Float plane back in business

After more than $1 million in renovations, the float plane that flipped over on Lakeland Bay just over a year ago took to the air again last Thursday.
The de Havilland single-Otter C-GUTL is used mainly to fly people and supplies to remote lodges. And the plane completed two trips to outposts operated by Northern Wilderness Outfitters on its first day back in service.
It went through a complete overhaul over the winter and is virtually a new plane. The biggest change is a new turbine engine that replaced the old piston version, boosting the Otter’s power by more than 150 hp.
The Otter was built in 1962 and refurbishing was necessary because the plane no longer is in production.
“It’s about as new as it gets. The only way you get a new Otter is to totally overhaul one like we did,” said Dave Turcotte, an aircraft mechanic with Lakeland Aviation.
Northern Wilderness Outfitters owns another Otter that Lakeland Aviation converted to turbine last spring–to the tune of more than $700,000.
After the mishap on Lakeland Bay last spring, a stalemate resulted with the insurance company. In the fall, they agreed to pay the plane’s insured amount.
Lakeland got the go-ahead, and immediately began to hunt for parts.
All of them were collected by December and they started putting the Otter back together in January.
The work was completed about a week ago.
Vic Davis, owner of Northern Wilderness Outfitters, has watched a lot of planes leave his dock but these are the first two turbine-driven ones he’s owned.
“This is a tribute to Dave’s dad, Syl. After 42 years of fixing planes this is his [just reward],” said Davis, referring to the arrival of modern technology.
“If people had told me that I’d still be in this racket when they [replaced piston engines with turbine engines], I would have told them that I’d be long gone,” added Davis.