DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 105

C-GVNL during fuel stop at Calgary - CYYC, Alberta.
Photo: Anthony J. Hickey © 14 March 2001
C-GVNL landing at Coal Harbour, Vancouver.
Photo: Kenneth I. Swartz © 12 August 2015

c/n 105

55-3261 • N5341G



• 55-3261 United States Army. Delivered on 12th April 1956. Designated U-1A.

Allocated to the 14th Army Aviation Company, Fort Riley, KS.

Re-designated the 1st Aviation Company and moved to Fort Benning, GA, Aug-1956 until March 1961.

Assigned to Yuma Proving Ground, AZ., as a test support aircraft.

• N5341G Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Southwest Region, TX. Regd Jun-1976.

• C-GVNL Air Saguenay Inc., Chicoutimi, QC. Regd 16-Mar-1978.

• C-GVNL Leased to Cargair Ltée. St. Michel-des-Saints (Lac Kaiagamac), QC. Regd 19-May-1978.

• C-GVNL Returned to Air Saguenay Inc., Chicoutimi, QC. Sep-1978. Later Air Saguenay (1980) Inc. Canx 05-Dec-1984.

Accident: Lac Sebastien, QC. 13-May-1980. While on final for a simulated engine failure condition with throttle retarded, the pilot rounded out the aircraft too high. The check pilot did not recognise the error in sufficient time to take corrective action. Damage to the aircraft's structure was sustained in the hard landing that followed. The damage was repaired.

• C-GVNL Centre d' Expedition et de Plein Air Laurentien (CEPAL), Jonquiere Based Lac Kenogami, QC. Regd 11-Apr-1985. Re regd 08-Jul-1987. Canx 28-Jul-1998.

• C-GVNL Air Bellevue Inc.,  St. Felician, QC. Regd 28-Jul-1998. Canx 16-Mar-2001.

• C-GVNL Harbour Air Ltd., Richmond, BC. Based Vancouver, BC. Regd 28-Mar-2001. Canx 15-Feb-2008. Re regd 28-Feb-2008.

Note: Converted to turbine power with PT-6 engine (Vazar) by Harbour Air at their home base prior to operating its first service.

f/n 304



Otter 105 was delivered to the United States Army on 12 April 1956 with serial 55-3261 (tail number 53261). It was allocated to the 14th Army Aviation Company at Fort Riley, Kansas. In August 1956 the 14th was re-designated the 1st Aviation Company and moved to Fort Benning, Georgia where it converted to the Caribou, relinquishing its U-1A Otters to other units.

53261 was then assigned to the Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona where it would spend the rest of its military career as a test support aircraft. All sorts of military equipment are tested there and the support aircraft, including the Otter, were based at Laguna Army Air Field.  It was involved in a minor incident there on 26 February 1974. On take-off with a gusty crosswind, the Otter became airborne prematurely and settled with one tyre touching the runway and the propeller being damaged on contacting the runway. The damage was repaired and 53261 continued in service until April 1976, and it was transferred to the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) on 11 August 1976. It was flown to Del Rio, Texas where it was converted for civilian use for the CAP by Roberson Aviation. It was registered to the CAP as N5341G on 5 May 1977 and received its Certificate of Airworthiness on 10 May 1977. It had total time on the airframe of 5,524 hours at that stage. It was based at Del Rio, Texas, flying for the CAP’s Southwest Region.

The Otter was sold by the CAP by Bill of Sale 17 March 1978 to Air Saguenay Inc of Chicoutimi, Québec based at Lac Sébastien, St.David de Falardeau to whom marks C-GVNL were allocated on 16 March 1978. The American registration was cancelled on 5 April 1978 and the Otter then registered in Canada as C-GVNL. It went on lease to Cargair Ltée of Lac Kaiagamac, St.Michel-des-Saints, to whom the Otter was registered as C-GVNL on 19 May 1978. It flew for Cargair only that summer, after which it joined the Air Saguenay fleet, subsequently re-registered to Air Saguenay (1980) Inc. It was Air Saguenay’s first Otter (of what would over the years become a very large Otter fleet) and entered service alongside the company’s Beavers and Cessna 185s. It remained Air Saguenay’s only Otter until joined by C-GLFL (329) in 1984, followed by many others.

C-GVNL was involved in an incident on 13 May 1980 at its Lac Sebastien base during a proficiency flight check. While on final approach for a simulated engine failure condition with throttle retarded, the pilot rounded out the aircraft too high. The check pilot did not recognise the error in sufficient time to take corrective action. Damage was sustained to the Otter’s structure in the hard landing that followed. It was repaired and VNL returned to service, flying tourists, hunters and fishermen throughout the bush country of Québec each summer for Air Saguenay.

