Red Lake, ON, Canada - July 2006

This summer my father and I finally experienced the Red Lake Norseman Festival - a local fair centered on the bush plane. If you're thinking the Norseman Festival is along the lines of the Stampede, Klondike Days, PNE or the CNE, you would be sorely mistaken. Red Lake's population is 5,200 so it's definitely a small town fair. (Trevor McTavish)

For those who've never been to Red Lake, there are only a couple motels so book a room well in advance. Food is limited to three small restaurants, two of which close early. Cab fare from the airport is $25 each way and unless you're doing a lot of commuting it's nothing to walk around Red Lake. (Trevor McTavish)

During our Norseman ride we met another father and son team from England. Far more determined than we were, these two men had traveled overseas to see the festival and Oshkosh. We bumped into them time and time again. There was also a pair of enthusiasts from Belgium but we didn't manage to meet them. (Trevor McTavish)

Saturday morning awoke with a rather slow start to the activities. It wasn't until mid-morning before the vendors were set up. The main street had been closed allowing locals to sell home-made jewellery, paintings and carvings. (Trevor McTavish)

There was lots of interesting stuff to be seen and in case you've been searching for hand-carved moose antlers for your living room, here's the perfect place to find one that will meet your decorative tastes. (Trevor McTavish)

There was a bouncy house and sinking ocean liner slide (a la the RMS Titanic) for the kids to enjoy. (Trevor McTavish)

But it was a train of old fuel drums that dad loved seeing. Each one had been colourfully painted like one of the Norsemans that regularily attend the show. (Trevor McTavish)

Rides in one of Canada's quintessential bush planes were of course the highlight of many visitors' trips. (Trevor McTavish)

Flights cost $40 for adults and $30 for children but I noticed that flights ranged from a couple minutes to a quarter hour tour of the community. (Trevor McTavish)

With a telephoto lens it was possible to get some nice landing and takeoff photos, but as a courtesy to the locals the pilots don't fly over the town so in-flight photos were difficult to obtain. In fact, I only managed one photo of an airborne Norseman during the whole trip. (Trevor McTavish)

At first there was only one visiting Norseman on the public docks, but this eventually increased to three as the day wore on. (Trevor McTavish)

Apparently they were still needed to haul passengers back from fishing lodges in the morning. (Trevor McTavish)

Beyond the public docks were two more Norsemans; one at Green Airways and another at Viking Outposts. (Trevor McTavish)

I would have thought the operators would have moved their planes over to the public dock instead of leaving them spread along the waterfront but they didn't. (Trevor McTavish)

There weren't a lot of people around Green Airways docks, but the employees were busy unloading two Otters and a Beaver. (Trevor McTavish)

Even further down the road was Viking Outposts and their office was deserted. Everyone was friendly but the lady at Viking Outposts offered us hats, played a Norseman song she'd commissioned from a local singer and made us feel thoroughly welcome. (Trevor McTavish)

I should add that the people at Chimo Air Service were just as friendly. (Trevor McTavish)

I love all the colours in this shot - the necessities of a week in the bush. (Trevor McTavish)

While we were wandering around, we headed back to the Chimo Air Service dock and took a closer look at some of their other planes, including their Otter. (Trevor McTavish)

I remember as a kid, a two-tone blue Otter stopped in Calgary on its way to points unknown, and I remember thinking "Boy this thing is big." I'm a little older now, but the Otter still seems imposing. (Trevor McTavish)

From the Chimo docks, there was also a nice view of CF-DRD, which the townspeople restored and erected in honour of the pioneering pilots who'd opened northwestern Ontario. (Trevor McTavish)

think this gives a little perspective into the size of Red Lake; Chimo Air Service's dock is right next door to the Norseman park, which is next door to the public dock and Green Airways, while Viking Outposts is at the end of the street. A grand distance of about one kilometre. (Trevor McTavish)

I have to admit, I really think the Norseman is an attractive machine, and putting one in a park with all its flowers certainly added a nice touch. (Trevor McTavish)

In between the morning's Norseman rides there were other Red Lake airplanes taking to the skies on their daily routines. This included Viking Outposts' Beaver, C-GGMB. (Trevor McTavish)

Or C-FDNZ, a Cessna 180 that made the only overhead approach into Howey Bay. (Trevor McTavish)

