DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 108

C-GMCW at Calgary - CYYC, Alberta.
Photo: Anthony J. Hickey © April 1980 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-GMCW docked at Whitehorse, Yukon.
Photo: Unknown photographer © 1983 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-GMCW demonstrating at Victoria - CYYJ, British Columbia.
Photos: Neil Aird © 20 October 2002

c/n 108

55-3264 • N5339G

C-GMCW

X

• 55-3264 United States Army. Delivered 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.

Reserve Board based at Fort Dix, NJ where it served until Dec-1965.

Otter Transition School at Fort Ord, CA., from Dec-1965 until Jun-1971.

Golden Knights parachute team at Fort Bragg, NC., as a support aircraft, until Apr-1976.

• N5339G Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Jun-1976, assigned to the CAP's Northeast Region. Possibly CT.

• C-GMCW High Noon Holdings Ltd., Calgary, AB. Oct-1979.

• C-GMCW Leased to B.C.-Yukon Air Service Ltd., Watson Lake, YT. Apr-1980. Canx 27-Apr-1983.

For Sale: Feb-1983. Total time 8,238 hours, and an asking price of $125,000CDN.

• C-GMCW Air North Charter & Training Ltd., Whitehorse, YT.,  22-Sep-1983 Canx 21-Jun-1994.

Accident Mayo, YT 13th August 1986. The pilot was flying the float- equipped Otter through a narrow pass, with visibility occasionally reduced by rain. He entered the pass with the impression that he could see the top, and would have no difficulty flying through the pass. However, having entered the pass he realised he could not fly over the rising terrain nor turn the aircraft around. He landed straight ahead on the rising slope.

Note: Trucked all the way from the crash site in the Yukon to Ignace, Ontario where it was rebuilt by Mandair, owned by Neil Carl Walsten.

• C-GMCW Walsten Aircraft Parts & Leasing, dba as Mandair, Kenora, ON. Regd 21-Jun-1994 Canx 22-Jul-1994 for certification purposes.

• C-GMCW B.C.-Yukon Air Service Ltd., Watson Lake, YT. Regd 03-Nov-1994 & 10-Nov-1994. Canx 12-Aug-1997.

• C-GMCW Black Sheep Aviation & Cattle Company Ltd., Whitehorse, YT. Regd 12-Aug-1997. Re regd 04-Jun-2002 after turbine engine installation.

Note: Converted to turbine power with a Garrett TPE-331 by Kal Air at their facility at Vernon, BC during 2002.

Note: Attended the DHC 'Out of Production Aircraft' conference held at Victoria, BC in October 2002, being exhibited by Texas Turbine Inc.

Accident: 38 nautical miles northeast of Mayo, YT. 31-Mar-2011.The aircraft departed Mayo on a 94 statute mile day visual flight rules flight to the Rackla Airstrip, YT. At 15:07 Pacific Daylight Time, approximately 19 minutes after the aircraft had left Mayo, a 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter alert was received by the Canadian Mission Control Centre. The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre Victoria was notified and a commercial helicopter was dispatched from Ross River, Yukon. Aircraft wreckage was located on a hillside 38 nautical miles northeast of Mayo at 18:33 Pacific Daylight Time. The wheel-ski equipped aircraft had experienced a catastrophic in-flight break-up and the pilot, who was the sole occupant, had sustained fatal injuries. There was no post-impact fire

• C-GMCW Black Sheep Aviation & Cattle Company Ltd., Whitehorse, YT. Canx and deleted 09-Dec-2014.

Destroyed

x

Otter 108 was delivered to the United States Army on 12 April 1956 with serial 55-3264 (tail number 53264). 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 continued to fly the Otter until 1961, when it converted to the Caribou, relinquishing its U-1As to other units.

53264 was then assigned to the Army Reserve based at Fort Dix, New Jersey where it served until December 1965, when it crossed the country to join the Otter Transition School at Fort Ord, California. Here it was engaged in converting Army aviators onto the U-1A who then went on to serve with Otter units in Vietnam. When the School closed down in June 1971, the Otter was re-assigned to the Golden Knights parachute team at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as a support aircraft, where it served until April 1976. It was transferred on 13 May 1976 to the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) to whom it was registered N5339G, assigned to the CAP’s Northeast Region. Having been refurbished and civilianised, the Otter received its Certificate of Airworthiness on 16 November 1976, having at that stage of its career 5,420 hours on the airframe.

