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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Look up in the sky... is it a ?... seaplane

Locals have become quite used to seeing a red and white seaplane traversing along our shoreline, over our lakes and out around Montague Island. The plane taking off and landing on the Moruya River of a Saturday morning ferrying joyriders on a scenic flight has now become a feature of the Moruya Riverside markets. What many might not know however is that that once this trusty seaplane was most recently land based in Botswana. The beautiful 1976 Maule M5-235C, registered as VH-YLJ is a much loved aircraft in Alaska, where they know a thing or two about seaplanes. And that’s because they’re tough, have amazing performance, and are amazingly reliable. YLJ spent her early years in Alaska, ferrying people to remote areas on floats, wheels and skis.

Registered as N81CJ in Botswana she was bought by Chief Pilot Tim Gilbo in 2006, fully refurbished, and started a new and exciting life – flying around Southern Africa (on wheels). She flew across Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – equally at home landing on sand tracks in Malawi or on salt pans in the Kalahari.

In 2010 she was brought to her third continent and to the Eurobodalla – ‘The Land of Many Waters’. It was soon clear that the time had come for her to be a seaplane again, and so floats went back on, along with other upgrades. The Alaska bush pilots might think the custom leather interior she sports these days is a bit too posh, but they’d agree that she has the perfect pedigree for the new job. Tim and his crew very proud to be able to share the thrill of flying in this beautiful aircraft over such beautiful country.

And they spend a lot of effort making sure she stays beautiful. After each day of flying she comes out of the water and is comprehensively washed, serviced and polished. Source

N81CJ on Kamodzi Pan, Botswana, June 2010

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