The Contrarian: Bob Ernewein, Flying Historian

When I ask local flyers questions about local flying history, sooner or later they refer me to their unofficial historian, Bob Ernewein.

Bob Ernewein with his beloved Turbo-Beaver.
Photo courtesy of Ron Rutter

He is one of our most colourful flying characters, with a lifetime connection to local flying and with a lifetime career in flying light planes. I am indebted to Bob for much of the historical information behind these ‘flying’ columns.

Joe Amodeo’s Drydenaire business grew through the 60’s to include charter work as well as flight training, and within a few years Joe opened a parallel business called Holidaire in Red Lake.

That did very well and in a few years the tail came to wag the dog, and in 1969 Joe sold his ‘Drydenaire’ business and air base to Roy Swanson, one of his star student pilots, and Roy re-christened it ‘Swanair’.

Holidaire did well, Rick Olson reports working there as a dock boy for some of his teenage years, and it was a busy, growing business. But after a few years, Joe sold it and moved to Winnipeg to take advantage of a larger opportunity still, and progressed from there to a venture in Vancouver, where he lived out the rest of his life.

Photo courtesy of Ron Rutter

The Dryden Flying Club held a big fly-in celebration of Joe’s life, and his ashes were buried in Dryden cemetery. Drydenaire’s first class of budding pilots started in fall, 1959, and historian Bob as a teenager took lessons leading to his private pilot’s licence the next year, starting in fall 1960. He got his commercial licence, and went into bush flying for Swanair.

He says Swanair operated a flight training school until about 1974, and ran a successful charter business for many years from the Wabigoon Lake base. Bob credits Roy Swanson with pioneering the aerial fire spotting protocol used by MNR, and this was carried on by successor companies and perhaps still is.

In 1988, Roy Swanson sold the Drydenaire business and the equipment but not the air base to Bob Huitikka, who integrated it into his own charter and outfitting business called Wilderness Air. It had been operating from his base near Vermilion Bay for some years, and still operates as a busy and successful float and ski plane operation.

Following our historian Bob Ernewein’s career, he flew for each of Swanair and Wilderness Air for some years. Also Boreal Air, which operated from the Dryden waterfront catering to his friends Bob and Shirley Korzinski who operated Green Island Lodge on Upper Manitou Lake.

For a while he was Chief Pilot of two operations, Boreal Air and Keyamawun Air which operated from Deer Lake as part of a Lodge operation.

After more interesting adventures including some time in California he ended his career flying Turbo Beavers for MNR for 14 years, retiring in 2015.

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