The home of everything related to Twin Navion and Camair aircraft
Ram Air Charter, Ltd. (and Reindeer Air Service Ltd.)'s Twin Navion fleet:
An aerial view of Inuvik. The old airport is in the foreground along the riverbank.
Photo courtesy of unknown
North of the Arctic Circle, aviation plays an important role in the transportation of people and freight. In minutes or
hours a plane can traverse the same distances that would take a snowmobile, or boat days or weeks to cross.
In the northwest corner of the Northwest Territories, a short ways from where the numerous rivers of the MacKenzie Delta
enter the Arctic Ocean, the small town of Inuvik has remained the largest of the remote communities in this formidable and
In the late 1960s, Lyle Trimble purchased Reindeer Airways, a small charter company from its Eskimo owner, Freddy
Carmichael. Trimble introduced a D-16 Twin Navion based in part on the Navion's reputation for ruggedness and the safety
afforded by the twin's second engine. CF-OGG had come into Canada as multi-engine trainer for the Edmonton Flying Club, but
following a wheels-up landing in a farmer's field following a botched engine shutdown exercise on a flight test, the plane
was rebuilt and quietly sold.
Once in Inuvik, 'OGG began hauling passengers and freight to the outlying settlements. One year, in the midst of the
endless Arctic night, a new pilot was called upon to fly 'OGG to the airstrip outside the Yukon community of Old Crow. There
a patient would be waiting to return to the Inuvik clinic. Medivac flights were common for Reindeer Airways but the new
pilot was unfamiliar with the Old Crow airstrip. However, he was informed that the RCMP would have a cruiser on scene with
its headlights at one end of the strip, flare pots lining the runway's edge and a bonfire would mark the distant threshold.
Arriving over the airstrip, the pilot found the scene as it had been described and planned for a normal landing at the
runway's end. But just as he was about to touch down the plane shook violently and slid into a neighboring ditch. It seems
that people failed to mention that the bonfire would be set a few feet lower than the airstrip and the pilot had torn 'OGG's
landing gear off on the runway's edge.
CF-OGG sits, wrecked at Old Crow.
Photo courtesy of Ken McTavish
Lyle Trimble was now in need of another Twin Navion and acquired a second D-16 in the form of CF-TQU. For a few years in
the early 1970s this Twin Navion carried on with the same general traffic that 'OGG had, although this time 'TQU had been
equipped with tip tanks for an increase in range. On one flight in 1972, pilot Don Orr and a couple of passengers were
passing over the Delta, between the communities of Aklavik and Fort MacPherson when the engines lost power and died. Ice
had built up on the carburetors, leaving 'TQU to glide to a hard, wheels-up landing. Everyone on board was able to climb
away from the wreckage, even though not much remained of the plane. Its tip tanks tore off on impact, never to be found in
Image courtesy of Trevor McTavish
Both Twin Navions had their remains hauled back to Inuvik. Trimble planned at one stage to use the cockpit from CF-OGG as a
weather-proof cabin in his motor boat. While the remains of 'TQU were all but useless. Years later, people were surprised
to discover that even though bent and battered, the canopy would still slide freely with one's finger tips.
But now, Reindeer Airways was again without a plane and in the early months of 1973 a more powerful D-16A, CF-NHN, was
purchased from a construction company in Slave Lake, Alberta. For two years 'NHN plied the same routes as 'TQU and 'OGG,
and like its predecessors, 'NHN saw its share of damage. Towards the end of its employment with Lyle Trimble, one of the
propellers was damaged on a medivac flight. Although the propeller was removed to be replaced, that never came. The Inuvik
volunteer fire department was extinguishing a burning barrel of fuel when a blast from their hose washed the drum into
Reindeer Airways' hangar, setting it alight. Luckily 'NHN was outside at the time, but its propeller, logbooks and most of
the company's assets were destroyed. By the beginning of 1975 things weren't looking up for Reindeer Airways and in
mid-March, 'NHN was sold to its new owner, Ken McTavish.
CF-NHN waits out its final winter in Inuvik, 1975.
Photo courtesy of Ken McTavish