It took three different types of floatplanes to get our 13 man expedition and all our gear into Grey Owl Camp on Oneman Lake and I happened to be on the last flight - in a DeHavilland Canada 'DHC-2 Beaver'. Five of us and the few remaining bits of our supplies had the privilage of flying in this aircraft type, which has been declared one of Canada's top-10 engineering achievements of the 20th Century.
With the opening of Canada's North after WWII, the Beaver was developed to fill the need for a rugged and reliable bush/float plane that would serve as a 'pick-up' truck for the thousands of miles of undeveloped territory - and they come equipped float pontoons for summer and skis for winter. Using very reliable air-cooled Wasp radial engines (giving it the round-shape at the front end) left over from those long flights over the Pacific Ocean from aircraft carriers in WWII, the plane first flew in 1947 and was an immediate success. The US Army alone placed an order for over 900 of them and more than 1,600 were eventually produced before production was halted in 1967. Beavers have a top speed of 160-mph, a range of 455-miles and a payload limit of 2,100-lbs and are considered so valuable that they presently sell for about $500,000, with a company in Vancouver, BC actually considering resuming their production. Our Beaver (registration C-FTCT) was built in 1956 as part of that order by the US Army.
These photos show our vetern bush pilot at the simple controls during our flight as well as views after we landed on Oneman Lake. Our pilot mentioned that in the event of an engine failure the large wings would allow it to glide into any one of the countless small lakes passing beneath us as we flew north.
The DHC-2 Beaver was such a success that DeHavilland Canada decided they needed a bigger 'dump-truck' version to do some heavy lifting in the remote regions of country - and thus was born the 'DHC-3 Otter' in 1951. It too was equipped with a Wasp radial engine with 600 HP (versus the 450 HP version used by the Beaver) and was an immediate success story. Compared to Beavers, Otters have about the same top speed of 160-mph but have a much longer range (960 miles) and slightly larger carrying capacity (2700-lb). They too were taken out of production in 1967 even though large numbers continue to operate around the world.
Otters became so popular that the older models are gradually being converted to Turbo-Otters by the replacement of their original radial engines with newer sleek-nosed turbine types such as the ones shown here operated by Osprey Wings in Missinipi. Speed and range characteristics remain unchanged but the lifting capacity was raised to 4000-lb by this upgrade (I had actually flown in one of those old radial-engine powered Otters while in the Hudson Bay region on a 1990 trip as detailed in my 'Radisson' page in Quebec). The greater lifting power was a good thing because, for our expedition, the eight heaviest guys were told to pile into Otter C-GPHD for the flight to Grey Owl Camp!
The third aircraft we needed to use in order to reach Oneman Lake was this DeHavilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter. Realizing that they were on a roll with their earlier Beaver and Otter models, the company placed the Twin Otter into production in 1965 so they could achieve both increased safety and carrying capacity. With its two modern turbo-prop engines, this model has a top speed of 165-mph, with a range of 920-miles and a payload of between 4,500-5,500 pounds (or up to 20 passengers). The type more than exceeded their expectations as a rugged STOL airplane that could handle almost any condition that was thrown at it. Although production ended in 1988 these aircraft are still in action all over the world - I flew in a few of them to remote mountain and jungle airstrips in hot and humid Papua New Guinea during my time there between 1979-82. Probably their most famous feat was in April, 2001 when two of them (so they could back each other up in an emergency) were flown from Alberta, Canada all the way to Antarctica. It was the dead of winter there and a scientist at a remote research station on the ice cap had been struck with a life-threatening illness. Because of their -75 C rating for cold weather flights, the two Twin Otters made the only winter flight ever attempted into the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to successfully retrieve the scientist.
As far as Oneman Lake was concerned, we arrived with so much luggage and food that this Twin Otter (C-GQOQ) was dedicated totally to transporting our gear and fuel for the generators. Even at that, we had to throw what remained into the small Beaver that I and four others flew in. All of our aircraft were operated by Osprey Wings Limited who own 1 Twin Otter, 5 Turbo-Otters, 5 Beavers and 2 Cessna 185s.
I managed to catch a flight on Turbo-Otter C-GPHD when we departed Oneman Lake as it took on our remaining bits of cargo, eight of us and the owner of Grey Owl Camp for the flight back to Missinipi. The owner had flown in with a new bunch of guests from the USA to help them get acquainted with the set-up and one of his team remained with them for the duration of their stay. Our company has been using the camp for so many years that we were just left to look after ourselves!
Like all DeHavilland Canada planes of this era, the Turbo Otter is capable of STOL (Short Take-Off & Landings) making it very handy for getting into and out of difficult areas. In this case, we had plenty of water to play with to get ourselves airborne! This aircraft first flew as an Otter in 1956 and was subsequently upgraded to a Turbo-Otter with the addition of a more powerful engine and a few other refinements.
The drive north to Missinipi was made in four crew-cab All-Wheel-Drive pickup trucks, three of which were company-owned.
Of the thirteen of us on this fishing trip, one guy drove across from the office in Winnipeg, Manitoba while the remaining twelve of us from the Regina office drove straight north to Missinipe. The first truck left Regina at about 11 AM with 5 guys and a U-haul rental trailer loaded to the hilt with most of our supplies. By 2 PM four more of us (including me) had finished work and set off as well, followed at 4 PM by the last group of 3 guys. It was a great driving day and we made good time on the lesser travelled highways before stopping for a quick meal in Prince Albert. By the time we had completed the 'average' 8-hour drive, the last guys to leave were the first to arrive and the U-haul truck came in last - with us all arriving almost together.
The next morning we were soon at the floatplane dock where all the gear was off-loaded onto the docks before the trucks were parked in the Osprey Wings yard for the duration of our fishing trip. All went well on the drive home again five days later.
By the time our 4-days of fishing was over, we had used up enough of our supplies that only two airplanes were required to get us home again. First in was our old standby built in 1968, C-GQOQ shown approaching the the boat dock area at Grey Owl Camp. On landing, it was loaded to the hilt once more with most of the gear required by a group of American fishermen, which was quickly unloaded as we formed a human chain on the dock to pass everything to shore.
Following that, the bulk of our gear was stowed aboard the Twin Otter along with five of our crew and then they were off on a nice run past the camp as they lifted off for Missinipi (2nd photo). I was in the final plane out, a smaller single engine Turbo-Otter.