Joel Eilertsen has lived a long and adventurous life. He now flies Air Cabs out of Coal Harbour.

Air cab a leader in float plane safety

Air Cab owner and pilot Joel Eilertsen moved to Coal Harbour from the United States with his parents in 1952.

“I’m on holiday every day,” says Air Cab owner and pilot Joel Eilertsen. Air Cab is a coastal float plane business based in Coal Harbour.

Eilertson moved to Coal Harbour from the United States with his parents John and Margaret in 1952. Living in Canada did not deter him from fighting for his homeland.

As a member of the U.S. Army, Eilertsen spent two and a half years in Vietnam, receiving a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in 1968 during the Tet Offensive.

Eilertson enjoyed his time in the military. “It was great I thought, very exciting,” he said. “When I came out of Vietnam, I was totally bored, so I took up flying.”

He received his commercial float plane pilot’s licence in the United States – paid for through the GI Bill (Veteran’s Affairs).

Eilertsen says what he loves about being a pilot is that it “is challenging. It keeps the mind active.”

With licence in hand, Eilertsen and his wife Chora, opened Air Cab’s doors in 1989 with a Cessna 185. “I had a float plane and three D8 Caterpillars,” Eilertsen said. D8s are large track type tractors used by Air Cab to load float planes into the water.

The company started with two pilots. “We’ve had up to six permanent pilots and two temporary pilots,” he said.

The company currently has four float planes, three piston driven Beavers, and on eturbine-driven Beaver, which take to the skies 365 days a year. The company’s first customers were “mainly loggers and fisherman,” he said.

That is still true today.

The lion’s share of Air Cab’s business is commercial; five to eight per cent of his trips are for tourists. There have, however, been some pretty famous passengers over the years. Air Cab has flown contestants for History Channel’s hit series ‘Alone’.

They also flew American pop star Miley Cyrus to Klemtu last September when she visited the North Island to speak out about British Columbia’s wolf cull.

The largest piece of equipment they’ve ever hauled was an 1,150-pound transmission to a logging camp.

“We fly any place where there’s water to land,” Eilertsen said. “We’ll cover, in a year, a range from Coal Harbour to Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii to Tofino, to the Alaska border. The whole coastline.”

Eilertsen has become known as a leader in float plane safety, with initiatives that go well beyond what Transport Canada requires of commercial float-plane operators, beyond even what much larger industry operators have done.

Eighteen years ago, tracking systems were installed on Air Cab planes – the first company in Canada to do so.

“We track (our aircraft) every five minutes of the flight,” he said.

Air Cab has also put ‘G Switches’ on the aircrafts’ batteries, so that if the aircraft does a hard hit, the battery disconnects which “helps to eliminate fire through electrical shorts.”

Air Cab also became the first airline in B.C. to voluntarily make it mandatory for all passengers to wear life jackets, using self inflating life vests, approved by Transport  Canada.

Wearing a life jacket “is very, very important, because 50 per cent of the people that get out of the aircraft after it rolls, drown,” he said, adding he is trying to eliminate as many hazards as possible.

Eilertsen almost lost his own life a second time. In 2005, he survived a near-fatal bout of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

“I spent the whole year in the hospital. I was 100 per cent paralyzed, unable to speak for 110 days and on ventilator for 85 of those days,” he recalls. For a while he could not open his eyes. When he finally could, they were stuck open.

Today the only lingering sign of his illness is a slight speech impediment.

When he was back on his feet, Eilertsen’s ‘therapy’ consisted of building a massive work bench using reclaimed wood – including some from a 1860 Schooner, destined for the Slave Trade, that sank across from Hardy Bay.

He is also busy restoring a 99-yearold salvage boat, originally from Alert Bay, which he plans to take there next year to celebrate the craft’s 100th birthday.

Owning a business, it appears, is an Eilertsen family trait. “I am from a very long line of independent people.”

His great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all businessmen. “This was the thing to do,” he said.

Over the years, he has seen all kinds of things in his travels. “I could tell stories until Hell freezes over,” he chuckled.

 

Just Posted

North Island Eagles minor rep ockey organization hand out year-end awards in Port McNeill

It was quite the season and then some for minor rep hockey here in the North Island.

North Island resident to campaign on climate, economy for Liberal Party seat in Ottawa

Peter Schwarzhoff joins race for the second time in North Island-Powell River riding

Press release: Port Alice Health Centre service model announced

“a sustainable and dependable model of health care service delivery in Port Alice is a priority”

First annual Pride Day coming to Port Hardy in August

Pride contributes to a more inclusive and safe community for LGBTQ+ identifying individuals.

Blaney plan helps seniors late with taxes

Simple solution to important issue: North Island-Powell River MP

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of Victoria Day

How much do you know about the monarch whose day we celebrate each May?

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

The father and two youngesters fell down a steep and treachorous cliff while hiking on Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

RCMP arrest violent offender on Vancouver Island

Police struggle with suspect and take him down with a taser

Most Read