Friday, February 25, 2005


Lloyd Leveque: Rest In Peace

I just got off the phone with my good friend from Little Grand Rapids, Fred Moar. I have known Fred for 20 years, having flown him to and from his trapline numerous times on floats and skis. I gave him a call, as I received information that another one of my friends from Little Grand Rapids, Lloyd Leveque, had passed on. I also knew Lloyd for 20 years, having flown him to and from his trapline numerous times, along with making the occasional run years ago to pick up some "party juice". Lloyd had a tremendous temperament, and was very intelligent. He grew up in the bush, and could survive quite easily anywhere under the harshest of conditions. I also knew his father very well, John Joseph (J.J.) Leveque, who passed away a number of years ago due to diabetes.

I know time marches on, and the only guarantee in life is "death" (and taxes), but it saddens me to see friends passing on at far too young an age. Lloyd was only 53 years young. Along with losing a friend, the aboriginal community has lost another person who was a " treasure trove of knowledge" in the ways of wilderness survival that had been passed down father-to-son for thousands of years.

I don't like to put links into a memoriam, but read a story about Lloyd that I had posted a couple of months ago (and had actually written for a newsletter years ago), on Dec. 6, 2004, 11 days before Lloyd died. I hadn't been aware that he was that sick. It still brings a vivid picture to my mind and a smile to my face each time I re-read it, as I re-live the day, and I can actually feel the wind, the rain, and I can even smell the "Lake".

Your trials on this earth are over now, Lloyd, sail on towards that great "Shining Falls"!!

Enjoy the rest of your journey, Lloyd, as I know Rhoda is once again at your side.... Posted by Hello


Dr. Huot Honoured: An Outstanding Humanitarian

Dec. 9, 1997. A day forever etched in my brain. I was the Operations Manager for Northway Aviation Ltd., and we were operating from the airstrip at Pine Dock, Manitoba. We hauled freight and passengers from Pine Dock to the local Indian Reserves in the area, and we also ran a scheduled service from Winnipeg to these same destinations, with Pine Dock being the "hub".

For several days before Dec. 9, we had been experiencing terrible weather. We had been experiencing low cloud, fog, freezing drizzle, 100-300' ceilings, and variable, but usually 1-2 mi. visibilities. It was getting close to Christmas, and we were busy. The delays were putting everyone on edge, as we were becoming seriously backlogged with freight and passengers.

I had cancelled the morning scheduled flights, and about lunchtime on the 9th, I telephoned the company Chief Pilot, Andrew, and we discussed the weather. Andrew would check the weather at two of our destinations, Berens River and Poplar River, and I would check Little Grand Rapids. I couldn't reach anyone at the airport, so I called the local air carrier, Sowind Air. I queried their employee on the weather, and he said it was poor. He stated the ceiling barely cleared the trees on an island just west of their base (which I was familiar with), and the visibility was poor, though slightly better than earlier. Due to the lingering weather, I made the decision to cancel our scheduled service to Little Grand Rapids again, as I deemed the risks unnecessary and unacceptable. (Please realize that flying safely is directly proportional to proper risk management.) I phoned Andrew to tell him of the cancellation, and he informed me that the weather in the other two destinations was improving, so therefore the afternoon scheduled flight to Berens and Poplar was "a go". Andrew would dispatch the company's Piper Navajo Chieftain, and fly the route himself. The passengers for Little Grand Rapids were told of the cancellation again, and some acted rudely, as some people put convenience over safety until they are affected personally. I tell you, I have a hard time keeping the "steam" inside my head when people act in this manner.

Pilots flying to communities that are in road-inaccessible areas of Manitoba, experience a vast cross-section of passengers. Locals, fishermen, Hydro and MTS employees, contractors, teachers, you name the profession, pilots fly them, including doctors and nurses.

The Northern Medical Unit (NMU) operates from the University of Manitoba and it's mission is to provide care and promote good health to the indigenous people of Manitoba. The NMU provides doctors to visit and care for the "peoples of the north". At the beginning of each week the doctors fly north, and at the end of the week, they return south, from the respective communities they have been assigned to. Northway Aviation flew many of these personnel, and this enabled me to meet Dr. Huot.

Dr. Gerard Huot was a fairly large man, and a dedicated individual. He had been caring for people in the communities of Pauingassi, Little Grand Rapids, and Bloodvein. He had worked elsewhere in Manitoba caring for aboriginal people, and also had co-ordinated health care programs for the Maori people in New Zealand. Having to travel weekly by air, being away from home, and working with limited resources details the dedication of our outstanding medical personnel like Dr. Huot.

Dr. Huot always greeted me each time he saw me, and I did likewise. We saw each other regularly, as he flew with our airline to arrive at his destinations. As I came to know Dr. Huot better, I found something out about him. He did not like flying. He was nervous when flying, and always flew in our Cessna Caravan or Piper Navajos. He always requested a rear seat by the door, and I questioned him on this once, and he stated that he liked to sit there so that if anything happened, he could exit the aircraft quickly. I also refreshed his familiarity with the operation of the exits in the aircraft periodically.

One week our booking agent asked me if I had heard from Dr. Huot, as he hadn't been booked to fly with us recently. I had not. We did some investigating, and found that Dr. Huot was now flying with our competitor, Sowind Air. I was determined that next time I saw Dr. Huot, I would ask him if we had offended him in some way, as he had been a loyal passenger.

I saw Dr. Huot in Little Grand Rapids in the following weeks, and asked if we had offended him. He was very gracious, and said "no", he was quite satisfied with our aircraft and pilots, but our scheduled flight from Winnipeg made a stop in Pine Dock. The passengers would deplane, and then emplane about 20 min. later, and continue on to destination. Our competitor offered a direct flight to Little Grand Rapids, therefore, he could save time, and his fear of flying would be experienced for a shorter period of time. I understood his point of view, and was thankful we had not offended him in any way.

I saw Dr. Huot again occasionally at the airports in the communities that his "calling" had led him to dedicate his expertise to, and we always greeted and chatted with each other. Then, Dec. 9, 1997.

Andrew flew the afternoon scheduled flight himself, arrived at all destinations safely, as the weather was slowly improving along the eastern shoreline of
Lake Winnipeg. He returned to Winnipeg, and we shut down the operation for the day. Joell, an outstanding fellow pilot and friend of mine, and I were driving home later with a few other employees, when we heard news of a plane crash in Little Grand Rapids. We were stunned. "It must be Sowind's flight", Joell stated, "it must be Sowind." Apparently, Sowind had considered the risk due to the weather acceptable, and had dispatched their afternoon scheduled flight to Little Grand Rapids.

It "was" Sowind's flight, and there were serious injuries, and some fatalities. The adverse situation actually continued for another day, as weather hampered rescue efforts, and delayed the transportation of injured people to medical care. One of the severely injured was Dr. Huot, and I was upset when I learned this.

The crash of the Sowind flight was very tragic, and affected a lot of people, and has left many physical and emotional scars, and I am sure, some wounds that will never heal.

Dr. Huot lived, but suffered irreversible, lasting brain damage, unable to practice medicine or live independently. I have told this tale to honour Dr. Huot and other professionals like him who put the well-being of others ahead of their own personal agenda. Dr. Huot could easily have taken a position elsewhere, especially with his fear of flying, but continued to see to the needs of his "northern friends". His health and well-being were sacrificed in his humanitarian quest to help others.

In May of 2000, Dr. Huot received the Manitoba Medical Association (MMA) 2000 Humanitarian Award. He was nominated for the honour by his colleagues at the J.A. Hildes Northern Medical Unit (NMU). Dr. Huot's wife, Maria, accepted the award on his behalf. She had asked him what he would like to say to his colleagues.
His answer was simply, "Thank you. Thank you for everything."

