by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2020 issue
While the demand for commercial pilots may be at an all-time high, the Canada fishing lodge company, Wilderness North in Thunder Bay, Ontario, is attracting pilots from as far away as New Zealand.
On our annual Canada Fishing Fly-Out to “Miminiska Lodge” in Ontario in August 2019 – one of several lodges owned by Alan and Krista Cheeseman of Wilderness North, and one of few lodges with its own airstrip (CPS5) – we had the pleasure of meeting their newest pilot, Lucy Newell, 24, of New Zealand.
All of us guys watched as Newell made her approach to Miminiska Lake in the de Havilland Beaver, then docked in strong winds as if it were something she did every day, which it is. We also watched as she loaded gear and a canoe for some guests going on a one-day canoe trip to do a little sightseeing and trout fishing. Newell accepted help from the dock crew, but loaded the Beaver herself to ensure proper weight and balance.
Growing up on a farm on the South Island of New Zealand, Newell knows what work is. Her father owned and ran a high-country sheep and beef station, there.
Although her father had always wanted to get his pilot’s license, he never had the opportunity. So, he proposed the idea to his daughter and she hasn’t looked back since.
Newell started flying when she was 18, but actually completed all six of her Private Pilot License exams before ever getting into an airplane (i.e. referred to as an “aeroplane” in New Zealand). “I thought that if I enjoyed the theory, I’d probably enjoy the flying,” said Newell.
After high school, Newell received a diploma in general aviation at the International Aviation Academy of New Zealand (IAANZ) in Christchurch, and said this education was very “procedurally” based. “I made the decision to go to another flight school for a more practical approach for my instructor rating.”
Newell holds a Category B Flight Instructor Rating-Aeroplane, issued by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, and a Commercial Pilot License, issued by Transport Canada. In New Zealand, there are three levels of instructor ratings: A, B and C with C being the first rating. Newell also has an aerobatic rating, so she is ready for anything, flying-wise.
Newell had been instructing for a company called Classic Flights in Wanaka, New Zealand, when she heard about the opening at Wilderness North. Classic Flights was operating an array of aircraft, including a Cessna 172, Piper PA-28, Diamond 40, 7GCAA Citabria, and two DH82A British Tiger Moths.
“I was lucky enough to fly the Tiger Moth on scenic and aerobatic flights under our Adventure Aviation Certificate,” says Newell. (Under New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, Part 115, Adventure Aviation – Certification and Operations, all adventure aviation operators must hold an operator certificate.)
Newell’s boyfriend, Bevan Dewes, also enjoys flying vintage aircraft. Dewes is co-owner of Dewes Brothers Ltd., a beekeeping business specializing in Manuka honey and Nuc production, and flys a parachute jump-plane and World War I aircraft based in Masterton for movie director and producer, Peter Jackson.
Newell has 2530 hours total time with a majority of those hours instructing, and doing initial ‘trial flights’ for customers wanting a flight experience. As of last fall, she had approximately 120 hours of floatplane time, but she flys like someone with a thousand hours. Newell came to Canada having flown only 8 hours in a PA18 Super Cub for her initial seaplane rating, and picked up another 25 hours in the Cessna 185 at Wilderness North before getting checked out in the Beaver.
“My future goals are mainly focused on aviation, so I would probably say, my goals outside of work include flying vintage and rare aircraft. The Tiger Moth is a very special aircraft to me, but I am working on doing a Harvard rating in the future as well.”
Newell was lucky enough to be given a reference by a friend who flys for Wilderness North in Indonesia. “At the time, there was not a flying position available, but they kindly opened a position for me to have a chance to start with the company.
As for the pros and cons of flying for Wilderness North, “I wouldn’t say there are any cons. Just like any job, when you are working, you are working. Great rewards don’t come without hard work. It would be a boring life, otherwise! I enjoy the challenge of a fast-paced work day and problem solving. I have not been disappointed with my experience in Canada!
“The pros are endless, really… Fantastic employers! Krista and Alan Cheeseman are two of the hardest-working people I have ever met, and go out of their way to welcome guests and employees, alike.
“I have the opportunity to fly unreal aeroplanes – from the Cessna 185 to the Beaver and Otter, to Caravans and Air Tractors. (Wilderness North operates Air Tractors out of Nakina, Ontario and Indonesia, hauling fuel). The fleet is impressive to say the least!
“A company can’t operate well without great, hard-working employees, and there isn’t any shortage of awesome people at Wilderness North! I felt welcomed and part of the family the day I arrived from New Zealand.
“I promise, this isn’t a paid promo! Wilderness North is just a great place to work and I can’t rave enough about it.
“When I return to Canada from my break back home in New Zealand, I will be flying a Grand Caravan with Wilderness North out of Nakina, Ontario, transporting passengers and cargo throughout the winter.
“My goal is to work towards flying the Air Tractor in the future. This is the 802F model with a Fuel Boss conversion. Each load carries 4000L of gas! And I like the prospect of flying the plane in Indonesia. This will come with more challenges, which appeals to me!”
Do you have any interest in flying for the airlines?
“To be honest, the airlines have not been calling me. I enjoy flying in the bush and using my hands and feet. Wilderness North is a very attractive company with an array of incredible aeroplanes and operations, so I see myself staying with them for a long time!”
Flying To Miminiska Lodge, Ontario
Each year, Midwest Flyer Magazine promotes three “group trips” to Miminiska Lodge. The lodge is located 196 nm north of Thunder Bay on the Albany River Watershed, and is only accessible by air. Its 2400 ft. grass airstrip (CPS5) makes the lodge especially appealing to pilots with aircraft on wheels.
While all three of the group trips for 2020 are booked, there are a few reservations still available for individuals on a plane-by-plane basis. For additional information, contact Lynette Mishibinijima at Wilderness North: 807-983-2047 or toll free: 888-465-3474.