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Camera-friendly: the DeHavilland Beaver.

Meet the Beaver

The Capital Region has a new local celebrity—but it’s not a person. The DeHavilland Beaver, which is owned by Saratoga resident Tim Zilka and is displayed at and flown from the Saratoga County Airport, is a yellow float plane, an aircraft that can land on paved runways, grass and, when the landing gear is retracted, water. It will be featured in the upcoming Reese Witherspoon film Sweet Home Alabama. The Beaver, which Zilka says is “the ultimate [float] plane,” already has been spotted in coming attractions for the film, which will be released by Touchstone Pictures on Sept. 27.

“This Beaver has a history of doing commercials and documentaries,” says Zilka (he is unable to specify which ones, as they were made when the plane was under a different ownership). “[The filmmakers] looked up the tail number and contacted me. They wanted [a yellow plane] for the set design. They said yellow worked the best for the film.”

Zilka has enjoyed the attention he has received since Sweet Home Alabama’s trailer hit movie screens everywhere. “Every time people see it I get calls,” he says. “It makes me so proud. The best thing that I can relate to this is that my niece and nephew were at a drive-in watching previews of movies coming up, and my niece, who is 5 years old, saw the Beaver and in the middle of the drive-in hollered, ‘That’s Uncle Timmy’s plane!’ ”

Zilka says that while he has received requests from people who want to use the Beaver in future media projects, he uses the vehicle primarily for his own recreation. “I travel mostly in the Northeast. I love to go to Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, northern New York. I usually do one- or two-hour trips.” Zilka encourages people to come see the plane, which was flown back from Atlanta, where the movie was filmed, and is currently on display at the Saratoga County Airport. “If anyone wants to come in and say hi and see the plane, they’re more than welcome to,” Zilka says.

A trailer featuring the DeHavilland Beaver can be accessed at Sweet Home Alabama’s official website (

—Ben Sher

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