Our main aircraft is a beautiful 1976 Maule M5-235C, registered as VH-YLJ. In Alaska, where they know a thing or two about seaplanes, you mention “Maule” and the pilots all smile. 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.
She was bought by our 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. We’re very proud to be able to share the thrill of flying in this beautiful aircraft over such beautiful country.
And of course we 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. She lives in the maintenance hangar at Sea Breeze Aviation, where our Head of Maintenance Nutsy Fairweather – a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer – keeps a very close eye on how she is performing, inside and out.