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 paulcabot.tam@bellnet.ca and ask how you can help. For more information, see www.torontoaerospacemuseum.com .

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

Notes from your webmaster…

Dave No Comments

Now that I am back from traveling with the GAAA on the legs from Resolute to Goose Bay…the website is getting some new attention. A big “Thank You” to my wife Carol for keeping the Blog going in my absence.

New pictures have been posted on the main page and a new slide show, Series 11, can be found in the Picture Library. The Interactive Map page has been updated; be sure to zoom in closely on the “campfires” and change to satellite mode, you will be able to see some fairly precise details of where the team stopped. Clicking on the “campfires” or “current position” markers will take you to the Blog from that location.



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 DHC-2.com.) 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…..no wind, 18d. C, glassy water) we were met by the co-proprietor of The Constance Lake Lodge, Silvia Haddad (www.constancelake.com). 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 bostonglobe.com) 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

Episode 36: On to Ottawa

Robbi 1 Comment

As I rolled over in my warm and toasty sleeping bag, I became aware of a low roaring…. Doug! What is that noise?? I kept expecting to hear the full blown airplane start up, as had happened about 6:00 am the morning before. You see, we were camped out next to the taxiway at the Greenville Airport…a veritable tent city, complete with a cacophony of snoring,coupled with the sounds of civilization- what a change from the absolute quiet and solitude of sleeping on the beach of a remote lake in Canada just 24 hours before. Then came a screech of wheels and a clank of a car door. “Coffee anyone?” asked the now familiar voice of our “Maine” man, our shuttle driver, Michel. It was 6:45 am and within 45 minutes, we had dressed and packed up our tents, sleeping bags, and camera gear and loaded them into the extra large van and headed off through the misty morning toward town and …food! We wouldn’t be taking off too soon, if the fog didn’t lift.

The site of our previous morning’s delicious repast, Auntie M’s, was too crowded this morning, so Michele whisked us off for a lovely drive through this charming town to The Landing, a quaint spot on the west shore. Once satiated, with the fog still too low to depart, the ladies passed the time by visiting the craft fair, which seemed to have magically appeared since yesterday, while the guys spent more time on the phone getting weather reports and re-setting customs rendezvous times. The town was a-buzz with seaplane lovers of all ages and after some announcements , our pilots Doug and Mark waxed eloquent, while interviewed about the GAAA adventure on the announcer’s stand.

By now, it was 11:00 and the much ballyhooed seaplane/canoes races were about to begin. Now, I must admit, I wasn’t too disappointed about our departure delay, as I was quite curious about this local competition. It went like this: There were teams of 2, a seaplane (The first up was a Cessna 185) and a canoeist. Timing began as they both set out from the dock; the roar of the Cessna engine as it drug the heavy craft through the water, a juxtaposition to the quiet swiftness of the canoe, both pressing toward the small dock anchored in the middle of the lake. Once there, the pilot jumped out and helped the canoeist strap the canoe onto the float, both jumped back into the plane, roared toward the next buoy, cut the engine to idle, did a 180 around the buoy, put in full power and raced back toward the dock . They must then dock the plane and take the canoe off the float, before the timing was complete. The time for the first team was 3 minutes, 19 seconds! Whew! …the tension…!!!

Unfortunately, our schedule calling, we had to depart before watching the other contestants. We departed to the south in formation, banked to the right and did a 180 ourselves, to do a low pass over the crowd in thanks for their great hospitality. What a great town! What genuine and gracious people! This is one place we all hope to return…soon.

It was Norma’s turn to fly right seat, so I sat behind Doug with the lens of the Nikon against the window. Incredibly, the trees are turning to autumn colors in this latitude and had changed dramatically since our passage through , just 2 days ago.. The forested hills became rolling plains of farmland, and as I snapped continuously the many hues and textures which sped beneath me, I pondered my great fortune at being able to experience what relatively few will ever see and how lucky I am to be able to share a part of this adventure with my partner and my best friend. Ah, what an incredible way to see this beautiful country!

We crossed back into Canada and around 2:30, where we reached the point of our customs clearing on the Richelieu River, just north of Lake Champlain, where Quebec meets the States of New York and Vermont. We landed on the water and spotted the flying Canadian flag, as we watched several sailboats jockeying for position around the dock. Like well-trained Americans, we taxied into the que, this, apparently, being a foreign idea to several of the boaters. At length, as we drifted a few hundred yards away, Mark “nosed” his Beaver in to the bulkhead, there being no seaplane friendly dock, and customs was cleared without much effort. So little effort in fact, that I was not given my bio-break as promised…. Desperation breeds creativity and … well…I promise to wash your water bottle really well, Jim!

