The bustling scene at Orillia Rama Regional airport (NJ4) is virtually unprecedented for an airport of its sie in rural Ontario. The freshly renovated airport, described as a “one-stop shop aviation mecca” by Lake Country Airways pilot Jamie Mortley, is giving pilots a reason to fly in. The centre of attention of the operation is the newly built Tailwinds Bar & Grill, which opened just this summer and has been drawing crowds every day of the week.
Clayton Smith, a bush pilot and Commercial Realty Group principal, bought the airport in 2016 and has been upgrading it ever since. Changes include extending the runway and apron, adding more docks for seaplanes, paving a new road and parking lot and building 30 new private Thangars. These updates have certainly given the airport a facelift, but employees and customers agree that it is the new restaurant that has drawn the most visitors.
Many in the flying community will have already seen pictures of the beautiful venue – two life-sized aircraft hanging from the ceiling, a giant patio, TVs, a pool table as well as comfortable booths and couches. The restaurant was designed so that guests will be able to get comfortable and stay awhile while taking in the views of the arriving seaplanes over food and drinks.
The head chef, Stephen Jackson, has over 30 years of experience in the industry and has catered the menu to fit customers’ desires as well as adding some of his own favourites. According to Jackson, their busy period is, “All day long, everyday”, with guests flying
in throughout the morning and afternoon to try the locally famous dishes. Their most popular menu items include the buffalo chicken wrap and carrot cake.
Going forward, the restaurant has big plans for the winter and upcoming season. Fly-in visitors will be happy to know that the runway is maintained all winter and the restaurant will remain open all year long. Additionally, they are working to bring a snowmobile trail right up to the property so that those preferring that mode of winter transport can visit. The kitchen will also be updating their menu to offer more seasonal meals to keep guests warm inside after their journey.
Airport receptionist and administrator Kenzie Brailey says that her favourite part of working at the airport is seeing all the fun things going on, from birthday parties to marriage proposals. Captain Brendan Shangrow of Lake Country Airways attests that flying over their lake country is fantastic and worth the trip for both the scenery and the atmosphere.
Tailwinds wishes to thank all of their new and returning customers who support them. Thanks to their fans, Tailwinds won COPA’s 2018 Members’ Choice Airport Restaurant Award with nearly 1000 votes. If you haven’t flown in recently, put Orillia Rama Regional on your list.