Even Chimo's Otter was seen running an errand. (Trevor McTavish)

By this time, several more Norsemans arrived and took their places on the public docks. (Trevor McTavish)

This included C-FBHZ, a Norseman Mk.V belonging to Art Latto Air Service Ltd. of Savant Lake, ON. (Trevor McTavish)

What I liked the most about C-FBHZ was the multitude of mismatched panels in her faded and weather-beaten appearance. It just screamed "hard working bushplane." (Trevor McTavish)

All those patches on her cowling certainly help add to that hard working bushplane image. (Trevor McTavish)

Looking at the weather-beaten day-glo orange paint on the cowlings made me wonder, "What must she have looked like in her prime?" (Trevor McTavish)

'Nuff said. (Trevor McTavish)

Viking Outposts' C-FFQI looked a lot nicer than the weather-beaten C-FBHZ... (Trevor McTavish)

...but while the paint work was substantially nicer, the worn edges still told the story of an airplane that earns her keep and isn't a pampered hangar queen. (Trevor McTavish)

The nice folks at Viking Outposts even let me climb aboard C-FFQI for a couple snaps. (Trevor McTavish)

Walking back, we dropped into Green Airways, where they keep a fleet of Beavers, and Otters that have been modified with 1000hp PZL engines, a modification that's earned them the name "Polish Otter." (Trevor McTavish)

After years of seeing highly modified Beavers on the BC coast, it was refreshing to see the mostly stock Beavers of northwestern Ontario. (Trevor McTavish)

In fact, looking back, I think the whole point of our trip to Red Lake was taking the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the quietly disappearing world of the bushplane. Between accidents, reduced availability of avgas, and parts for engines that haven't been produced for 70 years, its only a matter of time before these planes disappear. (Trevor McTavish)

Of course no visit to Red Lake would be complete without paying a visit to the Lakeview Restaurant. Pilot, Canadian aviation historian and author, Robert S. Grant starts many of his magazine stories at a table in this famous landmark. (Trevor McTavish)

Out on the public docks, even more airplanes arrived, taking advantage of the sunny skies. This Republic RC-3 SeaBee was just one of them. (Trevor McTavish)

Thanks to some careful engineering, and a little luck, you'd never know there was a state-of-the-art, fuel injected Corvette engine powering this SeaBee. Only the three-blade propeller gives it away. Like many post-war designs, the SeaBee suffered from a lack of suitable engines. Its taken 65 years but someone finally found a perfect match. (Trevor McTavish)

Chimo's CF-KAO wasn't part of the day's flying schedule, mostly because it appears to have been needed to make a run to one of the fishing camps. (Trevor McTavish)

Across the bay, we discovered yet another Norseman, CF-JEC, which was undergoing some maintenance to correct some kind of mechanical snag. (Trevor McTavish)

As you can see, even though CF-JEC was a working plane, she'd also come out of a recent restoration and looked (probably) better than when she'd rolled out the factory doors back at Noorduyn. (Trevor McTavish)

You can also see that by late afternoon, the once sunny skies had clouded over and temperatures had begun to drop. (Trevor McTavish)

Saturday evening was dampened by light rain showers while entertainment was supplied by a music group calling themselves "Pop the Trunk." The singing was good and their selections included pop and country. It wasn't until we got back to town at 9:00pm that we discovered that two of the town's restaurants were closed and we ended up getting a hotdog from the only street vendor still around. A large tent used during the day for a hypnotist's show provided shelter, and a table and chairs. (Trevor McTavish)

At 10:30pm a fireworks show started off. For such a small community, the show lasted a respectable 15 minutes. Unfortunately I left my tripod back home. Instead I watched the fireworks unconcerned about exposure lengths or aperture settings.

Regrettably we had to cut our visit to Red Lake short because of several weather systems building on our return route. Flying a small plane to events sometimes means you have to sacrifice photos for a safe trip, especially when it's 1,500 kilometres each way.

According to the program there was to be a float pumping contest and Norseman fly-by in the late afternoon. I would have liked to have photographed both of these events, but again it came down to avoiding the weather. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to visit Red Lake once more, before these amazing airplanes disappear into the history books forever. (Trevor McTavish)