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Float plane fly-in lands again

21 pilots expected in Yellowknife

Amy Collins
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (June 27/03) - Every two years, the Midnight Sun Float Plane Fly-In gives Yellowknifers the chance to honour Northern travel.

This year, the event will bring pilots from as far away as California and Ontario to Yellowknife this weekend.

"This is a tourism event to bring people to Yellowknife," said Yvonne Quick, organizer of the tribute to the planes made in the North.

"It's like having a Raven Mad Daze or Folk on the Rocks, except ours is international, so we'll get Americans as well."

Yellowknifers can expect to see up to seven different types of planes that are "mostly all antiques."

There will be Beaver, Cessna 185 and 180, Found Bush Hawks and a Lake model.

The 21 pilots registered for the event will fly in on Friday and stay over until Monday morning. Most have plans to travel around the NWT.

"Some people have been here three or four times," Quick said. "They keep coming back; they have a good time."

Float planes have dotted the Northern sky for decades.

From hunting and fishing lodges catering to tourists, to local aboriginals going out on the land to hunt, planes are chartered "for any reason you can think of," said Bob Schnurr, Air Tindi's marketing manager.

Float and ski planes are used for search and rescue/medevac as well as for exploration to try to find minerals.

"Exploration plays a big, big, big part," said Schnurr.

"The diamond exploration in the '90s was a boom. Diamonds are still big but (the use of planes) goes in cycles."

Flying has been made safer and easier with significant changes in technology.

"The planes are essentially the same, but the technology inside is different," Schnurr said.

Having weather radar and a global positioning system (GPS) makes it easier for pilots to navigate.

However, it's still important to know the land. No matter how improved the technology is, it will eventually break, Schnurr said.

"Technology is only there to assist you. You need to know the difference between a frozen lake and frozen tundra."

The biggest challenge for pilots is weather.

"It's always been (weather), it always will be," he said.

Celebrate Northern air history

These are the main attractions for the Float Plane Fly-In. All tickets are sold at the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre.