“She’s one heck of a airplane.”
That’s how Vic Davis of Sportsmen’s Airways on Rainy Lake described what a recent engine conversion has done for the capability of one of the Otter aircraft used in his flying business.
The aircraft, slated to take to the skies sometime this week, has spent two months in the hangar at Lakeland Aviation having its piston engine removed and a turbine jet one installed in its place.
“It brings it into the 21st century. It’s more reliable, more powerful, faster—just everything,” Davis said, adding the turbine engine also lowers fuel and maintenance costs.
“It can carry about 20 percent more load and is 25 percent faster,” he added.
Davis said he had been thinking about having the conversion done for quite a while but wanted to make sure it had a good reputation before he started the process on his aircraft.
The Ministry of Natural Resources recently had its fleet of CL-215 waterbombers replaced by CL-415s, which have turbine engines.
“The turbine engine is much more efficient and has hardly any moving parts,” noted George Melenchuk, a pilot with Sportsmen’s Airways.
The turbine weighs in at only 400 pounds—down 800 pounds from its hefty predecessor—and makes for a trim re-design of the whole front end of the plane.
“The nose of the plane extends nine feet past what a standard Otter does [but] it’s much narrower, more streamlined,” said Melenchuk.
David Turcotte, a partner in Lakeland Aviation with his dad, Syl, said the engine conversion wasn’t just a first for a local air business but a first for his company as a contractor.
“And it’s the first for anybody [who owns Otters] around here,” added Turcotte. “It’s pretty developed technology and I think it will prove itself around here.”
He noted the conversion was the 37th of its kind out of 466 similar aircraft in Canada.
But the cost of conversion doesn’t come cheap, Davis admitted.
“The initial cost is quite expensive. The conversion is about $700,000 Canadian,” he said.