With the CAP N5339G was based at Zahns Airport, Amityville, Long Island, New York. It was still in its basic Army olive drab colour scheme, but with some modifications. The fuselage side had been painted white and had NER CAP titles and its registration on this white patch. It remained with the CAP until by Bill of Sale 18 November 1977 it was sold to brokers Eagle Aviation of Riverside Airport, Tulsa, Oklahoma. They sold it on in May 1978 to Lawrence C. Maxson and Barbara Maxson, doing business as Maxson Aviation of Kotzebue, Alaska to whom it was registered as N5339G on 11 May 1978. Maxson Aviation already operated Otter N26641 (134) and ‘Buck’ Maxson was one of Kotzebue’s best known aviators. As well as providing charters for hunters and fishermen he also flew cargo and fuel to outlying villages. At that stage, as well as the Otters, he also flew TC-45J N16008 and Beech H18 N926T.

In August 1978 a Sorm Industries bulk fuel cargo tank was installed in Otter N5339G and it continued in service with Maxson Aviation. Otter N26641 having crashed in July 1978, it was replaced with Otter N90575 (302) in August 1978. Accordingly Maxson Aviation had two Otters flying for the company N5339G and N90575. This continued until October 1979 when both Otters were sold to High Noon Holdings, a leasing company based in Calgary, Alberta. Ferry permits were issued and on 11 October 1979 a Provisional Certificate of Registration as C-GMCW was issued for N5339G and the Otter flown from Anchorage to Calgary, where it was to be overhauled by Field Aviation.

High Noon Holdings arranged to lease the Otter to BC-Yukon Air Service Ltd., of Watson Lake, Yukon Territory and the aircraft was noted at Calgary on 28 March 1980 painted in full BC-Yukon Air Service colour scheme of dark lower fuselage, a cheatline of two parallel white lines, orange upper fuselage, tail and wings.   The American registration was formally cancelled on 2 April 1980 and C-GMCW was then registered to BC-Yukon Air Service Ltd. MCW was one of five Otters operated by this charter company over the years.  Much work was performed for mining companies and government organisations, the Otters flying to established airstrips as well as to suitable mountain meadows on skis during the winter. Summer work involved everything from hauling drills for mining companies to taking tourist canoe parties up into the Nahanni Park in the Northwest Territories. In February 1983 Otter C-GMCW was advertised for sale, with total airframe time at that stage of 8,238 hours and an asking price of $125,000 Canadian. The registration of the Otter to BC-Yukon Air Service was cancelled on 27 April 1983.

In September 1983 C-GMCW was sold to Air North Charter & Training Ltd., based at Whitehorse in the Yukon and was registered to that company on 22 September. It replaced Otter CF-QOQ (46) which had crashed in July of that year. It remained in basic BC-Yukon colour scheme, with small Air North fuselage titles. MCW was still flying for Air North when it was involved in an accident at Mayo in the Yukon on 13 August 1986. The pilot was flying the float-equipped otter through a narrow pass, with visibility occasionally reduced by rain. He entered the pass with the impression that he could see the top and that he would have no difficulty flying through the pass. However having entered the pass he realised he could not fly over the rising terrain nor turn the aircraft around. He landed straight ahead on the rising slope.

That accident was to end MCW’s flying career for some years. The wreck was sold to Walsten Aircraft Parts & Leasing, trading as Mandair, of Kenora, Ontario which was the aircraft trading, leasing and repair company of Neil Carl Walsten.  He had been the founder and owner of Walsten Air Service in Kenora. He sold the company in 1986 and then formed Walsten Aircraft Parts & Leasing as a leasing and aircraft trading company. MCW was trucked all the way from the crash site in the Yukon to Ignace, Ontario where it underwent a slow rebuild. As the rebuild was nearing completion, MCW was registered on 21 June 1994 to Walsten Aircraft Parts & Leasing for a few weeks, until 22 July 1994, when it was sold.

C-GMCW was actually sold back to BC-Yukon Air Service Ltd., its previous owner, to whom it was registered on 10 November 1994. By then the company was under new ownership, having been acquired by Bruce McNaughton. He had moved the operation from its original base at Watson Lake to Dease Lake. From Dease Lake BC-Yukon flew Beaver C-FHGZ, which was sold, and replaced by Otter C-GMCW, which was the only aircraft then in the BC-Yukon fleet.  MCW continued flying from Dease Lake until the company was closed down during 1997. The registration of MCW to BC-Yukon A/S., was cancelled on 12 August 1997, the day it was sold.

The buyer of the Otter was Black Sheep Aviation & Cattle Company Ltd., of Whitehorse in the Yukon, to whom the Otter was registered that day, 12 August 1997. Despite its unusual name, this was a charter company providing the usual range of bush aviation services from its Whitehorse base. MCW was painted into Black Sheep’s blue and white scheme, with black undersides. According to its website, the company provided services for hunting and fishing; canoeists; kayakers, rafters and hikers (the Otter could carry canoes externally strapped to the floats); mining and exploration and camp support and moves. The website also reported: “Our Mayo base allows ready access to the Peel River watershed, home of the Wind, Snake, Bonnet, Plume and Hart Rivers. Canoeists can be dropped off at the headwaters and picked up at Taco Bar on the Peel River. Hess, Stewart and Mountain Rivers are accessed through Mayo. Southern rivers are accessed through Whitehorse”. Flying canoeists would be big business for the Otter in the years that followed.  MCW joined Otter C-GSUV (376) in service with the company, which also flew some single Cessnas and a Piper Super Cub.