Thursday, February 24, 2005


Childhood Obesity: Absolutely Preventable

I have been hearing so much in the media lately about childhood obesity, I thought maybe I would weigh in on the subject and present a few facts, some opinions, and maybe pose some questions.

Childhood obesity today is becoming a very serious issue. It can have long-term health and social consequences. Childhood obesity in the US and Canada is now considered epidemic. In the US, between 1976-2000 childhood obesity increased from 7% of children to 15.3% of children, and to me really seems to be noticeable amongst female children. In Canada, the figure today is close to 20%. Only 1% of childhood obesity can be linked to "glandular", or hormonal causes. We are seeing the onset of Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes in children, and this is making parents very concerned and looking for specific answers and solutions. Well, guess what? Parents have really created the problem, but they are also the solution.

In the last 30 years or so, more and more mothers have entered the workforce. In doing so, they had to become more independent, and one of the ways to do so was to receive a Driver's License. The number of Moms driving today has steadily increased every year. Also, with another wage-earner in a family, as well as another driver, sometimes a second vehicle was added to the household, this also increasing every year.

With this new-found independence, Moms have taken away a lot of the self-reliance from their children. It used to be that if you wanted to go to soccer practice, you "ran" to the soccer field, usually meeting up with your buddies along the way and arriving together. Not anymore, kids are "delivered". If you wanted to play hockey, you dressed warm, called your buddies, threw your gear on your back, and walked to and from the rink shooting snow clumps back and forth across the street. Not anymore. The town I live in is situated on 1 sq. mi. and I would say that maybe 10% of the team walks to the rink. I have seen kids wait to be picked up for a ride home from the rink for 20 minutes or longer, when their house can be seen from the rink, and it would take 5 min. to walk home. The kids don't even dress properly for winter, as they know they will get a ride everywhere.

Another item relegated to the past is a healthy lunch. Whatever happened to "ham, cheese, and lettuce on rye", with an apple and a banana, and a can of fruit juice, packed by Mom, and brought from home? All the kids today are off to the store at lunchtime with money to buy "fried" chicken, "fried" perogies, "fried" burgers, "fried" wedges, washed down with a soda pop.

Also, with the advent of computers, video games, and "1000" TV channels, our kids are being further "sapped" of any motivation and initiative. They will sit for hours in front of a screen, exercising their thumbs, and not much else.

So, what do we do as parents? Be PARENTS!! Set the boundaries and parameters between child and parent. Be stern and straightforward, and make some rules. Kids can walk to and from sporting activities. This is good exercise, and teaches responsibility and self-reliance to the child. In a city centre, parents might be concerned about a child's safety walking, and that is totally understandable for security reasons. Limit the TV and Nintendo time for a child. These 2 activities are turning our kids into marshmallows. MAKE the kids play outside, especially on weekends. I remember this from my childhood, as we were always outside. This will also make a kid more creative, as they will invent games, and revive the old pastimes of snow-fort building, tag, road hockey, sliding, Tarzan-swing building, tree-climbing (do kids climb trees anymore? I was a monkey as a kid), and a numerous list of other activities. If living on a farm, make sure the child has regular chores. Great for exercise and teaching responsibility.

In short, basically what I am saying, is let kids once again be kids. Don't live your life tied to the schedule of your kids' hockey practice. Kids need to be allowed to experience independence, and they need the life-prolonging exercise that comes with it. We all may think we are doing our children a favour by catering to them, but if later in life they experience health problems due to childhood inactivity and poor eating habits, it will have all been for naught. Therefore, do your children a favour, tell them to "go OUTSIDE and PLAY"!!!

Here are some "tips" on returning children to a healthier weight and lifestyle:

1/- You can make changes to help your kids eat healthier. Limit portion sizes. Bake foods instead of frying them. Don't order French fries if you don't want your kids ordering French fries. Don't buy "junk food" if you don't want your kids sneaking it. For snacking, give your child fruits and vegetables.

2/- Get active. Plan family activities. Go skating, hiking, biking, walking, running, tobogganing. Have an after-dinner walk. Exercise doesn't have to be hard work. Cutting the grass with a push-mower and cleaning the garage are all good options.

3/- Set eating times. Don't let your kid eat every time he/she wants to, and don't let them eat continuously in front of the TV or in the vehicle. When your child continuously asks for unhealthy snacks (chips, cookies, candies), be a PARENT and say "NO". Don't eliminate these snacks entirely, just limit them extremely.

4/- Don't buy your kid pizza and pop to celebrate good grades at school or whatever achievement he/she has made. Take them bowling.

5/- Limit TV, video game, and computer time to no more than about an hour a day. More time could be spent on the computer if it is used for school work.

In closing, these are just a few ideas. Use creative thinking in coming up with your own solutions. As you can see, the "cure" for childhood obesity rests in the hands of the parents. Set a healthy regimen of exercise and proper eating habits for your child, so that poor childhood activities don't create health problems during your child's adult years, and shorten their life expectancy.

Another form of exercise for children is "Extreme Tobogganing". Do so with caution..... Posted by Hello

This young fellow is in fine health, growing up on the trapline and learning the ways of his ancestors. Childhood obesity was never a problem for people "living off the land" before..... Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Steve Flies "Walter Turbine Otter C-GBTU"!!

Monday, February 21, 2005. I pulled into the main office of Blue Water Aviation Services Ltd., in Silver Falls, Manitoba. I was to meet up with Ed, the company owner, and finish my transition training on our (new) turbine Otter, C-GBTU. C-GBTU has been operated by the company for a number of years, but sported a 1000 HP Pezetel radial piston engine previously. During the past couple of months, C-GBTU had been prepped, and the engine was converted to a Walter turbine, producing 751 Shaft Horsepower @ 2,080 RPM. The propeller is a 106" 3-bladed Avia, and this engine-propeller combination is time-proven. I had flown this airplane conversion before on floats and wheels during the initial testing and certification phase of the Walter Turbine Otter Conversion.

Checklist in hand, we uncovered BTU and performed the necessary exterior checks. We climbed inside and did the pre-start checks, and then commenced the start sequence. MASTER- On, 24 Volts min., IGNITERS- Check 1 + 2, then OFF, FUEL BOOST PUMP- On, START SWITCH- On, FUEL CONDITION LEVER- Start/Run, ITT- 730* C Max., ENGINE IDLE- 60% REVS, OIL PRESS./TEMP.- Green Range, PROP LEVER- High RPM, GENERATOR- On, ready to "Rock and Roll"!

We taxied to the runway and took off. We were airborne at 60% Torque, but we were light. A lightly loaded Otter with any engine configuration does not need much "real estate" for take-off. I climbed her up to 3500' ASL and did some turns, and explored different power settings. I pulled the power to flight idle, and feathered the propeller. The Otter "fluttered" downward like a leaf at a very low rate of descent, thanks in part to the ability to be able to feather the prop, and also to the new Baron STOL kit that was also installed on BTU. I laughed at the forward visibility afforded by the long narrow nose of the turbine conversion. Having lots of Otter, Beaver, and Norseman time, the panoramic view from over the turbine was an improvement. ( We always used to joke that Norseman pilots were the best "bad-weather" pilots, as they couldn't see out the front window and over the cowling to see that the weather was bad. You look sideways and down more than usual when flying a heavily-loaded Norseman. )

I returned to the runway for a few touch-and-go landings. The aircraft handled well on approach, and had nice roll control down to a very low airspeed. After the touch-and-goes, I taxied back into the yard, and we parked, tied-up, and covered BTU. I took some photos, and we filled in the logbook.

