LABRADOR CITY, N.L. — The float plane dock, located on the shore of Little Wabush Lake in Labrador City, has been providing a much-needed service to the region and a big boost to the business community of Labrador West.
It also continues to solidify its place in the culture and lifestyle of the region.
Any day you find yourself down at the lake where you can see the dock, you will be sure to find a buzz of activity. People, supplies and all forms of gear headed into the country for the many locations and initiatives that these folks cater to.
Labrador Air Safari flies under the banner of Air Saguenay and are responsible for the safe and timely air transportation of the people, supplies and gear required by both the exploration mining sector as well as the outfitting sector. The weather, short summers and uncertainty that is attached to both puts added pressure to deliver everything to everyone. The flights required to remote locations with the exploration people and the necessary gear is always running on the clock. Time is money.
The outfitters with all of their supplies, fuel, groceries, and their guests, with connecting commercial flights going both ways, are also a huge responsibility.
The spin-off of jobs created by the air service, as well as the purchase of all of the necessary goods that they carry and the many jobs created by the customers they serve is a very significant infusion of money into the local economy. This happens every season, and is something that has been going on for a long time in Labrador West.
Its contribution to the lifestyle and culture can also be measured in a positive way. The sounds of the early morning departures of the planes and the return as the sun sets in the evening is as familiar, and part of our community as the sound of the trains from the mine.
The planes themselves represent an important part of the history of the North. The North, Canada-wide, including us, was opened up with its many opportunities on the backs of the Beaver and the Otter and those very special characters who have and continue to fly them.
The mining companies and the outfitting businesses would all still be pounding the pavement in the south without them.
DeHavilland built the Beaver and had its first test flight over Downsview Ontario in 1947. In April of 1948, the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests took delivery of the first Beaver to go into service. The Otter followed and the last Beaver to come off the assembly line was in 1967 with 1600 of these workhorses built.
To this day, as many of them continue to fly, they have never been able to build anything that can match them.
As important a role as these aircraft have played, the pilots who flew them in the early years through to the “top guns “ whom we see continuing to fly them today, are like the Beaver itself. This is where the human factor enters into play.
These pilots come with an enormous sense of adventure and have somehow been hardwired in their DNA with the unique tools that gives them their built in wilderness character.
In spite of, or perhaps because of the raw beauty of the Big Land and the unforgiving nature of its nature and weather, these pilots fly each day by the seat of their pants with cat like reflexes, skills, and true grit in their fingertips on the controls.
The summer flight season as a rule usually begins near the end of May or early June depending on the weather. Its full throttle ahead until the weather brings it to a close sometime during the first week of October.
Its part of what defines us as a northern community, it sends a clear message of who we are, and what we do as we live our lives in the Big Land.