight testing continued that afternoon.

Note to Doug and Mark: maybe this pilot nickname thing takes a little more “go” then “show”. Hmmm…, I wonder if the USAF is looking for a couple of middle-aged pilots with poor eyesight, slow reflexes, and a little experience bouncing seaplanes though the Arctic.

We spent a good part of the morning touring the hallowed grounds at Downsview, where the first Beavers were built. The original building is still standing, and now houses the Toronto Aerospace Museum. As we walked through this part of aviation history, we could almost hear the sound of the rivet guns popping as the first Beaver was put together in a matter of months. Odd, how back then, without computer aided design, enterprise management software, and the vast resources of the internet, they were able to accomplish in a matter of months what now takes years. When queried about this, Russ opined that in the wake of the huge production rates during the war, the future of de Havilland Canada was anything but assured as they faced the uncertainty of post-war civilian production. This situation focused the talented team to produce a great plane in a very short period of time as a matter of economic survival.

In the afternoon, we were treated to a tour of the Bombardier plant by Mr. Lance Kessler. Bombardier, the successor to de Havilland Canada, continues the legacy by building some of the world’s most respected aircraft, including the popular Dash 8 turboprop, CRJ regional jet, and the Global Express, luxury yacht of the skies. Over the last fifty years, the planes have become bigger, faster, and more comfortable, but common elements still remain from the days of yore. In the final analysis, the 100 MPH Beaver and the 600 MPH Global Express are both constructed from aluminum wings, fuselages, and stabilizers, all held together by thousands of hand driven rivets. Rosie-the-Riveter lives on at Bombardier Aerospace.

The good folks here in Toronto have been very supportive of our little adventure, as underscored by the articles published in The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, replete with pictures of us landing in Toronto Harbor. Does this recognition count towards the cool nickname thing?

Our shout-outs today go to Paul Cabot from the Toronto Aerospace Museum for opening up his fine museum, Ken Swartz for putting this whole thing together, and Lance Kessler for an insightful tour of the Bombardier Aerospace Facility.

Much more to tell, but we’ll wrap it up in tomorrow night’s BLOG – Toronto Part II.

Doug & the GAAA Team

Episode 38: Rock stars?

Doug 4 Comments

When you plan an undertaking such as The Great Arctic Air Adventure, you try to imagine every possible scenario that may play out, and then try to prepare as best you can for the unexpected. I must say that thanks in large part to Doug’s excellent foresight and attention to detail, our contingency plans have adequately addressed most situations.

So what are the surprises on this adventure? For me, the biggest surprise has been the warm and enthusiastic welcomes extended to us by virtually all that we have met along the way. From outfitters in the Yukon and air taxi operators in the Northwest Territories, to villagers and RCMP Constables in Nunavut, from base managers in Labrador and Beaver pilots in Quebec, to Fly-in organizers in Maine and museum curators in Ottawa, we have been greeted and treated, entertained and transported. It is gratifying and encouraging to hear from people all across Canada and the US who write in on our blog, or to meet those that have been following our progress, or to meet those that know nothing of our adventure but still offer a friendly welcome. While headwinds and foul weather wear us out, warm smiles, kind words, and helping hands have energized us.

Today was no exception. It started with perhaps the most knowledgeable man on the planet when it comes to the whereabouts of the flying Beaver fleet, Neil Aird. (See Neil is a retired jeweler from Kingston, Ontario who has been a Beaver fan all his life. He has traveled around the world tracking down the location and history of most of the Beavers still in service. Beaver owners and historians are constantly updating his website with photographs and information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from every corner of the globe. Neil got up early to make the three hour drive to the Rockcliff Seaplane Base to talk with us and see us off. Neil is a gracious and fascinating man. We encourage anyone with even a passing interest in the legendary plane to check out his website or contact him. Thank you, Neil for making the drive. Meeting you was a great thrill for both of us.

After the short hop to Constance Lake SPB (CNQ5 for Steve and the MS FlightSim guys… wind, 18d. C, glassy water) we were met by the co-proprietor of The Constance Lake Lodge, Silvia Haddad ( This beautiful quiet lake, located just a few miles from downtown Ottawa offers excellent bass and pike fishing. Silvia has clean cabins and a fine restaurant. She provided us 100 low lead and fresh coffee. We enjoyed talking to her daughter, Brigette (a seaplane pilot now living in Portland, OR) along with articulate and inquisitive 4 year old Chloe. Thank you all for the hospitality.