All items considered, the aircraft handled well. The "Hangar Boys" did a nice job on the conversion, and the turbine conversion modernizes the airplane, as there will come a day when radial piston engines will all reside next to the "Dodo Bird" in the "Annals of Aviation's Home for Extinct Species". As spring approaches and the winter roads "go for shit", we expect to haul some freight on skis with BTU. This will give us an opportunity to analyze the aircraft performance under loaded conditions. Later on, as the returning heat melts the lakes, old BTU will go on floats, where she will earn her keep. During the float season is when the real evaluation of the aircraft will take place. I suspect she will do well, and I will post updates on BTU in the future as she returns to service! ( Man, DeHavilland Canada sure built airplanes to last! )

Walter Turbine Otter Conversion Specs.

Take-off power: 751 SHP

Time Limit: 5 min

Propeller speed (T/O): 2080 R.P.M.

Equivalent specific fuel consumption: 6.65 lb/ESHP/hr

Max. continuous power: 657 SHP

Propeller speed (cruise): 1700 to 1900 R.P.M.

Weight (dry): 445 lb

Height/width/length: 25.6/23.2/65.9 in

Application: General Aviation

Aircraft Installations (to date):

Air Tractor
Ayres Thrush S2R
Beechcraft KingAir 90-Commuter
Grumman/Schweizer Ag-Cat
DHC-3T Otter

The cockpit layout of C-GBTU. She sits longing to be on floats hauling moose......... Posted by Hello

The beautiful layout of the engine instruments and controls. Not quite the normal layout seen in most Otters.....  Posted by Hello

A beautiful angle view of C-GBTU..... Posted by Hello

The aerodynamics of the "Walter Turbine Otter Conversion" are quite apparent in this photo..... Posted by Hello

C-GBTU stands proud and vigilant in the yard at Silver Falls. A testament to the durability of Canadian-made products, she proudly waves the flag.... Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 20, 2005


Beware Internet Mistruth!!

About a month ago I received an e-mail, which many others did also, I am sure, regarding pensioners and refugees in Canada, and the monthly allowances received by each. Upon first reading the e-mail, I was stunned. I found it hard to believe, but realized that most people do believe any snippet of information they are sent if it is controversial. Therefore, I kept the e-mail, and decided I would look into it at a later date. I have done a little research, and the e-mail I received "isn't exactly the truth". Below is the e-mail I received, and after the e-mail will be a follow-up.

'Subject: Pension Income in Canada[mind blowing] From the
hard copy of the Toronto Star, 18 April 2004. I found it
interesting that the federal government provides a
single refugee with a monthly allowance of $1,890.00 and each can also
get an additional $580.00 in social assistance for a total of
$2,470.00. This compares very well to a single pensioner who after
contributing to the growth and development of Canada for 40 to 50
years can only receive a monthly maximum of $1,012.00 in old age
pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement. Maybe our
pensioners should apply as refugees! Lets send this to all
Canadians, so we can all be pissed off
and maybe we can get the refugees cut back to $1,012.00 and the
pensioners up to $2,470.00 and enjoy some of the money we were forced
to submit to the Government over the last 40 or 50 year.'

As you can read, the content of the e-mail would certainly set anyone's blood to boiling, if it were true. Apparently, some "facts" and "key" words were left out.

The e-mail content was copied from the Toronto Star, but it was from a "Letter To The Editor", which is the writer's opinion.

Refugees are assisted through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) with income support and immediate essential services. Income for Government Assisted Refugees (GAR)s is for 12 months, but may be increased to 24 months if there are special needs, so the plan has a ceiling chronologically. Also, GARs cannot receive provincial social assistance while receiving RAP support. Resettlement income support is provided on a monthly basis and entitlement amounts are guided by provincial welfare income support rates for food and shelter. The support provided under RAP covers only the most basic needs, including necessary items such as household furnishings, utensils, linens, etc., needed to establish a household. A single GAR that settles in Ontario would receive between $520-$580 per month as RAP income support for 12 months. Usually, the first month's payment will be larger as it includes additional funds for basic household items on top of the standard income support amount. Therefore, the initial month's payment could reach $1890, but it would be for the first month only.

So, as you see, the e-mail wasn't totally factual. Canada is a compassionate country, and should be helping out refugees. This isn't to say we shouldn't have stringent requirements for a person to be considered a refugee. In these days of "global terrorism" we must remain wary and vigilant about who crosses our borders. As 9/11 showed us, even legal entrants into the country can pose a great threat, so let us make sure that any refugee applicants are valid.

In closing, access to the internet has made communicating quickly and easily a daily affair. It also has opened up a treasure trove of information that wasn't accessible previously, to anyone with a computer. Therefore, when receiving questionable material, do like I did, do a little research, and find out the truth.

 Posted by Picasa

COME FLY WITH US!!!!! (Free popsicles!)

The owners of Dwarf Air (pictured above) would like to invite you to come and fly with them. For all your aviation needs, see Dwarf Air. ( This is an advertisement.)

Friday, February 18, 2005


Steve's Tips on How to Do Well in an Interview

It is the time of year that sees an aviation company like Blue Water Aviation Services Ltd., Pine Falls, Manitoba, receive literally around 500 or so resumes from mostly young, some eager, some not so eager, low-time pilots. A lot of young pilots also show up on the doorstep looking for employment. At first impressions, a small percentage of the potential hirees present themselves well and look the part of a float-pilot. The majority, though, look as though they would look comfortable in a flower shop setting, or maybe a manicurists salon. This is not to frown on anyone's appearance, as I know Clark Gable and I would never be considered twins, and I always seem to purchase pants with holes in them. Anyways, I have been asked in the past on how to do well in an interview for a float job, as I have been involved in personnel management for a number of years. So, here are Steve's tips on how to do well in an interview!!

1/ Be polite and well-mannered, and a credit to your mother. You wouldn't believe how many points you will gain.

2/ Stand up straight! I can't stand a sloucher.

3/ When you shake hands, GRIP and shake VIGOROUSLY! There is nothing worse than me squeezing a limp fish hand. Limp hands can't tie up Otters to the dock properly.

4/ Dress tidy, but when looking for a float job, don't wear black polyester slacks, a white shirt, and a tie. If we hire you on the spot, and need you to work immediately, you are not appropriately dressed. I don't mean to frown on this type of attire, but dress appropriate for the job.

5/ If you have dish-pan hands or piano-fingers, don't even come and see us.

6/ Be knowledgeable about our company's aircraft. Don't look at the Otter and ask us "how long have you had that Beaver?"

7/ Be knowledgeable about the geographical area the company flies in. Know the major lakes and rivers.

8/ Be familiar with the other air services in the area. Know who owns them and their fleet composition.

9/ Be familiar with the lodge operators and outfitters in the area, as they will be air service clients.

10/ Include references on your resume. If I need an employee "right now", very seldom will I chase you for "references on request".

11/ Make sure your references are from previous employers, NOT from the CFI at the flight school where you did your training, and not from an Air Canada pilot your Dad knows.

12/ If you grew up on a farm, make it known! Farm kids make the best pilots. (Don't bullshit that you're from a farm if you aren't, as it will show very quickly, and you will be severely beaten!) (Yes, by me!!!)

12/ Make sure ALL your work experience is on your resume.

These are just a few pointers, and certainly not a guide to win the job every time. Just do a little research ahead of time, and show up as prepared as you can be. Below is a photo of a man who showed up prepared for the job interview, was hired, and 20 years later, we still work together.

 Posted by Picasa

As you can see, this young man MADE an effort, and even spent a little money to be WELL-PREPARED for the job interview. I still remember the interview vividly. By the end of the interview, there was a lot of singing, and all of the world's problems had been solved for the night.

So, in closing, for all you budding float-pilots, take a hint from the young man above, and when you show up for the interview, present yourself well, and BE PREPARED!! (actually, I like Kokanee better!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


NHLPA: Don't Call it a "Union"!