Another hour of flying,and we crossed the St. Lawrence River and winged our way up the Ottawa River where we were met at the dock by our hosts for the next 36 hours, Dave O’Malley and John Longair of the Vintage Wings of Canada Museum. Doug says one can never see too many aviation museums,,, tomorrow we’ll see two.

We’re staying in a nice hotel for the next few nights and trying to readjust to the social norms of civilization. For Norma and I, the transition is pretty easy. We’ve only been with the GAAA a week, for the guys, especially Mark and Doug a feeling of “I don’t quite belong here” seemed to ring universally true. I wonder how long it took Roald Amundsen or John Rae after being gone for months, years to feel “normal” again???? Maybe, after experiences like this, you never do….

From co-ordinates – N45 27 49 W75 38 45

Rockcliffe SPB, CTR7

Robbi-I-fell-off-the-float- DeVries

The shout-out goes to Rodney Folsom, the fuel-master back in Greenville, Maine,( pumps-yeah!) and to our friends and family –thanks for all your support!

Episode 35: Greetings from Greenville

Doug 3 Comments

After pushing hard for several weeks, the crew is relishing a deserved day off. Auntie M’s Diner in downtown Greenville provided a home cooked breakfast that was a welcomed break to the normal instant oatmeal fare. The prediction of rain and wind is not panning our for the Moosehead Lake Region, so lunch at the Black Frog was served outside on their floating Tiki Bar.

In the warming sun, we were constantly entertained by the never-ending barrage of low altitude fly-bys. What a great town this is! Cubs, Taylorcrafts, ultralights, Cessnas of all types and colors buzzing right down Main Street, all eyes upturned. But instead of folks running to the phone to call the local FAA office to report low flying aircraft, there is a reverence expressed by the onlookers, and an occasional “Oouu” or “Aaah”. It seems as if everyone in this town loves airplanes.

It got me to thinking about how many thousands and thousands of times I have watched an airplane take off or land or fly by; and yet when I hear that sound, I am impelled to turn my head and watch, regardless of what is going on in my life at that moment. In Greenville, Maine, there is no shame in it. People fly, drive, walk, or canoe to this beautiful little town on the south shore of Moosehead Lake in droves from all over the country to sit on the docks, or in lawn chairs, or on the tops of their RV’s, to watch airplanes. This is my kind of town.

The highlight perhaps, was multiple fly-bys by a 1954 Grumman Albatross operated by a delightful crew based out of Virginia. This behemoth flying boat sports a pair of giant Wright Cyclone R-1820 radial engines rated at 1500 hp each, emitting a roar not often heard in this day and age. All the diners at the Tiki Bar watched in awe as windows rattled and the ground shook.

Much of the day was spent down at the docks chatting with other attendees about our trip, seaplane flying and of course, the venerable Beaver. I especially enjoyed talking to young Sydney and Kyle Tilton with their parents Jeff and Cheri from Richmond, ME. Our friend, Mark Mathieson, head test pilot for Wipline Floats is here showing off the only float-equipped Kodiak Quest in the world. Mark took a tour and dreamed.

As we are headed back to Canada tomorrow, Doug and Mark spent the better part of the afternoon trying to arrange customs. You’d think it would not be so difficult.

This evening we were treated to a steak and lobster feast in Telford Allen’s hanger. Doug and Mark were asked to say a few words to the favorable crowd.

Many thanks to our generous hosts, the two Telford Allens, Darralyn Gauvin (thank you Darralyn for your help shipping our rafts!), air boss Tom, Mic, Peter, and John and the rest of the Greenville Fly-in Committee, who have extended to us a most warm welcome. We had a great day in Greenville.

Warmest regards,


Episode 34: Back in the USA

Doug No Comments

We departed Lac des Plaines seaplane base at Havre St Pierre with Captain-in-training Dan Noble flying left seat in Mark’s Beaver. Doug, unaware of the crew change in N2SF, received several curt “stand-by” responses from N2SF in response to the usual plane-to-plane banter. Evidently instructor Mark had informed trainee Dan of the three priorities of flying (in decreasing order of priority): aviate, navigate, and communicate. However, the relatively useless drivel that passes for communication between our planes has become a central part of the adventure. Having your wingman out there looking out for you and sharing your pain during the stressful times has become a key part of the experience, and when the radio goes quiet there is a sense of loss, of being a lone castaway abandoned in the expansive skies. So we were all happy when Captain Mark finished his training duties and resumed his role as our aviation talk show host.

Banking the Beavers to the south west, we spent some time exploring the unique stone sculptures of Mingin Islands National Park, all the while assuring the inquisitive CARS radio lady that we were maintaining the (ahem) requisite 1,000 feet AGL. Tiring of harassing the good folks of Havre St Pierre, we climbed to 4,500 feet to cross the Saint Lawrence Seaway via the Strait of Jacques-Cartier and the Strait of D’ Honguedo. For the GAAA’ers, flying at this altitude is equivalent to peering down from high-earth orbit, as we normally fly low enough to “smell the roses”. Up here, where normal aviators fly, we see the forest, but not the trees. We see the ancient game trails, but not the caribou or moose who travel them. In short, we are seeing the big picture, but missing the rich details below that have so connected us to the land on this journey. Not to worry – having crossed the strait, we descended to tree top level and were immediately rewarded by the sight of a big bull moose wading across a lake in search of a fresh feeding area. We are once again bound to the good earth.

