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Recon Air rebuilds Otter aircraft for celebrities, mining companies

A company in Greenstone is carving out a niche for itself by making old planes new again.

Greenstone, Ont. company goes all over the world to find Otter aircraft that can be brought back to life

Recon Air president Roy Leuenberger says the Otter, a military aircraft manufactured in Toronto, stopped being built in about 1967. The planes are well known for being able to take off in a small space. (Supplied)

A company in Greenstone is carving out a niche for itself by making old planes new again.

Recon Air specializes in rebuilding Canadian Otter aircraft. Company president Roy Leuenberger said the planes are sought after by mining companies, tourism operators, and even stars.

"We've done some for several celebrities, and they're using them in different parts of the world,” he said.

“We have one that's being used in the Bahamas on a daily basis that flies celebrities to their islands, because there's so many islands in the Bahamas."

Leuenberger said his company has rebuilt close to 70 planes so far — and they can sell for up to $2 million each.
When Recon Air is finished rebuilding the planes, they're "as new as they can be," company president Roy Leuenberger says. The company is based in Greenstone, in northern Ontario. (Supplied)
"You know there's nothing that replaces them as of yet, to do exactly what they do. They're a very good airplane."

The planes are good for landing on the ice, and for landing on small lakes, because they can take off in a small space, Leuenberger said. They can also haul quite a bit of weight. They're sought after for bringing mining equipment into the bush, and for bringing tourists to resorts.

Leather interiors, flat screen TVs

The Otter, a military aircraft once manufactured in Toronto, stopped being built in about 1967.  Fewer than 500 of the Otters were originally built, and they made their way all over the world. Leuenberger finds them and collects them — and sometimes they're in very rough shape.

"Sometimes they've been sitting around for years. I mean, we've got a couple out of India that were just sitting around for years and years,” he said.

Recon Air's rebuilt Otter aircraft can sell for as much as $2 million. (Supplied)

“They were used by the Indian military over the years. And, in fact, we got one quite a few years back and somebody was using it as a chicken coop and we got it back here, and took it all apart and cleaned all the chicken stuff out of it, and got it back flying again."

When Leuenberger is finished with the planes, he says they're very modern … "as new as they can be.”

Some planes receive new engines and others are refurbished with leather interiors and outfitted with flat screen TVs.

"You know this aircraft is pushing 60 years old, and I would imagine they're still going to be flying when I'm gone,” Leuenberger mused.

Leuenberger employs 12 people at his company, which usually takes orders a year in advance to rebuild the aircraft .

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