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Elyite Pat Magie shares a chapter from his book

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About author Pat Magie
Editor’s Note: Magie came to Ely in 1935 at the age of 5 and lived up the Echo Trail on Big Lake at what would become Whispering Pines Lodge. He operated seaplane businesses in Ely for 23 years, in Alaska for 20 year and in Hawaii for 23 years. He is now retired and lives in the state of Washington.
The year is 1952 and the U.S. Marine Corps has just turned Pat loose upon the civilian population. Magie heads to northern Minnesota, where he traps wolves for bounty and leads canoe trips into the wilderness. Highlight of this era is a 2 ½ month pilgrimage to Hudson Bay. A menu of porcupine and rice keeps the Hudson Bay explorers alive while they paddle and portage their canoe throughout the North.
During the Hudson Bay trip, Pat developed a keen interest in the far north. To explore further, he concluded that air travel was the way to go, so he bought a Piper J-4 Cub with floats. Flying lessons followed, with solo in eight hours and a solo cross country endorsement obtained aboard a Forest Service Beaver.
For his first solo cross-country, Pat decided upon a lake up north with some duck-hunting thrown in for good measure. Timing could have been better however, for this lake froze overnight and takeoff from the remote location was not possible. Pat let the lake freeze hard over, chopped the plane out of the ice, coaxed it onto the ice and took off, floats skating across ice until liftoff speed. Upon returning home, Magie landed on ice with the floats, then switched to skis for winter’s duration.
After 485 hours of adventures it was time for the commercial check ride. This required a flight from an airport and Pat’s first landing on wheels took place that day.
A series of float planes followed the Cub - a Stinson, Cessna 180, and Howard DGA15. Pat then added the first Twin Beech ever to operate in the U.S. with floats. The beauty of the Twin Beech was that it could carry two canoes at a time and his Wilderness Wings business thrived, opening up vast portions of Northern Minnesota to adventurous canoe enthusiasts. Pat also sold float-equiped Cessnas, and he could get a plane headed north sometimes in the same day the order was received.
Alas, the federal government created a wilderness area which eliminated much of his business, so in 1980 Pat headed north to Alaska, flying for some of the same outfits which bought planes from him earlier.
In 1989, Pat Magie visited Hawaii for the first time and decided the place offered promise. It took years working through bureaucratic thickets, but he and his wife established their Island Seaplane business. The Beaver mostly took sightseers aloft. The Cessna 206 performed this role as well as giving land pilots a chance to earn a seaplane rating. In 2018 the State raised rent 400% thus shutting the business down.
Pat does hold the world record of more hours flying seaplanes than anyone in the world. Over 33,000 hours in seaplanes with a total of 40,000 hours of accident free flying time. He is also a well respected seaplane stunt pilot for many movies and TV shows.
His father Bill Magie had the first commercial seaplane operation in Minnesota and held flying license # 8 signed by Orville and Wilbur Wright. All of his four children have ended up in aviation.
Bank Robbers
by Pat Magie
Just after 11:00 a.m. one morning, I got a phone call from Jesse Swanson telling me that Warren Kregness’s bank in Tower just got robbed. The guy left in a white van and headed on the south road to Biwabik. Can we follow him? I told him that I would have an airplane ready in five minutes, bring a radio.
Jesse was some kind of a honorary sheriff. He would usually come down to the base and we would look for lost deer hunters or missing boaters.
There was a Cessna 206 at the end of my dock, so I went out fueled it and started a warm up of the engine. Jesse showed up and we took off and headed southwest climbing to 1000 feet above ground level. State Bank of Tower is 20 miles from Ely and it took about seven or eight minutes which now put us only 20 minutes or so from the time of the hold up.
Jesse was on the radio with the Sheriff’s office in Ely who told him that the Minnesota Highway Patrol in Virginia had dispatched a patrol car that was coming up the road towards us.
A few minutes south of Tower we spotted the getaway van speeding down the highway and we quickly descended and came up behind him about 20 feet above him and showing about 70 mph. Our idea was to distract him and possibly slow him up some what. We did this several times with Jesse telling Ely what we were doing and they would pass it on to the Highway Patrol in Virginia who were communicating with the two cars they had out now.
After three or four passes the Sheriffs passed on the information that the hold up weapon was a .30-.30 caliber rifle. This really got my attention and I decided that low and slow might not be the thing to do. A hand gun was not too much of a worry, but a rifle is definitely a more serious matter.
We flew off to the side and slightly behind him for several miles while keeping everyone posted on his speed and location. I noticed a fairly steep hill coming up ahead with a good drop off on the far side and thought I could really get close to the vehicle if I could catch him right at the top.
We stayed higher and wider until he started up the ridge, then we made a tight descending turn and it could not have been more perfect! He was west bound and probably doing 45 to 50 mph at the top of the climb and I was showing 170 mph at the bottom of the dive eastbound, my left float was centered on the van and about five feet over it. As we passed over him I thought I saw that he started to move to his right.
Sure enough, as we climbed in a steep turn back to the road we saw that the van had made a right turn, passed through a ditch and stopped about 60 yards into a field that was covered with some pretty large rocks. He was not going anywhere without help.
We climbed to 2000 feet and made a wide circle while informing the sheriffs. It was only minutes until the flashing lights of the first patrol car showed up and when the second one arrived we started back to Sandy Point at Ely. There was a local sheriff there to thank us and pick up the radio.
A year later I went to Seattle to pick up Twin Beech N44573. I had dropped it off at Kenmore Air the fall before on a lease so that they could use it that winter for multi engine seaplane training.
We had a late ice out the following spring so I could not pick it up until just after the middle of May. I got to Kenmore in the late afternoon to start prepping the aircraft for an early departure in the morning -- fuel, oil and load the beaching gear. 0730 in the morning Bob Munro and I were standing in the rain.
Weather was calling in five miles visibility and nine hundred feet so Snoqualmie Pass was closed.Portland was calling it 1,400 feet and ten miles visibility improving to 2,000 feet and unlimited visibility at Tri Cities, Washington, so I told Bob that I was going south and then up the Columbia River. I really needed this airplane back in Ely.
It went as advertised and I made a quick fuel stop at Bill Brook’s base in Couer d’ Alene, than locked on to Interstate 90 to Missoula, Montana. Seventy five miles later I turned off on Montana # 12 for Helena with the ceiling leveling about 1,500 feet with 20 miles visibility. As I got closer to Helena I could see the “V” notch of MacDonald Pass which had a very black colored rain or snow shower moving north to the Pass.
The Pass has an elevation of 6,320 feet with a steep drop to4,000 feet. As I got closer I could see it was going to be a race between the Twin Beech and the shower -- which went right to the ground. Helena shortly before was calling their weather 4,000 and 20 miles.
Five miles from the Pass and the snow shower won the race and I was in heavy snow. l had dropped to 25 feet above the highway with 15 degrees of flaps and 90 miles per hour. It would only be about three minutes and I could start my descent to better weather. Right then a pair of headlights showed up coming right at me. As I went over him I watched him (or her) make a sharp turn to the right and hit the snowbank. His speed was very slow -- maybe 20 to 30 miles per hour -- but I am sure he was stuck.
A minute later I could start a steep descent with the highway still under me. I did not talk to anyone, but I turned NE to Fort Peck for fuel. I did make Ely just after dark that night, but it was a long day. I did start thinking that I should stop running cars off the road or I might get on the AAA’s hit list!

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