Pulling up to his ramp in back of a Piper two summers ago, the front-seater asked if the energetic kid who had raced up to pull the floats onto the slippery wood could be trusted around the prop. That “kid” was 92-year-old Bill Brooks, looking and acting youthful as a seaplaner.
I convinced the pilot his seaplane was in good hands. Although Bill’s trouble in renewing his medical certificate forced him from the cockpit of his Beaver and Cessna 206 in his early 90s, he still showed up for work everyday with his faithful dock-dog at his side.
Commercial aviation can be a tough business, and the small niches of commercial seaplane operators maybe even have it a little tougher. That’s why it’s amazing a World War II veteran could start a seaplane business on a scenic lake away from the big city and keep it strong, now going on 70 years.
After piloting a Sikorsky 44 floatplane and a variety of amphibs — including PBYs and a Martin PBM Mariner — for the Navy in World War II, Bill settled in North Idaho. Using straight-floated Taylorcrafts, Stinsons, and Pipers, Bill trained vets on the GI Bill to fly from Lake Coeur d’ Alene; many all the way to their CFI ratings and some onto become airline pilots.
Bill expanded his operation into seaplane charters to Canadian Lakes, then concentrated on scenic tours from his Brooks Seaplane Base next to the Coeur d Alene Resort, over the past 20 years.
Bill Brooks left us on Feb. 27, just short of his 95th birthday. Bill was an inspiration to many water flyers who met him over the years, and he will be missed when we pull up to Brooks Seaplane Base. His son, Grant, continues to provide tours over the beautiful Lake Coeur d Alene.