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Mathisen flies restored 1954 Beaver

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 Video1 / 2
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-a-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 plane 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. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Video and Gallery2 / 2

Mark Mathisen considers himself a lucky man. His dad was a flight instructor and his mom was very 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 the Quest Kodiak on carbon fiber Aerocet floats.

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 engine planes like the de Havilland Beaver.

In a hangar at Airmotive Enterprises, a newly restored 1954 deHavilland Beaver just happened to be for sale. With a price tag of $800,000, the 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 Pratt and Whitney R-985 engine and all new avionics.

So the stage was set, accomplished float plane pilot and instructor taking 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 and the all clear was sounded. 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 the 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 they flew over the forests and lakes of the Brainerd area, the Beaver with Mathisen at the controls 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.

The ship and pilot finally had to return to the stable. The paved runways of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport came into view and wheels touched down.

As Mathison stepped off the float of the classic, 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 undercover 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 Pratt and Whitney engine - breaking the calm on a remote shoreline somewhere in the wilderness.

Steve Kohls
I started my career in photography after graduation from Moorhead State College with photography positions at the Daily News in Wahpeton, ND. , Country Echo in Pequot Lakes, The Journal in New Ulm and settling at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1975. I have been teaching fine art black and white and color photography at Central Lakes College for the past 15 years. Currently I have been teaching Underwater Photography for Central Lakes College and the Minnesota School of Diving for the past 7 years. From May to November you can find me at the Mineland Recreation Area either scuba diving and photographing the fish or enjoying the beauty of our area’s newest lakes.
(218) 855-5870
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