So, they finally have done it! The only major professional sports league to cancel an entire season. The good old humble NHL. Built on the journeyman efforts of the likes of Joe Malone, Newsy Lalonde, Billy Boucher, Howie Morenz, Ace Bailey, Eddie Shore, Dit Clapper, Syl Apps, Johhny Bower, Milt Schmidt, Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Gump Worsley, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Bobby Hull, Terry Sawchuk, Phil Esposito, Yvan Cournoyer, Bobby Clarke, Bobby Orr, Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne, Denis Potvin, Ed Giacomin, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Dale Hawerchuk, and thousands of other true hockey architects. What a sad day, especially for Canada. I have heard the cancellation termed a "tragedy". It is not. Not even close. The tsunami disaster and the Darfur situation are tragedies. The cancellation highlights the "travesty" that is the NHL today, as compared to what it once was.

There was a time the NHL stood above all professional leagues in terms of the character, humility, and work ethic of it's players. The aforementioned names attest to that. It seemed pure, though it had some problems, but the players were great ambassadors. They considered it an honour and a privilege to be part of the league, though they received a fair wage, and rightly so.

I shed no tears for the NHL team owners, and especially none for the over-paid, cry-baby, characterless players that make up the majority of the league. Too bad, they won't be able to purchase that private island and cottage on Lake of the Woods this year. Of course I do not include tremendous contributors like Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, and others like them , in this category. They have made great contributions to the league, and there still are some great character-players involved in the league, but less every year. I do feel empathy for the young fans, and especially all the employees that have been laid off due to the cancellation.

One other thing. Why do they call the NHLPA a "union"? It is not a union. A union bargains collectively, and wages are set the same for all doing the same job, although more pay can be garnered for productivity and seniority. In the NHL, the players all have their own agents, and a lot of the time, some players that are more productive than others earn less due to guaranteed contracts. Set a base wage, and have increases for ; goals scored, assists, games played, minutes played, +/- stats, less penalty minutes, saves, total shots on net, etc., etc., you get the point. You would still guarantee a minimum wage, in case of injury. This way the hardest working players would make more money, and the one-season wonders with the guaranteed contracts would only make the pay that their work ethic reflects. It would be simple to keep track of nowadays, especially with the strides in computer technology. It would also send a lot of vermin lawyer/agents scrambling out of the house that is the hallowed NHL, as their blood-sucking services would not be necessary.

This is another one that bugs me. Today, in his news conference, Bettman said his biggest regret was that the "union" never sat down with the league and looked at their books, although they were invited to. Yes, that is a regret, but that to me wouldn't be the biggest regret. My choice for the biggest regret? The NHLPA never let the players vote on any of the contract offers! This is unheard of in a union. The right to vote is the cornerstone of union collective bargaining. It seems to me the word "union" is overused when it comes to the NHLPA. Remember the NHL Referee strike in 1994? Did the NHLPA support the other "union"? No, they crossed the lines and played hockey with replacement referees. A true "union" would not have done this.

One more thing in closing. The NHLPA refused a salary cap all along, and then yesterday agreed to one, though they couldn't come to terms with the league on the amount. Huh? Why did you wait so long? Last gasp measures? Bluffing the whole time? If you had agreed to a cap a month ago, I bet there would have been a season, as there would have been enough time to negotiate and set the details.

Well, that's it, no game 7s this year, no excuse to drink beer with the boys every night. Watching Ron MacLean on his feeble "Movie Night in Canada" without Don Cherry is like drinking whisky and water without the whisky. What is the point? Let's hope the 2 sides can get together and work out a deal for next year, and let's hope NHL Hockey makes a triumphant comeback.

(P.S.- Note to the NHLPA; you need a shakeup in your Executive, they are very, very poor poker players!)

Hopefully the NHL and NHLPA solve their differences. All over Canada there are players such as this fine, young specimen, admiring and looking up to NHL players. Hopefully, the way the players behave and present themselves warrants the admiration......... Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Jimmy Angel: Member in Good Standing in Steve's "Bush Pilot" Hall of Fame ( and a short geography lesson)

The exploits of the barnstormers and bush pilots of the post-Word War I era and later have always intrigued the hell out of me. These men were the adventurous type, full of "piss and vinegar", pioneers in a new age of aviation, trying to make a living any way they could. Who can forget the story of Wilfred Reid (Wop) May, that great Canadian bush pilot, delivering the diptheria serum in a snowstorm to save the villages of Little Red River and Fort Vermilion? He also helped track Albert Johnson, the "Mad Trapper from Rat River". Or how about Clennell Haggerston (Punch) Dickens, that great Canadian northern pilot, flying the Barren Lands to "map" the previously "unmapped" area with no weather observing stations, and obviously, no maps? These men are just two of the great aviation pioneers that opened up previously inaccessible territory. They shared similar traits with their peers elsewhere, the traits being perseverance, courage, gallantry, and (sometimes) good fortune.

My story today shifts to a latitude a long way south of the 49th Parallel. I have known of this pilot and his story for close to 20 years, and tremendously enjoy refreshing myself with his exploits from time to time. It is a story that has everything. Romance, intrigue, suspense, exotic locales, airplanes, gold, and an unfinished ending. It is an absolutely true story, and how Hollywood ever missed this one, I'll never know. This story should have been made into a movie with Humphrey Bogart in the lead role, but it never was. A dream of mine is to produce this movie, and I would cast Ralph Fiennes or Harrison Ford in the lead role, though I would prefer to play the lead and do the flying myself. Like I said, a dream.

Angel Falls! The world's highest waterfall! It looms up over 3200 feet, with an uninterrupted vertical drop of over 2600 feet! It is 16 times higher than Niagara Falls. Angel Falls is located in Venezuela, northern South America. The "Falls" are named after a famous "bush aviator", Jimmie Angel.

The tale begins in 1924, in a bar (of course) in Panama City. An old, transplanted Alaskan prospector named McCracken, approached a young, 25 year old pilot by the name of James Crawford Angel, and asked him if he was the type of flier that could "land an airplane on a dime". Angel answered that he was, the two men negotiated, and Angel was paid $5000, and he purchased a used airplane, an open-cockpit, two-seat, war-surplus, Bristol Fighter. This event began the legend of Jimmie Angel, and the unfinished quest that would consume him for years until his death.

Jimmie Angel was born in Springfield, Missouri, in 1899. In 1916 he enlisted in Britain's Royal Flying Corps. He flew in the war and was shot down once. He ended up in Egypt, and flew for T.E. "Lawrence of Arabia" against the Turks. He then was for awhile attached to the Italian Air Force, then flew in China. Later on he flew for Charles Lindbergh's Flying Circus, flew a Gotha bomber in Howard Hughes' film "Hells Angels", but at this point in his career he was in Panama.

After purchasing the used Bristol Fighter, Jimmie and the old prospector flew up the Orinoco River to Ciudad Bolivar. Then they flew over the jungle, with the prospector asking Jimmie to fly erratically. Then the old prospector became excited as they saw a peak that towered above the other jungle-covered peaks. It was Auyantepui, or "Devil's Mountain". The old man wanted to land, and Jimmie found a short spot between a stream and a cliff, and made the landing. For 3 days they panned for gold and filled a gunny sack, and on the third day with a tropical storm approaching, Jimmie launched the aircraft off of a cliff with a 3000' vertical drop, and returned to civilization. The old man would return to Denver, Colorado, and stated he would contact Jimmie in the future.

For the next few years Jimmie's fortunes waxed and waned, but he never returned to "Devil's Mountain" for more gold out of respect for the old prospector's claim to it.

In 1931 Jimmie received a telegraph that the old prospector, McCracken, was dying, and he requested Jimmie's presence. Jimmie went to see him in Denver, and McCracken gave Jimmie the rights to the mountain, but had a hard time describing the landmarks along the route to the mountain. It had been 7 years since they were there, and the jungle is a difficult place to navigate, but nevertheless Jimmie told him he would try to make it back to "Auyantepui".

