The Beaver and me

Posted by on Sunday, July 16, 2017 at 8:01 am

In one month’s time on Aug 16, 2017 the de Havilland Beaver will celebrate its 70th anniversary!

It’s hard for me to imagine a day without a bright yellow piston Beaver on floats at my front door.

De Havilland (DHC-2) Beaver C-GZBR and I go way back; all the way to my arrival home, at birth, from the hospital. My parents were living right along the side of the de Havilland airport (now Downsview) in Toronto. I had no idea until much later that ZBR was built there that year and likely took its first flight right outside my bedroom window!

Skip ahead about 20 years to Thunder Bay where I married a young wanna be pilot. Brad soon began his career as a bush pilot and developed a love for the Beaver while flying the ruggedly designed Beaver in the rugged Canadian Wilderness. After he gained experience flying several years for various operators, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to enter the industry ourselves as operators. Before long we packed up the family (two toddlers in tow and a baby on the way) and moved to Ignace.

With two other couples as partners through the late 80’s and 90’s we operated among our sister companies a dozen bush planes, of which 9 were Beavers, One of these Beavers was an original 1947 Beaver C-FOBV (serial # 5).

The Beaver played an important role in our growing family’s history. It seems to be prominently featured in the background of every family milestone photo from anniversaries to graduations to reunions to weddings.  In the summer a Beaver has been parked at the dock in front of our house daily for over 30 years. In the winter the Beavers were parked in the yard just meters from our doorstep patiently waiting their turn through the hangar for regular maintenance.

Each of our kids had many opportunities to sit up front with their dad. In turn they all managed to get their hands on the controls before they could see over the dash. All three kids learned to pump floats, load the aircraft, fuel and oil them as well as clean them inside and out. They’ve been in the hangar handing parts and tools to the AMEs and helped dock the aircraft under windy conditions.   They learned to dispatch and flight-follow the Beaver.   They weighed countless loads and were able to remind new pilots of Beaver capabilities and share loading tips.

When our oldest daughter was married, her desire was not to be brought to her wedding in a limo but instead in a Beaver. This was easily arranged. Her father taxied her down the lake to the wedding in Beaver ZBR. After her wedding, Krista moved to the west coast and while searching for a job, decided her familiarity with Beavers necessitated a visit to a floatplane operator. She was thrilled to find ‘round nose’ Beavers. She was hired as a customer service rep and she began a career in aviation, which she continues today.

Our youngest daughter Joanna, ever the adventurer, was often climbing into a vacant seat just for another ride on the durable aircraft. Her love of flying has translated into a career as a flight attendant with a major Canadian carrier.

In 1990 Brad hired a pilot to fly a beaver for the summer and by the end of the season she was engaged to be married to Brad’s younger brother who also worked for us, and they both left our employ for other opportunities.

One nephew who hung around the seaplane base helping load and dreaming of the day he could fly a Beaver did ultimately peruse a career in aviation, which focused on the Beaver and its big brother the Otter.

I have too many photos of C-GZBR to count; taken in every season, time of day, and change of weather. Some have been printed for sale and some simply in print. One image selected for our industry magazine features our oldest grandson sending off ZBR figuratively saying good-bye to the summer season.

Between 1947 and 1967 de Havilland built one thousand, six hundred ninety-two beavers. They have been registered in about 60 countries, many still in operation today. I’m just happy to have one special one here with Brad and me in Ignace, Ontario – serial number 1272, ZBR.