Returning to the Oshawa Flying Club, Ayers became a part-time flight instructor and also occupied the co-pilot seat of a Beech 18 carrying car parts from Cleveland on night runs. An Oshawa contact suggested relocating to Sault Ste. Marie’s Algoma Flying Club on the edge of the boreal forest country. Within a year, word filtered out that a bush flying company called Air Dale Ltd. needed a float and ski pilot.

In April 1963, Ayers found himself installed in a Cessna 180 before Air Dale transferred him to Wawa in Lake Superior’s northeast corner. From the mining and tourist-oriented community, several bush charter services covered the “Pukaskwa” region’s short lakes, high hillsides and frequent fog. He also flew classics like a Noorduyn Norseman and Stinson SR-9 jammed with disassembled bulldozers, fuel drums and diamond drill parts and flew non-stop when weather permitted.

We worked as hard as anybody, seven days a week, dawn to dusk. No question asked. You stretched everything right to the max,” Ayers recalled. “We only stopped at -40 degrees since it was just too hard on the engines and airframes.”

In August 1963, check pilot Gary Bracken introduced Ayers to his first de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver. Instantly, he recognized how well the large doors, docile handling and STOL performance suited Pukaskwa’s harsh environment. Although Ayers and fellow “drivers” enjoyed the camaraderie of the fast-paced atmosphere, they kept watch for opportunities to shift into more “normal” lives. Many applied to Trans Canada Airlines (the name changed to Air Canada in 1965).

I put in an application and would have been interviewed but withdrew because I couldn’t even sleep at night” he said. “Friends in the airline business described that lifestyle as too structured and boring so I applied to Ontario’s Department of Lands and Forests where I could probably stay with the type of flying I enjoyed.” ...

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