In 1935 Jimmie began flying for a company that operated off a strip on the Orinoco River. He had chosen this position to be close to the mountain. He was doing aerial photography, and this allowed him to conduct his own search for "Auyantepui" as he worked. He searched and searched, but couldn't find the mountain. He began to wonder if the old prospector had told him they had landed on "Devil's Mountain", when actually they had landed elsewhere, just to throw Jimmie off. It was during this period when Jimmie made a great discovery that would assure his lasting fame. Flying around the shoulder of a mountain, he came across a mountain-face and water cascading out of it over 3000' into the jungle below! Initially, Jimmie was silent about his discovery, as he was already being ridiculed about his gold stories. Finally, he took 2 engineers on a ride to see his discovery. Later, a team from the American Museum of Natural History would enter the jungle to measure the waterfall, which was named Angel Falls in Jimmie's honour.

Jimmie took a wife, but continued his search for the gold. He acquired a larger airplane, a 7-passenger Ryan Flamingo. He continued his search, and in 1937 not far from Angel Falls, he spotted a clearing on a butte beside a stream. Was this the spot? Jimmie had to know.

Jimmie, 2 explorer friends, and his wife returned to the butte a couple of days later in the Flamingo. Jimmie made an approach to the clearing, and landed. As he was coming to a stop, the wheels broke through the surface, and the aircraft flipped over. No one was hurt, but the airplane would not be flying back from the clearing. For a period of time, the group searched for gold, all to no avail. Dejected, they hiked off the mountain, the trip taking 11 days!

Frustrated, and without an airplane, Jimmie Angel left Venezuela and returned to the States. They settled in California, and raised a family consisting of two sons.

Old dreams die hard, and adventurers never lose their urge. 19 years after leaving Venezuela, at the age of 57, Jimmie decided to head south and try to find the gold-laden stream amongst the peaks one last time. During this last attempt, while taxiing a Cessna 180 on an airstrip in Panama, a gust of wind flipped the plane, and Jimmie Angel died of a brain hemorrhage. His quest was over.

Jimmie Angel was cremated and his ashes spread over Angel Falls. Years later when asked about Jimmie's quest, his wife insisted it was all true as "Jimmie wouldn't have risked our lives for nothing".

As you can see, an amazing story and an amazing fellow. You can see why I am so intrigued. Jimmie's Ryan Flamingo was salvaged from the crash-site 33 years later, and today sits restored at the Ciudad Bolivar airport, after being declared a National Monument by the Venezuelan government. The gold to this day has never been found, so the object of Jimmie Angel's lifelong quest remains shrouded in mystery like the mist encircling Auyantepui!!! (Don't you think there is a movie here? Let me know!)

Angel Falls!! Named after the great flier Jimmie Angel, the "Falls" are fed by a great subterranean river draining an area that gets "300 inches" of rainfall a year!! Posted by Hello

The life-worn face of great Bush Pilot "Jimmie Angel". The lines on his face detailed the miles he had flown, and some of the scarring was from a fire that broke out in a Ford Tri-Motor he was flying over the Andes...  Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 13, 2005


"Magellan" Circumnavigates The Globe!! - (Or, "Projectile Noodles")

"You're LOST, what are you going to do?" I barked. "Hey man", was the reply, "I'm going to get sick! H-U-U-R-R-L!! HHH-HH-UU-U-RRRRR-RRRR-LLLllll....."

The flying in my career has been somewhat varied, and done mostly in Manitoba and Ontario. I have time on twins, turbines, floats, skis, and taildraggers. As in other industries, as your experience increases, it needs to be passed on. This is done in a number of ways, with one of the most common being aircraft-type checkouts. This consists of a number of hours of flying with the new pilot to gauge his ability in different situations, one of which is navigation.

The most important trait to be a competent pilot is "attitude". You can have all the talent in the world, but if your attitude is poor, it is a major barrier. A lesser talented person who listens, is willing to learn, and isn't a know-it-all, can be moulded into a much better pilot. Like in hockey, give me the "grinder" over the "prima donna" anyday (Iginla over Jagr, I guess so!!).

I have done many Float Ratings in the past, lots of Company initial and recurrent training, and also Multi-Ratings, and training for PPC rides. Most of the pilots had a proper attitude, and respected my experience. Then, along came Jay.

Jay was hired to work the dock at our satellite floatbase. He had gotten the job through connections (shudder), as his ex-Air Canada pilot uncle knew the owner of our company. He had a bad attitude from the get-go. I had him figured from Day 1, but I guess I was the only one. He figured flying was all about sunglasses and women (and I wish it was, too), but it isn't. It is hard work and long hours. Around the floatbase he wore shorts, no shirt, and 99 cent K-Mart flip-flops while working on the dock. There is a lot of activity on a floatbase dock, as in loading and unloading outboards, gas drums, lumber, generators, etc., and the tieing on of boats. If you are wearing flip-flops and don't have broken toes, you are not doing your share.

All of the incidents with Jay annoyed the hell out of me, but the owner decided to give Jay a checkout on the C-185 after a couple of months. Guess who the lucky guy was that got to check him out? You guessed it.

Overcoming my initial anger at having to checkout a bad-attitude-dude, I figured I would give him one chance, ONE chance. We did some flying off the river for a couple of hours, and Jay did OK. I told him the next day we would check his navigation on a route-check. We discussed the route, went over the maps, and I told him to be ready for the morning.

The morning came, and our floatbase was busy, so we were delayed slightly. During the delay I asked Jay if his plane was ready to go, and it wasn't. STRIKE 1! He scurried to get his plane ready. Then he disappeared. I found him up in the office eating a bowl of noodles he had boiled up. Boy, my ears were starting to steam. After some adjective-laced name calling, Jay was down on the dock warming up the C-185.

Finally, we were airborne heading north. Jay was very fidgety and within 40 miles I could see things were going astray. We were off-course to the east, but I let the charade continue. I pretended to be a large American tourist, putting my faith in the pilot, that he knew where he was. On, we continued. Jay kept looking at his map and looking out MY window, Lord knows why. We continued to drift east. My blood continued to boil. He was in a pickle, as I knew he was lost, but he continued to fly north, becoming farther off-course every minute. That was it, my patience was tested enough.

"You're LOST, what are you going to do?" I barked. "Hey man", was the reply, "I'm going to get sick! H-U-U-R-R-L!! HHH-HH-UU-U-RRRRR-RRRR-LLLllll....." Jason had grabbed a sick bag envelope, and pulled out the folded-up sick bag inside, threw it over his shoulder, and puked in the envelope. Unbelievable! Then, he closed it and looked at me inquisitively. "I don't think so, I'm not holding your slather for the rest of the flight!" I yelled. He popped open his side window, and out went the envelope. I started to chuckle inside, but my exterior was all anger. " I badgered him again! "You're lost, what are you going to do?" The question must have set off a new attack of queasiness, as he reached for another envelope! "Use the BAG inside the envelope", I yelled. Jay caught on this time, used the bag, and filled it to the rim with oriental noodles and liquid. They looked like small fish swimming happily around in a fishbowl. He looked at me again... "Don't even think it..." before I finished my sentence, Jay had popped his window, and the 5-pin bowling-ball-sized bag of noodles was out the window, and experiencing gravity once again, after just experiencing weightlessness during the ride up the esophagus. My inner chuckle was growing, seeing him in distress caused by his own arrogance.

Jay recovered somewhat, and I told him to head west, as we had become off-track 30 miles after traveling 90 miles north. Every 3 miles he went north, he went 1 mile off-track. Pathetic! We eventually made the lake we were going to, and off-loaded our supplies. The trip back to base was made without incident, and not much conversation took place. I figured it was pink-slip time for Jay once we returned to Base, but after relating the events of the day, the owner wanted to give him another chance. I was dumbfounded. Did Jay have some kind of compromising pictures of the owner? Anyhow, since Jay was going to be around for awhile longer, he would now need a nickname. I settled on "Magellan", (not after the GPS, but after Ferdinand, that great Portuguese explorer). I figured this nickname was appropriate, because the course Jay was flying to get to the lake we were trying to reach would have had us circumnavigating the globe before we arrived.

