Heading Up Canada’s Oldest Float Plane Charter
Canadian artist Cher Hogan captures Angie Korzinski working on a Beech 18 in her painting “Personal Touch.”
by Murray Hogan
As the sun’s warm rays burn off the early morning mist, the tranquil Rainy Lake begins to undergo a dramatic transformation. Bangs and clangs from empty 45-gallon drums rolling out of Beech 18 float planes onto makeshift ramps to a dock below shatter the 5 a.m. calm. The daily activities of Rusty Myers Flying Service are underway.
Angela Korzinski, owner and operator of the largest operating fleet of Beech 18s, as well as the oldest Canadian float plane charter, was in her office and ready for a typical 16-hour day.
Located in Fort Frances, Ontario, on the United States/Canada border, the business has been serving American fishermen, trappers, loggers, government officials, the occasional celebrity and anyone else wishing to fly into Canada’s remote back country since 1941.
Angie, short for Angela, was born and raised in the small quaint town of Grandview, Manitoba. After completing high school, she relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba where she attended the University of Manitoba and graduated with a degree in Human Resources. During those school years, Angie worked summers in Northwestern Ontario at Eagle Lake where she met Bob Korzinski.
Three years later, they married and eventually had two daughters, Jennilee and Samantha. With their girls and a dog named Gonzo, they began carving out a future in the tourist business.
Their first purchase was Green Island Lodge on upper Manitou Lake. A short time later, when things were going well and the lodge business was booming, the couple decided to expand, so they purchased Rusty Myers Flying Service in 1989 to compliment their fly-in fishing service.
Their dreams seemed to be on their way to becoming a reality – until a curve ball was thrown. Angie’s husband announced he had met someone else and no longer wished to be married. When the dust of divorce settled, Angie found herself on her own, along with the girls, the dog and Rusty Myers Flying Service. She made up her mind to play the cards dealt to her, and her positive attitude helped with the transition. In a male-dominated business and in a life-changing situation, Angie held steadfast and has prevailed.
“I rolled up my sleeves and jumped in with both feet,” she says with a laugh. “Some days I’m a dock hand loading and refueling any one of my 11 working airplanes. Other moments, I may find myself being a purchasing agent looking for and buying whatever the business may require to keep my fleet in top-notch shape. Every day is a bit different with new hurdles and surprises.”
Sometimes she’s a sales rep for her company and other times a janitor. There’s payroll, log books, camp groceries, maintenance, and the list goes on.
“Don’t misunderstand me, though. I have a staff of 22 employees who all work very hard and are very good at their jobs. I like to think of myself not as a boss with employees but rather as a family. Company spirit runs high, and I’m proud of our friendly, comfortable yet productive atmosphere.”
Angie has two female pilots on staff. When asked if she gives preference to females, she says she simply looks for experience, skill and dedication. “Male or female is irrelevant in the equation. The right person for the job is my deciding factor.”
A typical day in the life of Angie Korzinski is like an old rerun of Wonder Woman. After a morning donning different hats at the business, she’s off to the girls’ school where she
ties on an apron and serves hot dogs. After taking her daughters to their afternoon activities, Angie’s route takes her to the airport to pick up a group of American fishermen bound for one of the flying service’s outpost camps. Then it’s off to two meetings with Transport Canada and then home to prepare supper. Dinner done, she’s back to the base to make sure the airplanes are all tied down, fueled and ready to roll again for the next morning’s 5 a.m. departure.
Ironically, the only thing Angie doesn’t do when it comes to her business is fly her own airplanes. But she has indicated a desire to change that soon.
The fleet of airplanes include six Beech 18s, three de Havilland Beavers (including CF-OBT, serial #3, the oldest flying Beaver in the world), a Cessna 180 and a Cessna 185. There are also 11 outpost camps and two additional satellite bases located in Red Lake and Savant Lake.
“We in this business make our money in five months, May to September,” says Angie. “The winter months find us at sport shows drumming up new clientele. During the months of January and February, we may do as many as eight shows across the U.S. The days are long ones, usually 14 to 16 hours.”
Providing everything is on course, March in one of Angie’s favorite months. It’s a time for quality moments with her girls, uninterrupted by business needs. The month goes by too quickly, though, and before long, April arrives and the cycle begins again.
After wrapping up her third year going it alone, Angie has increased her fleet by four airplanes. Business is up and she is finding her position in the flying business more comfortable even with its many ups and downs.
As for the future, she has plans for expansion but isn’t quite ready to divulge her ideas. However, knowing Angie, they will reflect her professionalism and dedication to the aviation business. K
January/February 2000 • WOMAN PILOT