Pressing on, we landed at Jackman Lake and taxied to the Moose River Seaplane Base to clear Customs, where we were talked through a rather dicey docking by fellow pilot and proprietor Steve Coleman. The procedure went something like this:

1. Land on Jackman Lake, into the wind and as close to the mouth of the Moose River outflow as possible.
2. Water taxi into the flowing river, being ever vigilant to hug the right bank and avoid the sharp rocks to the left.
3. Taxi past the dock, and move to the RH side of the river with right wing hanging over numerous obstructions including boats and small float planes.
4. Make a left180 degree turn against the current in a wide spot in the river that is really not wide enough to turn a Beaver. Tighten turn by raising water rudders midway through the turn, allowing the current to accelerate the turn. (A newly acquired skill for the GAAA pilots).
5. Brush shrubs on far side of river with right wing.
6. Pull plane into very small space on dock, careful not to hit N2SF ahead, or the boats behind with the tailplane.
7. Remove soiled undergarments and replace with a clean set, or the closest facsimile found aboard.

After clearing customs, we took off for our final destination of the day, the Greenville Seaplane splash-in, located on Moosehead Lake in Maine. After a formation flight over the docks, we set up for final approach and touched down at about 5:00 PM. While on approach, we noticed an upside down seaplane bobbing “floats up” in the water surrounded by several boats. Not to worry, we later learned that the ultralight seaplane flipped over when caught by an errant gust, but the pilot was safe and the craft was soon righted with little harm done.

We were immediately whisked away for a cruise and dinner on Moosehead Lake, sharing our stories of daring-do with fellow seaplane enthusiasts. Later, after setting up camp at the airport, we crawled into our cozy bags and reflected on the days events while listening to the occasional sweet sound of an arriving aircraft.

It was another Great Day for the GAAA.

Doug and the GAAA Team

N45 27.8 W 69 35.6

Episode 33: Labrador, Canada

Norma 6 Comments

The day started at 4:30 AM when I woke to the sounds of some bird life cooing outside my tent flap. I hurried to locate the creature with such a beautiful voice, but found nothing but sea fog covering the lake and sandy beach where we set the planes down last evening and spent the night. The fog will allow me a few more hours in this land of personal paradise.

Soon we all rallied to make a breakfast of pancakes and heated syrup, all with a little bit of sand mixed in for local texture. Soon the “Flat Jack Flipping Olympics” started with Dr. Dan from Lincoln Nebraska winning the gold. As he stepped up to the podium to receive his gold metal (a tent rope with a yellow tent stake attached), instead of the National Anthem we sang the following song written by Kim Schoening and family for the International Order of Arrowhead Point Pancake Flippers.

We are flippers of flapjacks.
We’re here to make a comeback.
We think that flipping is just grand.
We always make them pancakes,
We never make them sandcakes,
They always seem to hit the pan.
And when they slide to and fro
We know it’s time to flip them,
And o’er they go.
We never seem to miss, by crackie.

We have formed an order, that is known beyond the border, known as the IOAPF ( International Order of Arrowhead Point Pancake Flippers.)

Pick your own catchy little tune and enjoy this song.

We departed our private lake on the coast of Labrador around 10:00 a.m. to find our next fuel stop. A main activity of this Great Arctic Air Adventure is fueling up. These Beavers are very thirsty animals, taking about five 55 gallon drums of fuel at a stop. At $10.00 a gallon, you do the math.

Our first fuel stop of the day was at Forte’ Pond where we were met by Ronald Letto, owner of Strait Air who runs a charter business for moose hunters into Newfoundland. He was low on fuel as he was using most of his own fuel preparing for a big hunt. So many 5 gallon “Jerry Cans” later, we had enough fuel to get to the next fueling station. We want to say “Thanks” to Ron for the work of running to the airport and getting the fuel for us, plus his hospitality while we were there. Before leaving the GAAA crew topped off the morning with a few mishaps. One crew member slipped off the float and went into the lake… totally under. Now friends, it’s very cold water up here. Another crew member dropped one of her hip wader boats in the lake and it quickly went to the bottom and had to be retrieved. A couple jerry can lids and spouts flipped over board, and as we made our exit we lost a hat in the lake plus a very expensive lens cover from one of the movie cameras. Sometimes you just have those days.
Soon we were traveling over some of the most beautiful country, a land of millions of fantastic wooded lakes, not a soul for hundreds of miles. I started to realize how lucky I was to be a small part of this fantastic adventure. I was traveling over and setting down in lakes that most of the world will never have the chance to see, or even know they exist. This circumnavigation of Canada could have been done in wheel planes in a much shorter time, but you couldn’t touch down and have a picnic or camp at any lake you desire. This is the only way to travel and really see the landscape.

