Photos © Ruud Leeuw

Bushplanes at Vermilion Bay, Ontario

In recent years I have become fascinated by another type of vintage aviation: the bushplanes of North America.
The vintage radials seem to come alive far more often in this trade, than the multi engine transports. The fact that a growing number have been reconfigured to turbine engines does not make them less fascinating to me.
This time my travels took me to Northwest Ontario. We headed out east from Kenora, on the Trans Canada Highway, and soon came to Vermilion Bay (note: not Vermillion Bay), which is home to Wilderness Air.

Comin' around the bend... On a beautiful Saturday (Sep.29th), I arrived at the empty docks of Vermilion Bay, home base of Wilderness Air.
I still had a long drive ahead of me and thought I would come up empty handed here, but my mind was quickly put at ease because I was told the Otter was expected to return in 30 minutes time. Best to wait.
Soon: DHC-3 C-FODV reported itself on the radio and we heard the rumbling radial Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine announce its arrival...

DHC-3 Otter c/n 411 was delivered on 20th April 1961 to the Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS) as C-FODV, based at Sault Ste.Marie, Ontario. In September 1972 the registered owner was changed to Province of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources, registration C-FODV. The Otter faithfully served the Province for 25 years without incident, until sold to Wilderness Air (Vermilion Bay) 1983 Ltd of Vermilion Bay, ONT to whom it was registered in December 1986. In April 1996 the registered owner was changed to Wilderness Air Ltd, still based at Vermilion Bay.
In May 2000, C-FODV was joined by C-GLAB (348) and the two Otters fly alongside three Beavers and one Cessna 185 in the Wilderness Air fleet. The aircraft are used during the summer months to service fishing lodges and lakes, and for hunting parties and bringing tourists into the Ontario wilderness areas.
As of summer 2004, C-FODV was still painted in the basic all-yellow scheme it had carried during its time with the provincial government.
For summer 2004 C-FODV went on lease to Central Flyway Air of Thompson, Manitoba before returning to Wilderness Air at the end of the season.
Source: Karl E,Hayes.

Somewhat in awe we witnessed the unloading of gear and bounty: 1 large moose!
The DHC-3 carried the hunters, guide and antlers and the DHC-2 Beaver was on its way with more gear and the meat...

Unloading the bounty
Note the moose antlers


And indeed, only some 15 minutes behind was the DHC-2 Beaver C-FGMK.
The actual landing takes place on quite a distance from the docks.

Jackie Robinson wrote me in January 2008:
"When I looked at your Vermilion Bay link, I discovered that you visited Wilderness Air. My father (Robbie Robinson) owned Wilderness Air between the late 1960's until 1982 when he sold the business (airplanes and cabins) to Bob Huitikka who still owns Wilderness Air.
My Dad also owned the De Havilland Beavers CF-GMK (my Dad would have bought GMK in 1978) and CF-ADD, and still owns a Cessna 180 CF-MEN.
You may have seen CF-MEN next door to Wilderness Air as my Mom and Dad still live right next door!
I grew up at Wilderness Air, and bush airplanes have always been a part of my life. As a matter of fact, I used to live in the green house you can see in the background of one of the Otter pictures..."

This DHC-2 Beaver has c/n 1329 and was delivered on 08Apr59 to the US Army with serial 58-2003.

It was reported for sale in Feb74 at the Coleman Barracks, Mannheim in Germany with ttl 3,416.0 hours.
It was imported into Canada during 1973 and registered as CF-GMK for Ontario Northern. Sold again in 1978, it became C-FGMK for Wilderness Air (Vermilion Bay 1982) Ltd, registered on 23Jun82.

It had amassed a ttl 10,900 hrs on 14Jul95.

It was leased to Venture Air of Thompson, Manitoba (for the summer season of 2003), but obviously joined the ranks of Wilderness Air again since then.
Unloading the meat
Close up


The Beaver Song, by the Fretless Bar Girls (as from the Sealand Aviation website)
The Fretless Bar Girls originally performed "The Beaver Song" at the deHavilland Beaver 50th Anniversary Conference held in Victoria, B.C. in October, 1997.
Bill Alder at Sealand Aviation liked the song so much that he asked Annemarie Kock & Elizabeth Harvey, the Fretless Bar Girls, to record it for posterity.
The Bar Girls can be reached at Box 286, Sointula BC, Canada; Their email address is "bargirls -at- north.island -dot- net"

MP3 - Click to play or "Right Click" then "Save As" to download

WMA - (Windows Media Audio) Click to play or "Right Click" then "Save As" to download

C-FJOF And just when we thought it was about time to leave, another Beaver arrived at homeplate...
This DHC-2 is c/n 1053, which was delivered on 22Feb57 as CF-JOF to Western Aero Renters.
It went to Sky Craft in 1979, joined the ranks of Swan Air and was reregistered C-FJOF for Wilderness Air (Vermilion Bay 1982) Ltd. It was reregistered on 10Aug89 to Wilderness Air.

Here's C-FJOF in july 2017, on the dry at Nestor Falls:
Photos by Friends & Guests (51) - photo by Rich Hulina.

Wilderness Air
Vermilion Bay Water Aerodrome on Wikipedia
Northwestern Ontario Fly-in Fishing Lodges and Resorts

The Road Goes On...Forever:
Ear Falls
Red Lake
Dryden Mun'l Airport
Sioux Lookout
Savant Lake
Fort Frances
Nestor Falls


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