Ontario Bush Plane Trail
Canada holds a special place in my heart, having lived in London, Ontario and Edmonton during my early teens. I consider it to be my second home. Over the years I frequently visited family and friends, combining my hobby with visits to propliner hot spots such as Red Deer & Yellowknife.
This year, together with my intrepid aviation travel companion Mr. Andre van Loon, we decided to visit the windy city of Winnipeg. Our plan was to drive east on the Trans Canadian Highway-1 towards the Bush country in the Ontario province. Our itinerary included such places as Kenora, Vermillion Bay, Sioux Narrows, Nestor Falls, Minaki and Red lake.
After picking up our rental car at Winnipeg International airport, we settled in for a long and leisurely drive towards the east. After passing endless of miles of farmlands we entered the Northwest Angle Provincial Park. At noon we arrived at our first port of call, the small town of Kenora. Kenora sits on the northern tip of Lake of the Woods and is well known for its forestry, mining and tourism. Kenora is also the starting point of numerous fishing, hunting and camping trips, which start from the harbour front floatplane base. Two companies, River Air and Kenora Flying Services operate from these docks. As we drove into town we immediately noticed the floatplane base along the waterfront. After parking our car at a nearby parking area we walked our way to the busy docks. The atmosphere was relaxed and informal. Several pallets of general cargo were being prepared for loading. We introduced ourselves as European tourist, interested in the old floatplanes. One of the Kenora pilots showed us the immaculate Beech 18 and DHC-3 Otter.
For more information see also the website: http://www.kenoraair.ca/html/main/airserve.html
|C-GEHX||B18||Kenora Air Service|
|CF-CBA||DHC-3||Kenora Air Service|
|C-FWDB||Cessna 185||Kenora Air Service|
|C-FZFJ||Cessna 185||Cabin Country Realty Ltd|
|C-FFYC||Cessna 208||River Air|
This area is just a 5 minute drive from the centre of town and is located along 4th Avenue (South). The yard doesn’t have a fence so taking pictures is usually no problem. During the weekend it can very quiet while the little hanger is closed. Several aircraft wrecks lay around the yard. I noted one Norseman wreck and four Beech 18 wrecks (C-FKEL & C-FBCC), and one DHC-2 wreck
|C-FMAT||DHC-2||wfu – fuselage|
|C-FTBU||Piper J3C||Kenora Air|
Nestor Falls: floatplane base
Nestor Fall is located on Highway 71 and is about a 2 hours drive South from Kenora. Bearing in mind the speed limit in the national park is merely 80kmh and the police are always present, we where stooped for speeding! The Northwest Flying Service (NFS) base sits along side the highway and can be easily seen. The NFS folks are very friendly and taking pictures is no problem. For more information about NFS check out there website:http://northwestflying.com/about-us
|C-GYYS||DHC-3||Northwest Flying service|
|C-KNKL||B18 Northwest||Flying service|
|C-GEBL||DHC-2||Northwest Flying service|
Nestor Falls Fly-In Outpost
The Nestor Falls Fly-In Outpost base is several km further down the road on the left side. They operate two very smart looking turbine blue & yellow DHC-3 Otters. We checked in at their small and cosy office cabin. We where greeted by the very friendly family, who runs the whole business For more information check out there website at:http://www.nestorfalls.com/index.html
|C-FODK||DHC-3T||Nestor Falls Flying Service|
|C-FSOR||DHC-3T||Nestor Falls Flying Service|
|C-FMDB||DHC-2||Nestor Falls Flying Service|
Minaki: floatplane base
The little town of Minaki is about an hours’ drive along highway 596 (some maps may show this as 569 by mistake) north of Kenora. The floatplane base sits along the road on the left-hand side. For more information about River Air: which refers to its self as: the gateway to North-western Ontario's untamed wilderness can be found on website: http://www.river-air-minaki.com/air_charters.html
|C-GHOJ||Cessna 180||River Air|
The main airport is a just a few streets further up the road on the RH site, crossing over the railroad track. This airport is used more as winter storage and maintenance base.
