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The Republic R3C Seabee was said to have the stability of an iron bridge and to ride rough air like a Pan Am Clipper. It was easy to fly but was tough to get up on the step requiring a few kicks on both rudders. On the water it handled like a speedboat and came to a quick stop when the power was cut off. It was one of the first post war planes available for recreational flying and became very popular although many amateur pilots had a tendency to overload it. There are instances where the owner landed in a small lake (and it landed like a tobbogan) and had to have a professional come in to fly it out. The reversible propeller wasn*t used since it blew the doors off!

Deliveries began in October 1947 and 1060 were built. The original price for a Seabee was $3,995 but half a century later they were selling for $225,000! CF-DKG on display at the Centre was built in 1947 and sold originally to Georgian Bay Airways. For the first winter and possibly the second, CF-DKG was flown on skis but proved to be a poor winter plane. One of the major problems was the lack of an engine primer which made cold weather starting difficult and obviously it was impossible to get a heater under the engine. For reasons never determined CF-DKG was not so a good performer as the apparently identical CF-GAB. Speculation is that the out of level horizontal stabilizer (it is still out of level) may have been the culprit. The plates installed on the wingtips are not original equipment but were installed on most Seabees to reduce the stall speed.

Three pilots who had time on CF-DKG while it was owned by Georgian Bay are Stanley King, Nick Robertson and George Campbell. In 1954 or 55 CF-DKG was sold to George Ayers who was employed by Air-Dale Flying Services in Sault Ste. Marie. At the time of sale the CofA was invalid so the plane was trucked to the Sault. At some point the ownership was transferred to Air-Dale and in 1987 to Mervyn Punkari, co-owner of Air-Dale Flying Service, who had the plane restored to the early Air-Dale colours of yellow with black trim and the green Air-Dale logo before selling it to the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre.

While CF-DKG was never flown by Airdale, CF-DJX and CF-FYB did yeoman service for them flying in fishermen, hunters, timber cruisers, geologists, fire fighters and equipment, biologists and trappers and anyone or anything headed for the bush. Pilot Ken Johns relates one of the strangest episodes in July 1947 when he had a funnel attached to the side of FYB to catch spruce budworms. The funnel in turn was attached to a cotton bag inside the plane and Ken was required to fly at tree top level for a contracted 100 hours “ the net catch was two budworms! In May of 1948 Ken piloted CF-DJX and CF-FYB in mercy flights. In CF-DJX he flew a ten days old girl her mother and a nurse to the hospital in the Soo. Later in the month his passengers in CF-FYB were a man with a ruptured appendix lying on a stretcher and a nurse who were also taken to a Soo hospital. The flight began with Ken landing in Wawa Lake in a strong off shore wind necessitating the shedding of his trousers, a jump overboard and manually getting the plane on shore to load the casualty. On the way to the Soo he encountered a very bad thunderstorm and only the condition of the patient kept him flying past Agawa. In heavy rain with visibility zero he decided to head for Lake Superior and let down over Parisienne Island and into the Soo. Seat of the pants navigation; when he thought he was over Parisienne he began a descent and the first thing he saw were hills and power lines and then the lake, if the let down had been a few minutes earlier he would have been into the hills. It says volumes for this trip that the nurse took the train back to Wawa!

The brief notes in Ken's log understate the difficulties of flying in the bush: forced down by heavy snow and had to stay all night; forced down by thunderstorm and had to land at road camp; smoke very heavy, had hard time finding the lake; hunting for men trapped in fire; are all part of the bush pilots log. On one take off Ken hit a submerged rock, flew on to Black Spruce Lake, dropped the wheels, ran up on shore then patched the hole with ambroid glue and tape. His log for June and July 1948 totaled 303 hours. Pilot John Hampton in CF-DJX was forced to land in Batchewana Bay due to an engine problem after which the plane was towed to the Soo to become the only plane to have been locked through the Soo locks. In short, although the Seabee was not designed as a bushplane it made a substantial contribution to the post war development of the Algoma area.

View Seabee CF-DKG in our collection
 
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