Richard Watson Sr. (Dick) started Pine Portage Lodge in 1946 after serving in WWII. During the war, Dick flew all the single engine types there were but most of his time was flying the Typhoon. Watson's Algoma Vacations was formed in 1961, and we purchased our second lodge, Kaby Lodge in 1982. Due to the increasing number of guests for the two lodges, Watson's Skyways was formed in 1986 to provide a better and dedicated transportation service for our guests, rather than chartering other airservices. Dick successfully operated these businesses for 64 years until his untimely passing in December 2010. HE GOT TO BUILD AND LIVE HIS DREAM
Watson's Skyways started with the Cessna 206 which Dick had owned for years. Another 206, a DeHavilland Beaver and a Queen Air were soon added to the fleet. The wheel based aircraft flew between Wawa and a private strip constructed at Pine Portage. This proved to be problematic due to persistent fog at Wawa Airport.
Jim Ryan joined the company in 1987. His ideas included bigger aircraft and more outside work. The original airservice was not an all-wheel aircraft operation, since we did have a Beaver on floats at the time. It was over time thatÊit was determined that the business would expand to use larger aircraft. To better accommodate scheduling, Skyways went to a completely float based operation and were soon being called upon to do more outside chartering. This demand mostly came from the mining sector.
Throughout the years, the Watson family continued to improve and upgrade the facilities offered at the two lodges which resulted in an increasing number of guests each season. In 2009 son Tom Watson purchased Kaby Lodge from the family business, but continues to fly his guests with Watson's Skyways. The results warranted the lease and then purchase of the first of two piston Otters. These would be operated for several years. The constant maintenance of the aging Pratt and Whitney R-1340 engines and the requirement for larger payloads were instrumental in the conversion of one piston-Otter to a Turbine. C-FOFB was fitted with a Baron STOL and High Gross kits and a brand new Pratt and Whitney PT6-34 turbine. The conversion was so popular that a decision was soon made to add a second turbine to the fleet. The remaining piston Otter was sold and an executive class Cessna Caravan on amphibious floats was added to the fleet. With its high back leather seats and its full instrumentation flight capabilities, a whole other facet was added to the fleet.
Watson's Skyways now operates year round doing charters both domestically and internationally with the Caravan. The Turbine Otter works on floats all summer and flies on wheel-skis all winter. The ski works include support for prospecting camps and providing access for First Nation's groups in Northern Quebec and Labrador. For more information on the capabilities of these aircraft, please review the fleet section of our website.