Jay had another chance, and did marginally better. He was given some more training, and then we found out the insurance requirements for our company had risen along with everyone else' due to the hammering the insurance companies had taken from the stock market downturn, and then 9/11. This meant Jay didn't have the necessary flying time for us to employ him. The company was given an out, and Jay was let go.

Jay ended up flying at an Indian Reserve in northern Manitoba, and apparently finally overcame his initial shortcomings. He has matured greatly, and I have seen him since, and his attitude has seen a total reversal. I sense some humility.

In closing, a lot can be learned from this short tale. Flying, like numerous other professions, is usually hard work, and is a respectable profession. I personally don't like anyone to tarnish that image. Also, when you behave like an ass, you usually get kicked in the ass. Being humble and respectful will advance you along in your chosen profession much quicker than brashness and rudeness (in most professions, anyway, except if you are a lawyer or a huckster). I have seen, trained, checked-out, and worked alongside a lot of good, professional pilots in my time, and the common denominator was always a "good attitude". So, be humble and respectful, as the picture people see of you is usually what you project!

Friday, February 11, 2005


Jim, Craig, and Merlin: The How-To of Aircraft Smuggling

"A $45,000 fine! Can you believe it? A $45,000 effin' fine! It'll be a cold day in hell before they see one nickel from me. I'll pay a lawyer that money to fight it, before I pay them a red cent. I haven't done anything wrong!" Jim fumed after he hung up the phone after talking to some Government employee. He gave me some additional details and then stormed out of the office.

I started working for Jim Johnson and Northway Aviation in spring of 1990. I was originally hired to fly C-FUKN, his DeHavilland Otter. I would work for his company for 9 years, fly every aircraft he owned, and become the company Operations Manager. This one incident illustrates the total lack of understanding and common sense prevalent in our taxpayer-paid-wages civil servants.

My first years at Northway seemed to be quite prosperous, and we had attracted a good nucleus of pilots to build on yearly, with the two key players in the pilot pool being myself and a fellow by the name of Craig Brown, who would be named Chief Pilot. I had a young family, and Craig was about to, and therefore we were looking for long-term, stable employment. Jim realized this, and one day approached us with a long-simmering idea that he had regarding purchasing a Cessna Caravan. Northway ran a scheduled service year-round, as well as hauling hundreds of thousands of pounds of freight. The Caravan would be a good fit for the company, and would also open up new avenues into the charter work area, with government agencies and fly-in fishing lodges apt to use this size of aircraft. Craig and I liked the idea, as it was a turbine-powered aircraft, and there were no other Caravans flying owned and operated by a company in the province. Jim would now make a diligent effort to find a good used Caravan.

Spring of '92 arrived, and Jim thought he had found a good airplane. It was owned by Mark Air in Alaska. It was Serial # 20800029. It had an American registration, which would have to be changed, and would need a new Certificate of Airworthiness before it could be put into service in Canada. Minor things, but attention was paid to them immediately. A Canadian registration was acquired, it being C-GJJM, standing for 'C'anada, 'G'eiri 'J'ohnson, 'J'im, 'M'erlin (after Jim's Dad, Jim himself, and Jim's son). All the necessary paperwork was done, fees paid, etc., to make sure it would be a smooth acquisition. The dreaded GST was also paid ahead of time.

The time came to pick up C-GJJM. Jim, Craig, and Merlin, would fly commercially to Anchorage, Alaska. They would view the airplane, and finalize the paperwork. This was accomplished, and Craig was given a few days training on the airplane, and Jim went King salmon fishing.

With the acquisition made and the training finished, the new Canadian registration was installed on the aircraft, C-GJJM. Jim, Craig, and Merlin would now fly it back to our main Base in Arnes, Manitoba, with the stop to clear Canada Customs to be made in Whitehorse, Yukon.

The stop to clear Customs was made, and the aircraft finally arrived at Arnes, and the wheels were put-in-motion to have the "Import Cof A" completed and any other detail that needed attention was addressed. We wanted to use the airplane as soon as possible and showcase it to customers and prospective customers alike. Then, it happened. Jim got the phone call!

"I just don't believe it, how can they think we did anything wrong?" Jim asked. The prospect of a $45,000 fine was really annoying him, and rightly so, though he vowed not to pay it. We couldn't figure out why the company was being singled out, so it was left to Jim's lawyer to investigate and negotiate.

Within a couple of days, we got the answer. Everything had been in order, and after landing in Whitehorse, Jim and his crew were asked if they had anything to "declare". They hadn't purchased any mementoes, booze, or cigarettes, or any other items, so they said "no". They were given the nod to leave, and were soon augering back to Manitoba in the airplane. Guess what Customs later found out they hadn't declared? The airplane! They didn't realize they had to declare the DAMN AIRPLANE! All the fees and GST had been paid, all paperwork completed, and everything done "up-front"! I laughed my ass off when I found this out, as I could just see Jim and Craig exchanging niceties with the Customs agent, and then climbing into the so-called "contraband airplane", and taking to the skies.

Again, within a short period of time, the matter was cleared up. The request for the $45,000 was dropped, and rightly so. It cost Jim some money for his lawyer, but nowhere near the $45,000 they were looking at. What really irks me is that the situation even went as far as it did. I could see being given a warning and a stern explanation of Government policies, but they went for the extreme. The $45,000 figure to me seemed to be a "penalty" for "sneaking by", rather than a fine for a crime committed. It was a case of a simple misunderstanding and ignorance of usually incomprehensible Government regulations.

Anyway, the plane went into service, and still flies with the company today, going on 13 years later. I still have to shake my head when I read today about some small company or poor sap being raked over the coals or forced into bankruptcy because of some small insignificant mistake, especially when the situation could've been solved with one of the greatest (but most-times lacking) of human traits, common sense. Today, when I hear C-GJJM in the air, my mind's eye gives me a vivid picture of the airstrip in Whitehorse, 13 years ago, with a Customs agent waving to C-GJJM as it became airborne, and Jim, Craig, and Merlin making a diabolical getaway!!!

Good old C-GJJM, the "Viking Express", Serial # 20800029, the first Cessna Caravan owned and operated in Manitoba. She arrived in Arnes, MB, at our Main Base, after "sinister" beginnings..... Posted by Hello

Myself and JJM striking a pose on the ice at Pauingassi Indian Reserve, on Fishing Lake, Manitoba. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Dean Noses into the Turf!

"Hey Steve! Dean can't get his nosewheel to come down. Any ideas?" Edward called out to me. My knees momentarily went weak. All I could picture was Dean hurtling through the sky at 200 mph, and then having to land sans nosewheel with 7 elderly people and children on board. The mind can instantly play funny tricks on one. I hurried up the hill from the airplane docks into the office of Blue Water Aviation in Pine Falls, Manitoba.

Dean was a fellow pilot and friend of mine, and he was employed with a local air carrier that used our company's services for maintenance. The first thing that one questions when there is a problem is "maintenance". It is human nature, although unfounded in this instance as you will later see.

Dean had acquired a number of hours flying the Piper Navajo PA-31-310, C-FXOQ, during the past year and handled the aircraft quite competently. I had actually done all of his initial flight training on the aircraft type, and had recommended him for a Pilot Proficiency Check (PPC) with Transport Canada, which he passed with ease. He actually received a fine comment from the examiner, who after the check ride told Dean that he would be confident enough in Dean's ability to let his own family fly with Dean on a Sunday outing.

