Friday, November 16, 2007

Floatplanes and Cabbages

Usually, bringing large items into the arctic from southern Canada is an expensive pain in the backside. So it is indeed a happy and rare occasion when things go smoothly.

The new floats for my little airplane (registration C-INUK) were purchased in early February. First, they had to be built, at a factory in Lachute, Quebec. I know Lachute very well, as I spent childhood summers in the area as a kid. Anyway, the factory is tucked in behind the McDonald's and they make canoes and water slides as well airplane floats.
Anyway, the floats were shipped from the factory on March 6. They arrived in Edmonton on March 11 and were turned over to another trucking company for furtherance to Yellowknife, arriving there late on March 13. They were delivered to the fine people at Arctic Sunwest Charters on March 14 and arrived in Kugluktuk on March 15. Talk about timing! If only it worked that well all the time.

I didn't take a photo as they are still wrapped in plastic. However, all the bits and pieces are here and the colour seems to match the airplane perfectly.

It will be nice to go a little further afield in relative safety during the coming summer. Canada is a nation made for the float plane and, especially in this part of the county, we have thousands of lakes, each of which is a combination fishing hole and emergency landing "field".

The coastline and rivers of this area have become familiar to me over the years. I always loved travelling by boat, and still do. But the primary reason for getting an airplane was to access the inland areas which are, for all practical purposes, out of bounds during the summer months. Oh, you can take an ATV quite some distance, but you travel at a snails-pace and beat yourself and the machine up pretty badly on the rough terrain, picking your way across creeks and bogs and fighting off the mosquitoes. Twenty or thirty miles is all that mere mortals can take on an ATV. With the airplane I can travel in comfort to a lake sixty miles away in less than an hour, fish all day, and be home in my own bed that night. At least that's the theory - and I can't wait to prove it!

For now, though, I'm going to have to be content with flying on wheel/skis until mid-May, then switching to tundra tires for six-weeks, and to floats by the first of July. This week I'll ask the airport maintainer to begin clearing snow in front of the hangar door so I can get the 'plane out if the weather suddenly turns nice.

I have to rig a hoist from the trusses in the hangar in order to lift the 'plane a couple of feet to install the floats. I can't get up on a ladder in the hangar until the 'plane can be moved out - I wouldn't want to drop a tool or piece of hardware and have it go right through the fabric on a wing!

Oh, yeah - we chickened-out and decided not to go to the cabin this weekend. It's still almost 30-below! Guess I'm getting soft in my old age.

Photo: The hangar is 40-feet wide and 30-feet deep, with a painted wood floor. Room enough for a couple of ultralights. I live in hope that I might one day have a flying buddy!

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