One of the North’s best-known bush pilots hailed the legacy of the Twin Otter as the aircraft celebrated its 50th birthday in Yellowknife on Wednesday.
Brock ‘Rocky’ Parsons, 88, took a tour of Viking Air’s new-look Twin Otter, redesigned for the 21st Century after the company purchased the rights to the aircraft from De Havilland in 2006.
“That was quite a thrill,” he told Moose FM after a solid 45 minutes inside the cockpit with current pilots.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in Twin Otters and to see this one is quite a change from the old days. I was quite lost up there when they showed me all the modern approach electronic systems and navigation systems, that I never did see before.
“It’s impressive – including the price tag,” he joked.
Viking Air and its new Twin Otter are touring the North, where the aircraft has been ubiquitous for half a century, to mark 50 years since the first one took to the sky.
The company will take part in this weekend’s Midnight Sun fly-in before moving on to Whitehorse next week.
Photo above: Rocky Parsons makes a mail delivery in 1957.
Parsons had already been flying for years when the original Twin Otters were introduced in 1965, and he began flying them right away.
“I first flew Twin Otters in the 1960s with Ward Air,” he recalled. “We visited pretty well all the Northern communities and even the North Pole three times.
“What’s impressive about the airplane is you don’t necessarily have to land along the strip. If it’s a very strong crosswind you can land across the strip. The ability and versatility hasn’t changed a bit over the years.
“You can take off on a dime, land on a dime, and it’ll give you 10 cents change.”
Parsons’ most vivid memory of his time flying Twin Otters may not be quite what you’d expect.
“I left a Twin Otter at the North Pole,” he confesses.
“I consider that my most memorable occasion. I, unfortunately – with a group of tourists – dropped one through the ice at the North Pole in the late 1970s.
“It’s up there someplace, down at the bottom.”
That may be one of the few Twin Otters not to have survived the Canadian North.
Viking Air says it has had trouble selling any of the aircraft in Canada because their reliability is such that none require replacing.
“Our biggest rival is the old Twin Otter,” joked Viking Air’s president, David Curtis, at Wednesday’s event. The company is looking abroad to emerging markets instead.