At the end of the summer 1984 season the Otter was taken out of service, having been sold, and over the winter was prepared for its new owner. The registration of C-GVNL to Air Saguenay was cancelled on 5 December 1984. The new owner was Centre d’Expedition Plein Air Laurentien (CEPAL) with offices at St.Dominique, Jonquière, Québec and an aircraft base at nearby Lac Kenogami. This company had first provided expeditions to the remote bush country of central Quebec for its guests in 1980. In 1982 it established a lodge at Lac Shikapio with additional lodges at Lacs Conflans, Lagopede and Pletipi and chalets in the Otish Mountains. Its main base was the resort hotel of Hotellerie Cepal Villegiature on the shore of Riviere-aux-Sables, a few miles from Jonquiere in the Saguenay. The river leads into Lac Kenogami. From here the company’s guests were flown to its remote outposts for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreational pursuits. At first it used chartered aircraft until it acquired Otter C-GVNL, which was registered to CEPAL on 11 April 1985, by which stage it had been painted into the company’s white and green colour scheme with CEPAL titles.

For the next thirteen years Otter VNL faithfully flew for CEPAL from the Lac Kenogami base, bringing the company’s guests to its lodges in the Québec outback. Only one minor incident was recorded. On 10 July 1990, whilst in the cruise, a cylinder failed and the engine was shut down. VNL made an emergency landing on Lac Manouane but was soon back in service. In July 1998 the Otter was sold to Air Bellevue Inc of St.Félicien, Quebec where it joined the company’s fleet of Beavers. It was registered to Air Bellevue on 28 July 1998 and in March 1999 was joined by Otters C-FIUZ (135) and C-GLAB (348) in service with Air Bellevue. VNL remained in CEPAL colour scheme as Air Bellevue used it to fly for CEPAL. Its service with Air Bellevue was not all that long, as by winter 2000 the company’s activities were winding down and its aircraft for sale. Otters VNL and IUZ were purchased by Harbour Air of Vancouver.

Having served the bush country of Québec for 23 years, VNL headed west for a new career on the Pacific coast, in company with IUZ. The two Otters, VNL still in basic CEPAL colour scheme, set off in formation for the long cross-country ferry. They were flown as far as Calgary by Air Bellevue pilots, arriving on 14 March 2001. They over-nighted at Calgary and continued on the next day to Vancouver, again in formation, flown by Harbour Air pilots. Having arrived in Vancouver, the registration of VNL to Air Bellevue was cancelled on 16 March 2001 and it was registered to Harbour Air on 28 March 2001. At Vancouver VNL was converted to a Vazar turbine Otter with a PT-6A-34 engine, received the panoramic window modification and was painted into Harbour Air’s yellow and white colour scheme, with Fleet Number 304. For summer 2002 it entered service with Harbour Air as part of its large fleet of turbine Otters, on the company’s scheduled passenger services between Vancouver and points on Vancouver Island.

Over the years since then, the Otter has featured in a number of CADORS reports, as follows:

10 July 2002.  Otter VNL in Victoria Harbour reported a fuel spill approximately 100 metres in area in the middle of the harbour at the east end of Pelly Island. The Otter was operating a scheduled service from Vancouver Harbour.

06 July 2009.  Harbour Air at that time also had a base at Prince Rupert in northern BC., where VNL was based. On that day Otter C-FHAS (382) of North Pacific Seaplanes departed the Seal Cove seaplane base without contacting the Prince Rupert FSS. Otter VNL was inbound to Seal Cove from the northwest, estimating in one minute after the departure of HAS, who only made contact after becoming airborne.

28 August 2011.   By this stage VNL was back based in Vancouver and was VFR that day from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour. It executed a missed approach on a westbound landing due to a harbour taxi boat crossing the landing area, in spite of the strobe lights being activated well in advance of the Otter’s arrival.

29 December 2011.  VNL en route Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour, cruising at 2,500 feet. There was a loud bang, followed by engine failure and the propeller feathering. The pilot conducted a forced landing in Ganges Harbour on Saltspring Island. The aircraft was met by a Coast Guard zodiac boat and the pilot and his twelve passengers were brought to the dock in Ganges. The Otter was towed to the dock. An examination of the engine revealed turbine damage. Another Harbour Air Otter took the passengers to Victoria. The engine was removed from VNL and a new one installed and it returned to Vancouver for inspection. It was soon back in service.

29 October 2013.  Otter VNL en route Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour. It landed eastbound on area Alpha at Victoria Harbour and reported a bird strike, although there was no damage.

In February 2016 VNL was repainted into a new logo colour scheme of white, grey rear fuselage and tail. Written in white on the grey tail was “Fairmont Vancouver Airport”, a hotel. The Otter also carried small Harbour Air titles.  It continued service on the routes to Vancouver Island in this colour scheme.

Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005), now with added and updated information which Karl has supplied for the benefit of the website.