|C-FWWV||B18||Nestor Falls Flying Service: stored|
|C-FZNG||B18||Showalter Flying Service: in maintenance|
|C-FRSW||B18||ex River Air: wfu parked in grass, missing wings & engines|
Vermillion Bay: floatplane base
Vermillion Bay is a very small town on the junction of Highway 17 and highway 105 towards Red lake. A few km before the town centre take highway 647 north to the Wilderness Air seaplane base. It only takes a couple of minutes and the sign post located on the left-hand side. For more information about Wilderness Air check out is interesting website at:http://www.great-fishing.com/wilderness-air.php
|C-GFZF||Cessna 185||Wilderness Air|
Ear Falls: floatplane base
While driving up north on highway 105 towards Red Lake there are several places to stop and to lookout for floatplanes. Before arriving at the little town of Ear falls (South side) you will find a big road sign stating the name Kay Air and the turn off to the right. It’s not far from the road. The base sits along a large lake and there are a few other float planes operators along the lake, which we didn’t bother to look at. For more information on Kay Air Service & Outposts check out its website: http://www.kayair.com/kayair_site/index.shtml
|C-FKLJ||Cessna 180||Kay Air|
|CF-EAR||B18||in centre of town|
Showalter Fly In Camp: floatplane base
About 40 minutes drive north of Ear Falls located on the right-hand side of the road you will find the small and quaint Showalter base. At the time we arrived half of the fleet was out flying. It’s very a photogenic place, but it can be very quiet. For us the main reason to visit Showalters was the fact that they operate two immaculate Beech 18s on floats. But regrettably we only got see one of them while the second aircraft was in maintenance. For more info check out their interesting website: http://www.fishshowalters.com/index.html
|C-FXUO||B18||Showalter Flying Service|
|C-FAIH||Cessna 185||Showalter Flying service|
Dax Air: floatplane base
Take highway 125 from Red Lake towards Cochenour and Red Lake airport. After a few miles a small bridge comes into view with the seaplane base immediately on the right-hand side. This base used to be operated by the now defunct Dax Air. Currently Amik Outpost/Lac Seul Airways operate from these facilities. Up until recently they moved from Earl Fall, to the current location at North of Red Lake.
|C-FHXY||DHC-3||Lac Seul Airways|
Red Lake airport: Tanker base
Continue further along highway 125 in the direction of Cochenour and after a few km the main airport of Red lake comes in sight. (you cannot miss it). Immediately visible are the bright yellow air tankers on the south side of the airport. We checked in at the airbase and were offered to inspect one of the CL-415 tankers. On the main apron a number of visiting private Jets and turboprops were parked but we did not bother to investigate it further. Elsewhere on the airport we saw six Pezetel M18A (dromader) crop sprayers.
|C-GOGG||CL415||Ontario Tanker 273|
|C-GOGX||CL415||Ontario Tanker 276|
|C-FOPI||DHC-6||remark: on floats/no titles/number|
|C-GEIJ||Aero Commander||Birddog 154|
Cochenour: floatplane base
Again continuing further on highway 125 and after a few miles you reach the little town of Cochenour. On the north side of this town is a little floatplane base, were we found some more beavers along the Mckenzie Channel. The storage yard is a few streets further down the road in the woods. This storage area is not easy to find and you may some directions from locals.
|C-FJEI||DHC-2||Kenora Air Services|
|C-FEJM||FBA-2C1||CFF Air: offsite storage|
|CF-JIN||Norseman||Chimo Air: offsite storage|
|C-GGYP||Bellanca 7G||offsite storage|
Red lake: floatplane base (Norseman capitol of the world)
Red Lake sits at the end of highway 105 and is the biggest town for hundreds of miles around. Beware it does not have many hotels/motels and/or Bed & Breakfast places. We didn’t make any prior reservations and in the end were very lucky to find a place to sleep. (Our last option was to sleep in the car). The three main operators here: Chimo Air, Green Airways and Viking Outpost Air are all situated along the west end side of Howey bay. This happens to also be the town centre. The scene at all operators was very easy going and walking up the dock and taking pictures posed no problems. On the East side of the bay there is a maintenance company with docks and a hangar. At the time of our visit a Chimo Air DHC-3 Otter was receiving some t.l.c. to its Pratt & Whitney engine. For more information on the Red Lake air services companies check out this website:http://www.visitredlakeregion.com/article/air-services-135.asp
|CF-DRD||Norseman||on pole in town centre|
|C-GEZW||DHC-2||Green Air – a/c parked on land|
|CF-SMS||Cessna 185||Chimo Air|
Selkirk: Riverside Aircraft maintenance
The Selkirk base is situated on the North edge of the city along the Red River. If you drive on Highway-4 passing over de high bridge you to take the first left-hand road and take the number 320 road along the river (south-bound). Its only 4 minutes drive from the bridge. The Selkirk floatplane base is a pleasant location and has good photo opportunities. The roadside parking is a raised area above the water level which is great for taking pictures. The storage and parking yard is across the road and does not have a fence. Taking pictures is usually no problem. Perhaps it would be better to report in at the Selkirk hanger and state your intentions. Several more Cessna & Piper floatplanes parked in the yards which are not listed.