On 9 August 1999 the float-equipped Otter was following the Wind River in a mountainous area of central Yukon in marginal VFR weather conditions, with the pilot, five passengers and their gear onboard. As the flight progressed, the weather deteriorated to a 200 foot ceiling with very poor visibility in smoke. The pilot considered turning back but the weather behind him had also deteriorated. A precautionary landing was made on the Wind River but the pilot was unable to contact anyone on the radio. When the Otter became overdue, an air search as initiated. The pilot and his passengers secured the aircraft and over-nighted on the river. The next morning, after the weather had improved, as the pilot was taxying the aircraft for departure on the fast flowing river, the Otter struck rocks and became grounded. A company search aircraft found the party that afternoon and arrangements were made to evacuate the occupants by helicopter to Mayo. The Otter was repaired on site.

Another incident occurred on 18 June 2000. The Otter was en route from Primrose Lake to Whitehorse when the engine began to run rough and the pilot made a precautionary landing on Alligator Lake. The company dispatched another aircraft to the Lake with a mechanic who replaced a blown cylinder, allowing the Otter to continue its flight to Whitehorse. In September 2001 MCW was chartered to fly a salvage party to Rispin Lake to salvage Beaver CF-JRO which had crashed there the previous month. However, the Otter was grounded after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which closed Canadian airspace, just as they were about to leave.  Otter C-GFTZ (174) was used to bring the salvage party sometime later and MCW was used to retrieve the party after the Beaver had been salvaged.

During 2002 C-GMCW was converted to turbine power with the Garrett TPE-331 engine, becoming the fifth such Texas Turbine conversion. It was flown from Whitehorse to Vernon, BC in May 2002, where the work was undertaken by Kal Air and MCW then returned to its base at Whitehorse on 22 June 2002.  MCW appeared at the DHC ‘Out of Production Aircraft’ conference held in Victoria, BC., in October 2002, being exhibited by Texas Turbines Inc., giving exhibition flights to interested parties. It was noted at Vernon, BC., on 9 October 2002 en route to Victoria, where the conference was held over the weekend of 18/19 October 2002. It then returned to its Whitehorse base and flew for Black Sheep Aviation & Cattle Company as a turbine Otter in the years that followed. An incident occurred on 17 March 2004. The Otter landed on runway 13 Left at Whitehorse and on rollout the pilot exited left across the corner of the infield between runway 13 Left and runway 19 along the edge of Taxiway Bravo. The wheel-ski aircraft glided across the snow and onto taxiway 19. The Otter then taxied to the apron without further word. On 25 September 2004 MCW clipped a powerline at the Mayo Dam but did not sustain any damage. MCW arrived at Vernon, BC in October 2004 for a major overhaul. It was noted in the Kal Air hangar in February 2005 with the wings detached. The following month the work was completed and MCW returned to Whitehorse.

MCW continued in service with Black Sheep Aviation until a tragic accident on 31 March 2011. The Otter had positioned from its Whitehorse base north to Mayo on wheel skis to undertake a contract supporting mineral exploration activities staring on 21 March and which was to last several weeks. The Otter was to fly in building materials, fuel and camp supplies from Mayo to winter airstrips located at Withers Lake and Rackla River. Withers Lake is located 113 statute miles east of Mayo and Rackla Airstrip is located 94 statute miles northeast of Mayo. On these trips the Otter typically transported 2,400 pounds of mixed cargo, including lumber, barrels of fuel and camp supplies. It was to be a busy time for MCW and its pilot, who regularly flew six to seven trips (twelve to fourteen flights) over 1,200 to 1,400 miles a day. The Rackla airstrip was a cleared gravel area bulldozed on the edge of the river to create a runway. The pilot was a hard worker who as well as doing the flying also had to help load and unload the Otter.

On 31 March 2011 the pilot had arrived at the Mayo airport from his lodgings at 06:30 PDT. His first trip of the day was to Withers Lake, departing Mayo at 0834. Departure had been delayed for two hours because the Otter had to be de-iced. No de-icing fluid was available so tarps and a forced-in heater had been used to remove surface contamination. The Otter then flew back to Mayo, followed by the second trip of the day, again to Withers airstrip. A minor incident occurred at the staging area on the Withers ice strip. After landing as the pilot was taxying to position the aircraft for unloading, it struck a pile of lumber. The contact point was the left side of the fuselage, forward of the tail wheel. The pilot, with the help of an expeditor, managed to push the Otter clear of the lumber. The aircraft was then unloaded and flown back to Mayo.

