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Minnesota man flies restored 1954 de Havilland Beaver over lakes country

BRAINERD -- A restored 1954 de Havilland Beaver guided by veteran float plane pilot Mark Mathisen of Brainerd went on a journey this week. After going through a three and one-half year rebuild, the classic aircraft, powered by a Pratt and Whitney...

With over 14,000 hours of float plane flying in his log, Mark Mathisen talks about the restored 1954 de Havilland Beaver before flying the aircraft from the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Sunday. After going through a complete restoration and installation of state of the art avionics, the classic Canadian plane is still the work horse of bush pilots around the world. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Gallery and Video
With over 14,000 hours of float plane flying in his log, Mark Mathisen talks about the restored 1954 de Havilland Beaver before flying the aircraft from the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Sunday. After going through a complete restoration and installation of state of the art avionics, the classic Canadian plane is still the work horse of bush pilots around the world. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Gallery and Video

BRAINERD - A restored 1954 de Havilland Beaver guided by veteran float plane pilot Mark Mathisen of Brainerd went on a journey this week.

After going through a three and one-half year rebuild, the classic aircraft, powered by a Pratt and Whitney R-985 engine, cruises at 115 mph and is valued at $800,000.
Mathisen considers himself a lucky man for not only being able to take the Canadian gem for a ride, but in looking back that his dad was a flight instructor and his mom was supportive of his flying.
He soloed in 1966 and received his private license when he was 16, certified on both wheels and floats. That was the beginning of a 45-year career that included a 17-year stint in Alaska as a bush pilot.
The love of flying and flight instruction has taken him to Asia, Europe and Australia, where he taught fire tanker pilots. He has done checkouts in turbine float planes in the Maldive Islands, Europe, China and Canada.
Recently, Mathisen finished checking out a group of Japanese pilots in their Quest Kodiak float planes.
With over 14,000 hours of float flying, the new breed of float planes like the Quest Kodiak have out performed and are replacing traditional radial engines on the planes like the de Havilland Beaver.
In a hangar at Airmotive Enterprises in Brainerd, a newly restored 1954 de Havilland Beaver just happened to be for sale. The $800,000 vintage float plane was being brokered by Airmotive Enterprises and will probably end up back in Canada.
Mathisen always liked the sound of a radial engine. Why not put the accomplished float pilot in the ultimate vintage float plane, now equipped with that Pratt and Whitney R-985 engine and all new avionics.
So the stage was set.
The accomplished float plane pilot and instructor was going to take out the classic red and white de Havilland Beaver. Soon the 450 horsepower radial engine was turning over with Mathisen at the controls and as many flying enthusiasts the plane could hold, packed in for a day of flying over central Minnesota lake country.
The engine barked to life. As the plane taxied down the runway at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, the lunch crowd at the Wings Cafe watched through the windows as the classic took flight. Roaring over North Long, Gull and Sylvan Lakes, Mathisen skimmed the surface of the lakes and made a landing on Wilson Bay.
As the plane roared over t resort country, motorists slowed on roads to watch. One family stopped at East Gull Lake Airport to watch the classic make fly-bys over the grass strip.
As Mathison and his passengers flew over the forests and lakes of the Brainerd area, the Beaver seemed to fit into the natural landscape. The sun broke through and the light glistened off the skin of the vintage airplane as it skimmed over Gull Lake.
As the pilot finally returned to the Brainerd airport and stepped off the plane, he said with a grin, “That was kind of fun. I hope we did not wake up the neighborhood too much.”
The classic plane soon was under cover in a hangar again, not out in the mist where so many have floated at docks and lakes, waiting for the pilot to touch off the loud engine and break the calm on a remote shoreline somewhere in the wilderness.

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A restored 1954 de Havilland Beaver guided by veteran float plane pilot Mark Mathisen flies over East Gull Lake Sunday. After going through a three and one-half year rebuild, the classic aircraft, powered by a Pratt and Whitney R-985 engine, cruises at 115 mph and is valued at $800,000. The ship is now equipped with all new avionics and is brokered by Airmotive Enterprises. The Canadian classic will probably be heading back to Canada, according to Mathisen. Steve Kohls/Forum News Service/

Related Topics: BRAINERD
I was raised on a farm in western Minnesota where I participated in 4-H, high school sports, and everything that farm kids do for fun after chores. Graduated from Ridgewater Community College with an AA degree and my first taste of newspapering. I worked a summer on the Ortonville Independent as a reporter and photographer.
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