Continuing on with the Twin Otter 50th Anniversary Celebration Tour, the Tour Ambassadors were delayed by extreme cross winds when they attempted to visit Gjoa Haven. Viking representatives were still able to visit Alert, the northernmost permanently inhabited community on earth, where they were warmly welcomed by 200 people and Major Tang, the base Commanding Officer.
This post picks the Twin Otter 50th Celebration Tour up on its fourth stop. Read the coverage of the Tour’s start here.
While in Alert, the Tour Ambassadors were presented with a plaque to thank them for their visit, and to reciprocate, Viking presented a commemorative framed certificate for display at the base, along with dozens of Tim Horton's donuts that were flown up from Yellowknife.
The crew spent a few days back in Yellowknife, the fifth Northern Tour stop, and were made to feel welcome from a banner placed on the Control Tower by Nav Canada, greetings from Yellowknife’s Mayor, Mark Heyck, and a family daycare who dressed in their finest to visit the Twin Otter Series 400.
50th Anniversary Celebration festivities in Yellowknife included the wing rib signing vent, a customer appreciation barbeque, the Yellowknife Bush Plane fly-in and the Yellowknife Pilot’s Memorial Fly past. While numerous Twin Otter enthusiasts were taking part in the activities, it was former Canadian Forces 400 Squadron pilot Major Frank Cannon who aptly summed up the group’s passion for the aircraft when he declared that of all of the platforms he had flown his favorite was, “this little baby on skis.”
Also in attendance was legendary bush pilot Brock "Rocky" Parsons, one of the first pilots to visit the North Pole. His mission required landing on the ice every 50 kilometers or so for the two mappers from the Geological Survey of Canada who accompanied him to take readings; repeating this process until they reached the North Pole. Of the feat, he commented, “only the Twin Otter could do that.”
During the Yellowknife Bush Plane fly in, Viking had an opportunity to visit with past and present Twin Otter operators, including some legendary pilots, discoverers of gold and diamond mines, founders of northern airline, ex-RCMP and military personnel, all with Twin Otter stories to share.
On the Sunday of the Fly-In, Viking and Pacific Sky were honoured to participate in Bush Pilots' Memorial Fly Past, where 14 planes flew past, includig two of Viking's Turbo Beaver that had traveled from Victoria for the occasion. The aircraft tipped their wings over the Pilots' Monument on "The Rock" of Old Town, as the Northwest Territories Pipe Band played a salute. Flying in the anchor position, the Viking Twin Otter Series 400 completed its fly past as the announcer recognized Twin Otter pilots, such as Kenn Borek, who carved a name for themselves in the North.
The Tour’s next stop in Whitehorse was celebrated by over 150 people, including a children’s science camp. Our friends at Air North graciously shared their ramp space and fantastic shots of the Twin Otter Series 400 on their social media feed. The documentary film crew had great opportunities to capture the people and the area, in addition to a special interview with Canadian aviation legend Max Ward.
Next on the itinerary was a quick stop in Inuvik for a Celebration event at the airport, that was supplemented with the addition of a second event held at the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (Inuit self-government building) in order for local residents to sign the wing rib. Drawing local pilots, aviation lovers and local dignitaries including MLA’s and the sitting Mayor along with two previous Mayors, the event also saw Inuvialuktun and bush pilot legend Fred Carmichael paying tribute to the Twin Otter.
Although the transit to Tuktoyaktuk was hampered by heavy fog in the area, the Twin Otter did make it to the hamlet later the same day to be greeted by residents that had waited patiently for its arrival.
Arriving in Fort Good Hope - a remote community of 750 people located on the banks of the Mackenzie River only accessible by air or boat in the summer and ice road in the winter - the Tour Ambassadors presented a certificate to active community members Angela and Joe Grandjambe, who were first to greet the aircraft and accepted the certificate on behalf of their community.
More than 50 residents, including Chief Greg Laboucan and RCMP officers Sgt. Bill Mooney, Cst. James Stanviloff & Cst. Mike Brown, arrived within an hour to view the aircraft. Sergeant Mooney commented, “We enjoyed meeting the Twin Otter team, and having an opportunity to mingle with community members in a non-criminal capacity. We look forward to distributing your tour goodies to enhance public functions such as an elders’ feast or seasonal treats for the kids.”
A forty minute flight from Fort Good Hope, the scenic journey to Norman Wells including flying at about 500 feet over sand bars and bluffs along the Mackenzie River valley, surrounded by the rugged Mackenzie mountains on one side and the lower rounded ridges of the Franklin mountains on the other.
The tour was warmly met by Warren and Carolyn Wright, proprietors of the largest air carrier in the region - North-Wright Airways. The Wright family has been operating Twin Otter and Beavers for over 50 years, with Warren and his son Travis piloting bush planes for two generations.
The gravel ramp at North-Wright Airways played host to over 50 people from the local community, in addition to travelers from Sonoma, Ottawa and Toronto who were in Norman Wells to take advantage of the famed arctic rivers for canoeing. While they were waiting for North Wright Air to fly them to the start of their canoeing adventures, they had an opportunity to sign the wing rib and “go up in history.”
While in Norman Wells, the documentary film crew headed out in Turbo Beaver C-GDTB to capture air-to-air footage of MSN 897, flying across the Mackenzie Valley and capturing spectacular footage of the mountains, canyons, and the rocky moonscape of the region known as the “Plains of Abraham”.
On the last morning of the tour, at the Canoe North Lodge alongside the Norman Wells floatplane base, the Tour Ambassadors had a chance to reflect before heading home. Anne Mullens, the tour’s ground leader, summed it up best: “We sipped coffee in the morning sunshine while overlooking the lake and mountains. Bliss.”
Thank you to Anne Mullens, David Curtis, Anne Hainsworth, Jeannie Fuller and David Malysheff for providing photos, stories, information and quotes from the 50th Anniversary Celebration Northern Tour.