MCW then operated another round trip Mayo-Rackla Strip-Mayo. It then departed Mayo at 14:48 for another flight to Rackla, VFR, which would become MCW’s last flight, sadly. The weather was clear. On this trip MCW was carrying a load of wood timbers, each sixteen foot long, and two barrels of jet fuel. The Otter climbed to 11,500 feet, which it reached thirteen and a half minutes after take-off, on track direct to Rackla, a track it maintained for another three minutes, and it then commenced a descent at a slightly increased speed. During the next few minutes something catastrophic happened. The Otter continued to turn off course and over the final thirty seconds of flight, lost 2,400 feet in altitude and its speed increased from 177 to 241 mph, indicating a loss of control, which led to the break-up of the aircraft. The break-up was initiated by both wings failing downwards in a negative over-stress loading due to high speed, which was considerably in excess of the maximum allowable speed. The right wing had rolled under the fuselage after failure and struck the leading edge of the left horizontal stabiliser during the break-up sequence. As well as the two wings, all flight controls and the empennage separated during the Otter’s final moments.

The wreckage fell to the ground and was spread over a debris field some 800 feet wide and 1,300 feet long at between 4,200 and 4,600 feet on a remote treed hillside in central Yukon, 38 miles north-east of Mayo. Ground scars and damage to trees suggested that the wreckage, including the fuselage, had no significant horizontal velocity at impact. The Otter had just fallen out of the sky following its break-up. The engine remained attached to the firewall. Sadly the pilot, the only occupant, was killed in the crash.

The crash site was extremely remote, presenting the rescue services with a considerable challenge. Assistance was requested from the US military, but the rescue helicopter at Juneau could not make it due to bad weather in the Alaska panhandle and the Anchorage-based rescue assets were already engaged on a mission. In the circumstances 442 Rescue Squadron at CFB Comox on Vancouver island was tasked and prepared to dispatch a Buffalo and a Cormorant helicopter, although as Comox was about a thousand miles from the crash site it would be many hours before they would arrive. Buffalo 115462 was airborne from Comox at 1642, en route to Whitehorse, followed by Cormorant 149909 at 17:25 en route to Smithers to refuel.

In the meantime, the authorities had chartered A-Star helicopter C-GTNV from Trans North Helicopters, to fly to the scene and report back. The A-Star took off from the company’s Ross River base and was estimating the scene at 18:05 hours. Alkan Air DHC-6 Twin Otter C-FCPV was also in the vicinity, orbiting overhead, and could confirm the location of the ELT signal, but not much was visible from its height. When the A-Star arrived, it managed to find a place to land and the crew made their way to the scene. There was four to five feet of snow on the ground at the accident site. They reported back that the Otter had come down in trees in mountainous terrain, with wreckage strewn over a wide area and that sadly the pilot had died in the crash. The A-Star then returned to Ross River. Given that there was no one to rescue, the two Canadian Armed Forces aircraft were recalled. The Buffalo was at that stage two hours into its flight and the Cormorant one hour forty minutes. Both turned around and went back to their base at Comox, landing later that evening. The case was handed over to the RCMP, who recovered the remains of the pilot and assisted the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigators who arrived at Mayo.

Trans North Helicopters were again chartered to recover the Otter from the crash site. The aircraft had already been badly damaged in the impact and was further cut up into manageable pieces. It was then carried off the mountain to the airstrip at Mayo in underslung loads, ten Jet Ranger trips and two A-Star trips. Most of the wreckage was recovered at that stage, although the accident site was revisited in June, after the snow had melted, to complete the wreckage recovery. From Mayo the wreckage was trucked south to Whitehorse, where it was put into a hangar for preliminary investigation, being later transported to the TSB Laboratory in Ottawa.

A comprehensive investigation into the crash was conducted by the TSB, who published their report in May 2013. The report concluded that the aircraft departed controlled flight for reasons which could not be determined, and broke up due to high speed. All the factors which could have caused such a catastrophe were analysed, but there was no evidence that the weather or the pilot’s health caused the crash, nor was there any evidence of airframe fatigue or corrosion nor that any pre-existing damage had contributed to any of the structural separation. The report recommended that flight data monitoring systems be installed in aircraft such as the Otter, which would assist in finding the cause of any future accidents of this type.

Otter C-GMCW had a total time of 16,415 flying hours at its destruction. Its TPE-331 turboprop engine had accumulated some 4,600 hours since it had been installed in May 2002.  The registration was formally cancelled on 9 December 2014.

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.