En route to Toronto, we flew over the famed Thousand Islands Region of the St. Lawrence River. This amazing stretch of the river dotted with over a thousand islands (we didn’t count) between Ontario and the State of New York features an island community of sprawling estates and 200 year old castles accessible only by boat or seaplane. It was an enjoyable and relaxing flight up the St. Lawrence to the wide open waters of Lake Ontario, our first of the Great Lakes. The leg was prolonged by the ever present headwinds, with ground speeds averaging around 75 knots. (For those of you keeping track, we have only flown THREE legs with a tail wind. Our last segment will be against the prevailing westerlies. How does that happen? The Arctic can be cruel.)

As we approached the Toronto City Centre Seaplane Base (CPZ9: Winds 220 @ 14 gusts 19 with rollers and confused seas due to boat wakes……perfect.) things began to pick up. At 10 miles out as Toronto Terminal Control handed us off to the Toronto City Centre Tower controller, a CTV news helicopter requested permission to fly in formation with us to the harbour. As we circled to land, he broke off to hover low above the bay to capture our landing with the spectacular backdrop of the towering Toronto skyline right there. It was a difficult landing with all the boats in the harbour and gusty winds. We apologize to the photographers in the police boat who were unable to get the pictures they wanted. It simply was not safe to land in that area. Thank you to the Toronto Harbour Police for making their boat available.

As we taxied in to the seaplane base, the ground controller asked if we were rock stars with the TV helicopter escort and all. One is not sure how to respond. Having a TV helicopter record your landing, similar to having a black car meet you at the dock, or having an RCMP Constable waiting for you on the beach, could be a good thing, or it could be a bad thing. One’s mind begins to race. What Transport Canada Regulation did I violate? Did we forget to pay a fuel bill someplace? We knew that our friend, Kenneth Swartz of the Toronto Aerospace Museum was trying to line up some press to meet us, but we didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately, it was another warm reception.

With Paul of the TransCapital FBO directing, Doug made one of the finest rampings I’ve seen in 67DN. Thank you Paul for all of your efforts to get the two Beavers secure.

Hopping down on the ramp we were happily reunited with cameraman, Jim Clark, who hasn’t shaved his beard since his escape from stormy Coral Harbour. We also welcomed new team members Rick Anthony and Doug Nelson, bearing gifts from home in Kenmore. We said a hasty good bye to our phenomenal film maker Eric Thiermann, who scrambled off to the airport. He’s flying to NYC to video a “fashion show” for HP. What a glamorous life! Thank you Eric, for all of your extraordinary efforts on our behalf. We’ve really enjoyed working with you and look forward to the next step.

Right there on the tarmac, we had a delightful conversation with Kate Hammer, a reporter with the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. Several photographers were also on hand.

But the special treat was the company of Sheldon Benner of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society and Ross Lennox. Sheldon was an engineer for DeHavilland in the 60’s, and worked on some of the later Beaver mods and the Caribou landing gear. Ross is a retired Pratt & Whitney engineer and chief test pilot that worked on the original design of the PT-6, another legendary product. We were honored by the presence of these men who have been a part of Canada’s rich aviation history, and thanked them for their great contributions. Thanks also to Kenneth for organizing yet another warm reception on the trail of the Great Arctic Air Adventure.

Tonight’s shout outs:

Congratulations Dan S. on your first of many collegiate goals, and to Michael P. and Julie F. for helping to empower.

Thanks to blind daters Mike C. and Chantel H. who stopped by to say hi. I hope you guys had a good time.

Thanks to Eric Cantin of TransCapital for your patience and the ride. Good luck on YOUR adventure to be a bush pilot. We expect to see you soon piloting your own Beaver.

And many thanks to Ron Driscoll of the Boston Globe for your kind words in your article of August 27th. Ron is a fine travel writer and long time Globe editor. (See Ron, give my love to Meg, Molly, Kathy and my running buddy the Springer……whose name escapes me way up here in Canada.