|C-GMXS||DHC-2||Plummer Lil Amik|
|C-FSAP||Norseman||Lynn Lake Air Service Ltd (parked)|
|CF-BSB||Norseman||Edmund Lake Lodge (parked)|
|C-FSRE||B18||Excellent Adventures Air Service (parked)|
|C-FSFH||B18||Selkirk Air (a/c in parts behind hanger)|
|C-GFIQ||DHC-2||Selkirk Air Services|
|C-GEBZ||Cessna 207||active on cargo flight|
|CF-EMN||Cessna 195||Dennis Beauchesne (a/c now fitted with floats)|
|C-GEHX||B18||Kenora Air Services: visitor from Kenora|
St Andrew Airport (south of Selkirk - Manitoba)
To reach it and find this place aim for the St. Andrews airport. This storage facility is not located at the airport but on the opposite side of the entry road, in an industrial area. It is hard to miss. Additionally we found a Blenheim fuselage and a Douglas DC-7C engine.
|C-FOZO||Learstar C-60X||ex Terra Surveys Ltd: stored fuselage/no wings|
|CF-MAN||Fairchild F-11X||ex: Air North, fuselage stored no engines and wings|
|CF-BQC||Fairchild F-11 X||fuselage|
|C-FLOL||ST27 X||fuselage stored.|
|21232||T33||RCAF Centennaires (a/c on pole)|
|C-FNVT||B737-200||First Air (parked near museum)|
|C-GMNM||Saab 340||Calm Air|
|C-FJYV||ATR 42||Calm Air|
|C-FJYW||ATR 42||Calm Air|
Winnipeg – RCAF 17 Wing Heritage Park
During a quick drive through the park we saw the following aircraft’s on display: Grumman Tracker 1551, Harvard 20301, Starfighter 753, Voodoo 008, Sabre 23605, T33 133186, Avro CF100 100784 and Beech CT134 123228. The B-25 Mitchell and C-47 Dakota were inside the gate and could not be photographed without prior authorisation from the Air Force. Next to the Heritage park was a RCAF restoration compound where I noted three Beech 18s; CF-PJD and CF-AMY were outside in the grass in poor condition, while a 3rd B18 was inside in RCAF colours (possible restoration project) Also located in or near the airbase was a DC-3 fuselage CF-TES c/n 11906 and at a different location on the airfield there was an ex Perimeter DC-3 accompanied by a further unknown Beech 18.
The Western Canada Aviation Museum
This pleasant little museum sits on the south side of Winnipeg airport. We visited on a quiet Saturday afternoon and took some nice pictures of its collection such as the: Norcan-Air Bristol Freighter, Air Canada Vickers Viscount, the original Junkers JU52-1M. I also visited the museum well stocked gift shop and bought two interesting books on Canadian float aircraft.
Written by Robert S. Grant and called RED LAKE Ontario Canada – Norseman Capital of the World, is a nice little informative book on the Norseman. It contains several interesting pictures of the Norseman during winter operations. It’s a nice souvenir to have from my trip to Red lake area. Unfortunately this book does not contain a recent date of print and ISBN number.
The Beaver Bush Plane-at home in Ontario is an excellent picture book on the DHC-2 beaver. It contains a wealth of information on the different companies and aircraft’s in the Ontario province. It also handles the DHC-3 Otter, NBA Found and the Noorduyn Norseman. The Book contains numerous pictures and is certainly a nice reference book for those who have visited this area. There is more info on this book available at: http://www.beaverbushplane.com/