C-FXOQ was a 200 mph+ Navajo. It was used for freight, flying tourists to go fishing, and to transport the local aboriginal populations between their communities. It was an older aircraft, but in quite reasonable shape all-around, paint, interior, and engines included. It saw service everyday, and in the local area that it flew in, all the runways were gravel. During inclement weather that would persist, the surface condition of the gravel strips could deteriorate quite rapidly. This day in particular, Dean had left Matheson Island to take a load of freight to Poplar River. He had unloaded his freight, and was returning to Matheson when he found out the nose-gear wouldn't deploy. He headed for our base, as there were AMEs (Aircraft Maintenance Engineers) on hand, and also a grass runway, which was going to come in very handy. Also, what an opportune stroke of luck to be the sole occupant of the airplane.

I made it into the office and Edward was talking to Dean on the Base radio. "Have you tried the manual hydraulic pump?" Edward queried. "Yes", replied Dean, "it won't put the nosewheel down". Edward and I discussed the situation momentarily and decided to suggest Dean manipulate the aircraft through a few abrupt maneuvers, and if the nose-gear didn't dislodge, to approach the runway and bounce the aircraft and take-off again, with the main gear down and locked, hoping this would dislodge the nosewheel. Well, Dean did a fine job of trying to get the nose-gear down. He twisted and turned, but no nose-gear. He made 3 bounce- and-go approaches. Guess what? No nose-gear. Dean had had enough. "I am going to climb up, burn off some fuel, prepare and secure myself, and when I am ready, I will land, kill the engines, hold the nose off as long as possible, and try to keep her straight". He climbed away and we waited for the inevitable.

We notified the local authorities of the situation, and grabbed some fire- extinguishers, just in case. Then, we waited for Dean. We were informed by radio he was ready to land. I am sure he needed a little time to rehearse in his mind what he was going to do. He made a long, slow approach, and crossed the threshhold of the SE runway. He killed the engines as the two mainwheels greased onto the grass. He slowed down, down, down, all the while pulling back on the yoke to hold the nose up, until the inevitable happened. 'SMACK!' The nose dropped, both props quickly bent and stopped, the grass was flying, and I could see the rudder being manipulated to keep the aircraft straight. Then, silence. The aircraft stopped, no fire, and we raced to get Dean out. He opened the rear door, and jumped to the ground unhurt, and quite calm.

As it turned out, the roll-off bearing for the nose-gear had seized, and had held the nosewheel in place. The airstrip at Matheson Island had been lengthened and resurfaced, and there was quite a large amount of clay in the surface gravel, which is used to bind the gravel together, and once packed, becomes a very hard surface. We had had so much rain that the runway hadn't been able to shed all the water, and there was a thin slurry on the surface. Slowly, after repeated take-offs and landings, the slurry had penetrated the bearing, and then dried out, with the remaining clay dust hardening like concrete, and binding up the bearing.

As it turned out, there wasn't much damage to XOQ. The props and engines were changed, and the minor damage to the nose-cone was repaired. The 2 pitot tubes, and the nosegear roll-off bearing were replaced. All in all, XOQ was returned to service quite readily, and continues to surf the local skies. Dean has since moved to British Columbia, and continues his aviation career. He handled himself extremely well, and his actions limited the damage to the airplane significantly. I'm sure the day I have related here will be in Dean's mind until his final days, and is a day that Dean experienced that aviation-related phenomena, "The Pucker Factor"! Good job, Dean!

Both Dean and old C-FXOQ strike embarrassed poses. Both were soon back in service..... Posted by Hello

Due to Dean's exceptional skill, and the accommodating surface of the grass runway, old XOQ's injuries were not that severe.... Posted by Hello

Monday, February 07, 2005


My Personal Tribute and Farewell to Wes

I received a call on Friday evening to inform me that my good friend Wes Klassen had passed away Tuesday. The call was from Wes' wife, Peggy. I didn't know what to say, at first, as I haven't experienced much loss and grief in my life.

I first met Wes in the spring of 1984 when I worked at Sasaginnigak Lake Lodge with Wes and Jake Thorsteinsson. We became friends and remained so until his passing. We were employed together until the late 90's.

Wes could do ANYTHING! And I mean it. He could weld, wire, plumb, construct, you name it, he could do it. And do it well. He actually was a self-employed carpenter in recent years, specializing in decks and gazebos. He built new cabins at Sasaginnigak lake, and they were beautiful. Wes was a perfectionist and a brilliant "finishing carpenter".

Wes had oversized hands, but the drawings that came through them were amazing. He built bird-houses, and made miniature place-settings out of wood that he turned on the lathe. He could make chess sets, and baby furniture for his grandchildren.

I don't think I ever heard Wes raise his voice in anger, or ever even exhibit anger. What a great quality to have. Wes was easy-going and took life as it came, never letting the everyday small hurdles people face get to him. It reminds me of the saying "don't sweat the small stuff", and I don't think Wes ever did.

Wes could always be counted on to help anybody out. Whether it be lending tools, or explaining how to do something, or physically helping, Wes would do it. He helped me shingle my roof in spring 2003, and did a great job.

Wes has left us far too soon, and people of Wes' caliber should live forever. I am feeling guilt over not seeing Wes as much as I should have these past few years, as our jobs kept us apart geographically. The old song goes "you don't know what you've got till it's gone", and a friend is gone, and good friends are hard to find. Rest In Peace, Wes, good buddy. Until we meet again.


I wish you light winds and clear sailing on the next leg of your journey, Wes. Posted by Hello

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Extreme Caribou Hunting and Northern Pike Fishing

I had been up at Munroe Lake Lodge flying guests for the fall caribou hunt. It was mid-September, and I was flying for three different outfitters to three different locations. The outfits were Blue Sky Outfitters, Caribou Country Adventures, and Munroe Lake Lodge itself. I flew the groups between 30-60 miles north to where the tree-line basically disappears into the tundra. The hunters were hunting animals from the Qamanirjuaq herd, believed to be 500,000 animals approximately. All groups had done extremely well, and it was amazing to see the caribou run as we flew low over the countryside. The air was so pure, on a good weather day you could see 100 miles if high enough. During this time of year the landscape was just starting to change colour, and by the end of September, the countryside would be awash in all kinds of reds, yellows, and light greens.

I now had a break for a day, so it was time to go fish. My friend Terence and I headed out by boat to the first narrows, probably just over a mile and south of the lodge. We were going to test the Northern Pike fishing. All we wanted to do was catch fish for supper. I carry what is called a Zebco Tackle Tote with me in my Otter, as it is small and easy to store. It consists of a telescoping rod, tackle, and a Zebco PS 10 spinning reel. Actually, a nice combination, but small for Northern fishing. Well, did we hit Northerns! Unbelievable! They were everywhere! And no small ones! I was just using Mepps Mister Twister twin-tailed jigs and catching a big gator every other cast. Where we were fishing was only about 6-15 feet deep, and in a rocky narrows, so I can just imagine the fishing in some of the bays! The smallest fish we caught were about 12 pounders, so we kept a half dozen for supper. We were just about to leave when: Whack! There goes my rod tip, one more fish! I set the hook, and thought that "this fish fights differently". No wonder. I landed an 8 pound Lake Trout!

We returned to the camp and cleaned the fish. What struck me was the fact that these fish were more energetic than Northerns from the warmer waters of more southerly Manitoba. They didn't have deep bellies, but they were very wide across the back, and seemed to be much firmer. I guess the colder water keeps them in better shape. The flesh was a beautiful white, and supper was devoured once it was prepared. I remember in my early days of flying, when there was still a lot of aboriginal trapping and hunting taking place, an old aboriginal woman told me that when the hunting or trapping party was traveling through the bush, Northern was always the fish of choice when eating, as it stayed in your stomach longer than other fish.

