Saturday, January 01, 2005

 

Sasaginnigak on Wheels

Wes called on the Mobile phone: "Are the rest of the materials there yet?" "No", we told him, "but hopefully by the end of the week." "OK", Wes told us, "but the ice is deteriorating".

Wes was the Camp Manager at Sasaginnigak Lodge. He had been building a new cabin at the camp, and was short materials. He needed the materials to finish the cabin, which was already booked mid-May. It was now late April, 1995.

I was flying for Northway Aviation Ltd. at Drunken Point, Manitoba. Northway owned Sasaginnigak Lodge, in the heart of Atikaki Wilderness Park, and had been flying in building materials for the cabin. It was almost complete, with just interior finishing materials being needed. The problem was, we didn't have them, and we had had a heat wave, and the ice was rotting. Any more delays and the ice would be too unstable to land on, and the cabin wouldn't get finished, and some treasured guests might get annoyed. Then we received a call stating the material would arrive the following day. Thank God!

The materials arrived the next day, and we started to load the Cessna 185 on wheel-skis, and guess what? Murphy's Law! Some of the bundles were too long. Time to figure out a different plan. Using the Beaver would be too risky, due to the weight of the aircraft, and we needed it at first open water. Ah-hah! The Cessna 207, old C-FBHP! We called it the "bowling alley", as when you were hauling freight with no seats installed, on the return empty leg if you looked back into the empty cavernous area of the airplane, it looked like a bowling alley! A large cabin area, a nose-baggage compartment, over-sized, wide-stance gear. Perfect! I checked the weather and it was supposed to freeze hard for the next two nights. Our last window of opportunity. We loaded the "207", and there was only room left for the pilot, me! I would leave early in the morning.

I took off early the next morning. It was about -15*C, clear sky, and no wind. Down I went. I buzzed all the wolves and coyotes out on Lake Winnipeg that were eating the rough fish the fishermen leave behind on the ice when they lift their nets. I hit the east shore and looked for moose all the way to Sasaginnigak, seeing a few. Arriving at "Sas", I surveyed the ice. There were some holes, and rough spots, but if I landed far enough out, I figured I would be OK. The freeze overnight had really helped to "knit" the ice together. The ice was just starting to turn dark, but would hold the airplane, as long as I avoided the holes.

I made a long approach with full flap, landed, and kept the weight off of the nose. The tin can rolled to a stop, and I shut down and got out. Man, is it nice out here in the bush. Wes and Gord came to greet me by Ski-Doo, and we unloaded. They would have to make a couple of runs back and forth, and I went to see what they had done in the cabin. Excellent workmanship. I returned to the plane, and I gave Wes and Gord their mail and tobacco. I bid them farewell, took off on the ice, and returned to Base.

The ice rotted and melted, the cabin was finished, we switched to floats, and started hauling guests out to fish. The cabin was a big hit, and has since been booked heavily every year. One day in April put it all together, and for me, just another day flying in the bush!


Always check for holes before landing.... Posted by Hello


If you land at "last ice", avoid the holes and run-off gullies... Posted by Hello


C-FBHP delivers the materials, the cabin is finished, and U.S.-Canadian continental conflict is avoided.... Posted by Hello


The beauty of the cabins at "Sas" and the unequalled quality of Wes Klassen's work is apparent in this photo..... Posted by Hello

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