Our next fueling station was in Havre-St-Pierre Quebec, where Andre Jomphe and crew got us fueled up. Upon finishing, we set off to town for a fantastic seafood meal. Havre-St-Pierre is a French town -no english written or spoken here. A very interesting fishing town, it’s worth looking this one up.

The GAAA team thanks you for taking this trip with us. We only wish that someday you could be here too.

Wednesday Sept. 3rd Co-Pilot for N67DN signing off and shutting down, . 2300 hrs

Good night and stay healthy, Norma from the GAAA team.

A shout out to Stehekin and all our friends following this adventure.

N50 15.48
W63 33.02

Episode 32: New Views

Doug 5 Comments

For the crew of Lisa, Eric and Mark that was camping out, an early start brought a spectacular sunrise. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal mixed with granola and powdered milk, the tips tanks were topped off from jerry cans and 2SF broke water a bit after 9 AM Atlantic Time (we keep losing hours) from a pristine Labradoran lake. The short flight to Goose Bay was spent discussing great canoeing rivers in the west, with many good recommendations shared. The placid waters of Otter Creek were a welcome sight.

Freeman Poole, base manager for Air Labrador was on the dock to greet us along with one of the fine dock hands, Bush. Also on the dock was CBC Radio Goose Bay Bureau reporter Kate, with her microphone, recording the idling sound of the Beaver as it pulled up to the dock. Once Doug and the crew returned to the base, we had a pleasant chat with Kate, discussing our adventure for the benefit of listeners all across Labrador. I’m sure there is a way to access Kate’s feature on the trip, which we understand will air in the next couple of days, by logging onto the CBC website.

We had a nice chat with Warwick Pike, who, along with his brother Roger, are the proprietors of Air Labrador. Besides thanking Warwick for his hospitality at the base, we listened some of his stories about bush flying in Labrador during the last 40 years. It is interesting to note that while Air Labrador no longer operates Beavers, the company has a rich tradition spanning several decades of operating De Havilland aircraft. The current fleet is almost exclusively De Havillands (they operate ONE Caravan) including Dash 8’s and Twin Otters on wheels, skis and floats.

Freeman, Eric and Mark held a ceremony for Doug’s benefit. While we have been previously a bit disappointed at not attaining our goal of reaching the Magnetic North Pole, Freeman pointed out that the lake that 2SF camped at last night was named “North Pole Lake”. Well that was good enough for us, so we surprised Doug with a Santa hat, meant to be presented at the MNP.

Fueling went very quickly with the aid of dock hand Shane, and a fuel hose, an odd new contraption with which we have been unfamiliar for the past few weeks. Strangely and conveniently, it allows one to refuel an aircraft with out using a fuel drum, hand pump, jerry can, or pick-up truck. It is as if the fuel appears magically. We were all delighted at this new invention.

Subway sandwiches were purchased by the airport shuttle team of Dave and Norma, Robbie was met at baggage claim, and we all enjoyed a reunion and lunch on the dock as the temperature climbed to 85d. Hugs were exchanged as we said goodbye to David and Lisa. David has been such a key member of the team, who along with his wife, Carol, has kept our website fires burning. Lisa brought fun, hard work, and great weather to the team during her brief four days with us. She also brought Mark some needed family time. Thank you to David and Lisa. Until the next adventure, happy travels to you both.

Thank you also to Warwick, Freeman, Bush and Shane for their hospitality at Otter Creek.

Our departure in blustery winds brought new views. First of all, the addition of Robbie and Norma has once again energized our team with new team chemistry. Secondly, our 320 nautical mile sightseeing tour out to the Atlantic Ocean, down the coast and into Belle Strait at the mouth of the St Lawrence Seaway, revealed the amazing quilt works of rocky islands, shores and fishing villages that is the Labrador Coast. We had not seen such scenery prior to today. Seeing the Atlantic, and finally making the turn westbound on the one month anniversary of our departure from Lake Washington, caused us to reflect on the past four weeks and all that we have experienced. For fun, Doug brought up PAE on the GPS (the identifier for Paine Field in Everett, a few miles north of our hometown of Kenmore) and found that we have 2553 nautical miles to go, and two and a half weeks in which to do it. We have gone as far as we can go in this great land of Canada. Turning towards the setting sun and donning sunglasses, our little band of adventurers is finally heading home.

With fond thoughts to all our missed friends and family,

From our beach front campsite at N51d.38 W56d.52,

The GAAA Team

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