Man looking out from a floatplane to the island below

CorilAir serves Campbell River and the Discovery Islands

Cortes Island Air was based in Gorge Harbour in the 1990s. That was before Richard Godfrey sold the company to Mike Farrel in 2000. Farrel relocated to Campbell River, but preserved the company’s origins in its new name. CorilAIr is short for Cortes Island Airlines. 

While the airline now flies out of Campbell River, it still serves Cortes and the other Discovery Islands. 

Shannon Quinn, Operations Manager of CorilAir in front of the Cessna 206 at the company dock in Campbell River- Photo by Nycky-Jay Vanjecek at Bluetree Photography

Operations Manager Shannon Quinn explained, “Cortes Bay is our primary location for pickup and drop offs, maybe three times in one day (during the summer). Gorge Harbour would be the second, we do a little bit with Mansons Landing, but not as much with Squirrel Cove as we have in the past.”

Later that morning, Farrel confirmed that the two or three flights coming into Squirrel Cove every year are probably CorilAir. 

He added that most of the planes seen flying around Cortes are probably theirs.

“There’s a lot of different companies in the summer months that come and go. In the winter time, it’s probably us. Of course, if they’re doing something you don’t like, or making a lot of noise, it’s not us,” he quipped.

The Klahoose Wilderness Resort was added to the list of destinations last summer, with customers flying in from Campbell River, Vancouver and Cortes Island.  

A ‘Beaver’ floatplane parked at the Klahoose Resort dock in the Humfray Channel – Photo by Jake Tinkler

CorilAir is now based on Tyee Spit in Campbell River. 

They have four airplanes: two cessnas that carry up to three passengers and two Beavers that can carry six. 

CorilAir carries the mail to Refuge Cove on West Redonda Island, Surge Narrows on Read Island and Big Bay on Stuart Island on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Those last two days they also service Blind Channel on West Thurlow Island.  

From mid May until late September or early October, they have scheduled local flights out of Campbell River. (9:30 AM, 12:30 PM and 5:00 PM). 

“We drop people off on the Discovery Islands, Desolation Sound and pick up anybody that needs to be picked up and return  back to Campbell River,” said Quinn. “During July and August, we offer a Vancouver scheduled service out of Campbell River, which services the Islands and Desolation Sound, to take people back and forth to Vancouver.”

They set out from Campbell River at noon, pick up any passengers in the Discovery Islands and then  proceed south to Vancouver airport in Richmond. The return flight leaves Vancouver at 4:00 PM and, after dropping off any island passengers, ends up at Campbell River.

Overlooking Rebecca Spit on Quadra, with Marina and Cortes Island in the background – Photo  by Nycky-Jay Vanjecek at Bluetree Photography

Though CorilAir services most of the Discovery Islands, fights to Quadra are less frequent. Most of the traffic uses the ferry. However they do pick up and drop people off on the Vancouver run, often at April Point, and they sometimes do boat-to-plane transfers at Heriot Bay.

In addition to scheduled flights, people sometimes charter out an aircraft. This can be more economically viable for groups. In the podcast, Quinn mentions a Cortes family of four who saved a couple of hundred dollars by chartering an aircraft on the return trip from the Sonora Resort. 

(There is more detail about pricing and destinations in the podcast.)

Mike Farrel provided some of the company’s history. 

Richard Godfrey was flying a Cessna out of Gorge Harbour in the late 1980’s or early 90’s. He used to work for fisheries, and also ‘did a bit of fire patrol.’

“I heard a rumour he sold his place, but you may be able to find him over there still,” said Farrel.

A Cortes Island resident mentioned him living in the southeast corner of the Gorge, in a place only accessible by water. 

There was a ‘Richard Godfrey’ in the Cortes Island phone book as late as 2021, but his name is no longer listed in 2022.

Shark Spit and Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island – Photo  by Nycky-Jay Vanjecek at Bluetree Photography

“Through a really long story and numerous adventures, I wound up buying CorilAir from Richard and relocating it to Campbell River spit in 2000. So over the years we added more airplanes and, a year ago – year and a half, I sold out and I’m just around here for a little bit more to help the new management,” said Farrel.  

Q/ When did you become ‘the boss’?

“Um, I don’t think I ever was. I just was along for the ride.”

Q/ Tell me some stories of trips: favourite trips, challenging trips. 

“The favourite ones you did at the pub after work,” he quipped.

Then Farrel added, “Every day is different. That’s probably one of the bigger attractions of this business for a pilot. It’s not the same old routine all the time.” 

Charter flight arriving at Dent Island – Photo  by Nycky-Jay Vanjecek at Bluetree Photography

CorilAir’s business took off after they were hired to transport live prawns to  the processing plant.

“We flew over a million pounds of prawns in a five-week period with four airplanes, which is no small undertaking.” 

The prawn company subsidized part of the flight for fishermen, because it was worth your while because of the low mortality rates.

Q/ what do you mostly fly: people? or stuff?

“Mostly people, but there are few flights where we do some freight loads, especially for logging camps. We might bring some equipment up for them, or maybe a contractor that needs to repair things. So a lot of their gear and parts have to go up, but it varies from year to year with what’s going on in the world around,” he explained.

“Some years we’ll get somebody that starts operating in our area. We might do a whole bunch more forestry work. There might be some movement with one of the aquaculture farms  that comes into our area. It varies with what’s going on. If we get a really hot summer that might mean we do more fire patrols. If we don’t have pandemics, we do a lot of tourism.”

Q/ BTW, you know my lead is going to be ‘Cortes Island Air?’

“It is where it all began,” said Quinn.

“It’s still our backyard and it’s still very important,” added Farrel.

Passengers boarding a charter flight at Dent Island – Photo  by Nycky-Jay Vanjecek at Bluetree Photography

Contact Information

  • CorilAir 
  • 3050 Spit Road
  • Box 1451, Campbell River, BC V9W 5C5

Top image credit: passenger looking out at an unknown location in the Discovery Islands – Photo courtesy CorilAir.

This story was originally broadcast on March 17, 2022

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