Weather changes everything in aviation and it can have a massive influence on the outcome of a day. We were off to the Viking Air tour organised by BCGA which is kind of a big deal for aviation nerds. If the weather crapped out like we’d gotten so used to over the past 6 months, our day would have been bookended by a long boring drive, a marginally more interesting long ferry ride and another car ride to Viking’s factory at Victoria Airport. But instead we were gifted with a big beautiful high pressure system off the coast and that boring 8 hour commute from Squamish turned into one of my best flying days.
Knowing not to squander a sunny flying day, we hatched a plan the night before to make the most of it. We departed Squamish in the morning to the west through one of my favourite routes through the Ashlu Canyon. We popped up over the cloud base to reveal unlimited visibility over the inversion layer to the mountains on Vancouver Island. No wind and sunny skies called for some ridge surfing enroute
Viking Air owns the type certificates for all the de Havilland planes including the legendary Beaver and Otter. The Twin Turbo Otter is the only plane in production and that is what we came to see.
Viking Air started the tour with a video presentation and a talk in one of their classrooms. At the end of the classroom session, we negotiated a BCGA group buy discount on the $6.9 million Otter in case anyone is in the market.
Viking builds most of the Otter from scratch in Victoria, assembles them in Calgary and paints them over the border in Washington State. Fun fact - it takes longer to paint an Otter than it does a 737 due to the older design and rivets. The Viking factory was quiet that day as they run a 4 day work week and Fridays is mostly admin staff, cleaners and the odd worker catching up.
We started the factory tour in the area where raw sheet metal gets bent and shaped into various parts. It takes about 20,000 parts to build an Otter. Viking has the most amazing mix of both modern and old school machines and tools. The rubber press alone is a massive 100 tonne vintage work of art. Everywhere you looked there was well organized parts, tools and machines of various vintages. We couldn’t take any photos inside the facility unfortunately.
We toured the factory in the same order a sheet of raw aluminium does until we got towards the end where we saw wings and fuselage parts in various states of completion. The tour ended outside with a brand new Twin Otter sitting outside in the sun.
Thanks to Rob Anderson and BCGA for being the catalyst to a perfect flying day.