Arctic Adventure 31 – Flying in the North

As you have read in my previous posts, flying is one of the lifelines of the North for access to the small communities but even more so for access to anything beyond those small communities. This is obviously done through the use of smaller aircraft and because there is so much water in the North – contained mostly in lakes – many of these are float planes. Well that’s fine for the summer when the water is liquid but in the winter time things can’t stop so the planes are retro-fitted with skiis so that they can take off and land on the ice of the frozen lakes.

During my recent lay-over in Yellowknife I got a chance to see that transformation for myself. Two small airlines – Air Tindi (Tindi is the native word for big lake) and Summit Air – operate air bases on the shore of Yellowknife Bay on Great Slave Lake. When I lived there in 2010 I did a flight on an Air Tindi de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter float plane from the lakeside base to a remote wilderness lodge. (I only went along for the ride delivering guests and supplies to the lodge and unfortunately didn’t get to stay there !) It was therefore amazing to see the same planes – now with skiis – taking off and landing on the annual winter runway set up on the ice ! I was also amused by how casual the whole set-up is as people on cross-country skiis, snowmobiles and on foot were moving around the temporary airfield as planes were coming and going !!

Note : As always there’s a lot of interesting information about the various planes on Wikipedia if you want to do any further reading !

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