After supper, William, Terence's father, asked us to join him in the boat. He started up, and we drove 50 yards north from the dock, and he shut the boat off. He said there was a small weed-bed in the sand, and to just cast a jig. Here we were, 50 yards from camp, and 50 feet offshore, catching all the Northerns we wanted in the 10-15 pound range. My point is this: We didn't even really try to catch fish, and we were catching 15 pounders. Imagine if you actually tried, drove the lake, and annoyed some BIG Pike with some big, splashy baits! I met some of the guests at the lodge and they had all been catching huge fish.

Morning came, and it was time to fly some more caribou hunters. I was flying some hunters onto the Roberts River, just northeast of Nejanilini Lake. I dropped them off, and started to load up a group of hunters that was already there. 100% hunting success again! We took off and flew back to Munroe Lake.

Munroe Lake Lodge and surrounding area is a prime piece of real estate, and a real Manitoba jewel. I loved the serenity and peace that is abundant out in the "wilds". In closing, all I can say is, that, if you want to hunt caribou, or fish big Northerns, then, Buddy, I know this place, and it is called Munroe Lake..........

Munroe Lake and it's breath-taking beauty.... Posted by Hello

Supper was to be enjoyable this evening.... Posted by Hello

Returning from the hunt. 100% success rate again!!! Posted by Hello

Proud, successful hunters.....!! Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 05, 2005


Duck Mountains Survey

The Duck Mountains! Ha, ha, ha!! Being from British Columbia originally, I laughed at the very thought of mountains in Manitoba. Having flown past Mount Robson, elevation 12,972', in the Canadian Rockies, I figured any mountain in flat Manitoba was nothing more than just a B.C. toboggan hill.

My friend Rick from Riverton Airways asked me if I could help out his company by doing an aerial moose and elk survey in the Duck Mountains. I checked with Ed, the owner of Blue Water Aviation, who I am employed with, and he said to go ahead and help Rick and his company out. This is how I ended up in the "Ducks" in winter, 2005.

The "Ducks" are part of the "Manitoba Escarpment". This escarpment starts in South Dakota and runs north and emerges as the eastern edge of the Riding Mountains, Duck Mountains, and Porcupine Hills. The "Escarpment" was the western beach-edge of the glacial Lake Agassiz, a massive 700 by 200 mile lake formed from glacier meltwater, which was restricted from flowing north due to the Laurentide Ice Sheet. When the ice sheet finally melted, the water flowed north into Hudsons Bay, leaving fertile plains of silt in the low-lying areas. Today, lakes Winnipeg, Manitoba, Winnipegosis, and Lake of the Woods are remnants of Lake Agassiz.

The survey was to commence towards the end of January, with the southern half of the survey being conducted out of Dauphin, Manitoba. We would survey the south half of the "Ducks" first, then do the north half later. Our survey lines would run north-south, and would be 1 mile apart. We would fly slowly between 500' and 700' and count all the animals we could see. There would be me plus 3 observers.

Manitoba Natural Resources routinely conducts aerial surveys for game in different areas of the Province every year, with the results being used for a variety of purposes. Obviously, restrictions and regulations in the Game Hunting Areas (GHAs) were derived from what we found. Also, the Resources Officers are very vigilant regarding Chronic Wasting Disease and TB in elk. CWD has never been found in Manitoba, but TB has been found in elk in the Province. Obviously, the more info on the herds and numbers, the better.

The aircraft we were using is registered C-GULA. ULA is a 1962 Cessna 185, and has just over 6,000 hrs. airframe time. A nice working machine. She has fixed-penetration Kehler skis, and a new Continental IO-520 CI engine, and a Robertson STOL kit. Just what we needed for flying slow and looking for game, and an airplane that could also honk through the sky when you poured the coal to her!

The first day went well, though we started late because it was -38*C that morning. Cold enough for me to put a toque on. We flew 3.3 hours that day, and saw a number of animals, nothing spectacular. That evening, the weather hit. The temperature went up and we had light snow, wind, and in the morning freezing rain. Due to the weather, and the elevation of Dauphin being roughly 1000' asl, and Baldy Mountain, the highest point in Manitoba and the "Ducks" at 2729' asl, we were grounded for 4 days. Beer drinking time! The weather did clear, and we finished the survey rather uneventfully, except for the ice on the runways at Dauphin, and the blown tail-wheel we experienced on landing in Roblin on the last day of the survey. Murphy's freakin' law, of course. I then went home for a couple of days, as the second part of the survey is done by helicopter. They pick a smaller area that we surveyed, and then do a high-intensity count on the animals in that plot of land specifically. Hence, the need for a chopper. Tony from Taiga Air Services Ltd. and his Bell 206 Jet Ranger would be performing this part. Before I left, I thanked Glen and Gerald, our two Natural Resources observers, for their uncanny ability to see animals from the air, and also their ability to not get sick or have to piss when shoe-horned into the back of a Cessna 185 for 3.5 hrs. at a time. Both real good guys. Ian, the other observer, would be with me for the second part of our survey.

A number of days later, Ian, the Natural Resources Wildlife Technician called, and said that the C-185 was needed for the north half of the "Ducks" survey, as the helicopter had finished in the south. Ian is a real good guy, and has a Masters Degree in biology, and is very dedicated to his work. Just the kind of guy I like working alongside.

We flew the north part of the survey out of Swan River. Day 1 went well, until less than 2 hrs. into the survey, one of the observers had to piss. I told him to hold it, and he said he couldn't. His buddy came to his rescue with some sort of zip-lock bag, and he filled it up and held onto it for another 1.5 hrs. Day 2 went well until after lunch, when the other rear observer decided to share the sounds and smell of the Denver sandwich he had for lunch with everybody else in our cramped quarters. I pained him with another hour of survey, and just when it looked like he was recovering, he started to retch until his breakfast, and every other iota of matter, had exited his stomach, and the lining was inside out. We cut short and returned to the airport. Day 3 saw one observer only make it to lunch, and he retired for the day due to oncoming illness. God, am I glad I have a cast-iron stomach, always have.

In defense of the observers, the "Ducks" can be quite turbulent. Some days we would experience 30-35 knot winds, and it did get rough, with the varied terrain contributing to the mechanical turbulence. Anyway, the north part of the survey went very quickly, with the only real problem being a leaky brake on C-GULA. Nothing MacGyver couldn't rectify.

I returned home to let Tony and his chopper totally complete the survey. For my part of the survey, I was impressed with the number of animals in the southern portion of the "Ducks". We counted roughly 250 moose and 360 elk, and there were deer everywhere! Not bad numbers considering. The northern part of the "Ducks" seemed to be good habitat for animals, but "logging" had allowed road access, and everyone knows what happens to moose when a road is opened up. Good-bye moose. The wrestle between man and nature. Also, apparently a lot of First Nations hunting had gone on in the past few years, and the moose and elk populations had really suffered because of it in the northeastern part of the "Ducks", and in the extreme northern part, Manitoba Resident hunting had also taken it's toll on the elk. All in all, what we saw will have an impact, I'm sure, on next year's hunting regulations.

I enjoyed my time flying the "Ducks", I enjoyed good old C-GULA, and I really enjoyed working and watching hockey games alongside Ian. I hope to work with him in the future. Flying in winter can be nerve-wracking, but also interesting and rewarding. The plane ended up in one piece, we are all alive, and nothing was bent! ( Except for a puker's pride!) Who could ask more from flying? Until next time, "keep your stick on the ice", and if you see "frost" on a chain-link fence, make sure you stick your tongue to it!!!

The "ice" on the runway at Dauphin, Manitoba, can be clearly seen, along with the good ships C-GULA and C-GSUL... Posted by Hello

C-GSUL would pick up where C-GULA left off, flying lower and slower.... Posted by Hello

C-GULA is a fine machine. A '62 C-185, made to rock and roll through the skies. She has seen her share of "pukers" and "pissers".... Posted by Hello