We have spoken of our GAAA Team. Referencing earlier comments about how encouraged and energized we’ve been throughout this odyssey by those of you who have followed along, those of you who have offered kind words of support in the blog, those of you who have greeted us, provided us food, shelter and of course fuel, those of you who have rescued us in the driving rain, or given a tour or shipped a box or written an article or fixed a float, from Associate Director General Stephen Quick to four year old Chloe, it occurs to me that you are all making this trip possible, and that you are all part of the GAAA Team. In some ways, this has become your adventure. Welcome aboard and thank you. We encourage you all to make this adventure your own, perhaps as a springboard for future adventures.

It’s late, but difficult to sleep. Tomorrow we will visit the hallowed ground in Downsview where the Beaver was manufactured. We will also meet two more legendary aviators, Russ Bannock, the first man to fly the Beaver, and George Neal, the first man to fly the Beaver on floats. Tonight is Christmas Eve.

Episode 37 – Celebrating Canadian Aviation in Ottawa

Doug No Comments

After a great night’s sleep in our warm soft beds here at our hotel in downtown Ottawa, we wandered down for a hot breakfast before being picked up for our day’s activities by our gracious hosts, John Longair, Katie Longair, and Dave O’Malley. First up was a stop at the Canada Aviation Museum, where Associate Director General Stephen Quick and Communications Manager Christina Lucas gave us a special showing through this national treasure of aviation history. The museum was actually temporarily closed for renovation, but Steve and Christina made a trip in on a Sunday for a special showing to the GAAA team.

During our visit, we also learned that our landing site here on the Ottawa River played host to some famous visitors in the past. In 1931, Charles and Anne Lindbergh were commissioned by Pan Am to conduct a survey flight to the Orient in an effort to find the fastest route from New York to Tokyo. Flying a highly modified Lockheed Sirius fitted out with floats, the Lindberghs departed on July 27, 1931 from Long Island, New York, and made their first stop here in Ottawa, landing and docking in the very spot were the GAAA team arrived yesterday. Interestingly, the Lindbergh’s next stop was Baker Lake, which you may remember as the place that created a bit of excitement for the GAAA crew a couple of weeks back. The Lindbergh’s evidently had an easier time, as Anne describes it as a “gray and drab” place. Or, perhaps a little wind and a few waves in Baker Lake were of little consequence to the man who had flown solo from New York to Paris. The Lindberghs successfully completed their trip to China, but, unfortunately, the Sirius was damaged while be hoisted aboard the British carrier Hermes.

While wandering through the vast collection of aircraft at the museum, we stumbled upon what is, in at least our biased opinion, the most significant aircraft in the collection. As we descended the stairs, there was a de Havilland Beaver CF-FHB. This was the prototype — the very first Beaver — built in 1947, and incredibly, was still being flown by a northern operator when purchased by the Museum in 1980. This excerpt, borrowed in part from the museum’s website says it all:

The Beaver was designed and built in response to the demands of Canadian bush operators. Almost without variation, the pilots asked for tremendous extra power and short take-off-and-landing (STOL) performance in a design that could be easily fitted with wheels, skis, or floats. When de Havilland engineers noted that this would result in poor cruise performance, one pilot replied “You only have to be faster than a dog sled”. With its all-metal construction, high-lift wing, and flap configuration, the Beaver was a robust aircraft with excellent capability even with heavy loads.

The Beaver was such a success that more were built than any other aircraft designed and manufactured in Canada. In 1951 it won both the US Air Force and US Army competitions for a utility aircraft. Many were used in Korea, where it was known as the “general’s jeep”.

The GAAA team would like to thank our hosts Christina and Stephen for showing the GAAA team through the Canada Aviation Museum, a national tribute to the significant contributions that our good friends the Canadians have made to the world of aviation.

Next stop was Vintage Wings of Canada, an amazing collection of aircraft where our hosts John, Katie, and Dave serve as volunteers. This collection is composed of all flying aircraft, and covers the range from a de-Havilland Tiger Moth to a Supermarine Spitfire. And of course, the collection includes an outstanding de Havilland Beaver, proving that the folks at Vintage Wings really got it right.

With that, our hosts dropped us back at our warm and cozy hotel where the GAAA crew worked on arrangements for our flight into Toronto tomorrow, the birthplace of the Beaver. But that is a story for another day.

Thanks again, John, Katie, and Dave for making our time here in Ottawa a memorable one.

Doug and the GAAA Team

Still at N45 27 49 W75 38 45

« Previous Entries