DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 115

N48148 at Palmer, Alaska.
Photo: John Kimberley © Date unknown - Karl E. Hayes Collection
N48148 taking a break.
Photo: Unknown photographer © November 1975 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
N48148 at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington.
Photo: Peter Kirkup / Aviation Archives © May 1980 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
DQ-PIA with Pacific Island AIR, at Nadi, Fiji.
Photo: Pacific Island Air © Date unknown
Photo: Paul Howard © 29 November 2016

c/n 115

55-3269 • N48148 • C-FXOB • N120BA • N69JJ

DQ-PIA

X

55-3269 United States Army. Delivered 15th May 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 1961.

Transferred to 2nd Missile Command at Fort Carson, CO., until Apr-1962,

17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord, CA. Apr-1962.

Transferred to Vietnam by ship and re-assembled by Air Vietnam at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon.

18th Aviation Company, Vietnam. Based at Nha Trang initially and later at Saigon. Named “Leaping Linda”. Operated until Feb-1966..

Into storage with the 79th Transportation Company,  Feb-1966 .

Returned to the US by C-133 Cargomaster and to the Army Aeronautical Depot Maintenance Center (ARADMAC) Depot, Corpus Christi, TX ., for overhaul.

Returned to Vietnam by C-133 Cargomaster where it re-joined the 18th Aviation Company in Oct-1966 until Apr-1969.

Returned to the USA and the  Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, CA. Here it was overhauled and put into storage until Sep-1971.

Allocated to 568th Transportation Company, Fort Wainright, Fairbanks, AK ., as a support aircraft.

Accident: Fort Richardson, Anchorage, AK. 23-Mar-1972. The aircraft was taking off on the cross runway 06, towards the mountains. As it started its take-off; directional control was lost. The aircraft veered to the left, became airborne, power was reduced and then re-applied. The aircraft struck a snow bank and skidded to a stop. The undercarriage collapsed and substantial damage was caused to the engine and propeller.

Note: Put up for sale by the Defense Property Disposal Service.

N48148 Harold J. Hansen, Boeing Field, Seattle, WA. Who repaired and rebuilt the aircraft.

N48148 Leased to Warren W.. Woods. Palmer, AK. (Woods Air Fuel).

Accident: Near Arctic Village, Alaska 12th July 1979. It was substantially damaged when the gear collapsed on landing on a sand bar. Repaired by Harold Hansen.

N48148 Leased to Bering Air Inc., Nome, AK. Regd 16-Sep-1979.

Accident: Koyuk AK. 19th October 1979. The aircraft was taking off and ran off the end of the runway and onto the tundra. The aircraft received substantial damage which was to end its flying career for quite a time. Two persons were uninjured. The accident report blamed “Inadequate pre-flight preparation and / or planning; delayed action in aborting take-off; airframe ice; snow on wings and tail surfaces”.

Note. Aircraft recovered and airlifted from Koyuk to Anchorage and then trucked by Harold Hansen to the Seattle area where it was passed around various locations for the next 17 years.

C-FXOB T.C. Leasing Ltd., La Ronge, SK. Regd 12-Mar-1996. Canx 19-Aug-1998.

Note: Rebuilt by T.C Leasing Ltd., Saskatoon, SK.

N120BA Bishop Aviation Inc., Decatur, TX. 15-Apr-1999.

Note: Converted to turbine power with a 1000 horse power Garrett TPE-331-10 engine.

N120BA Operated by Skydive Texas, Decatur, TX.

Accident: Bishop Airfield, Decatur, TX.  31st March 2001. It was carrying 21 skydivers aloft for a jump from 13,000 feet. The pilot   reported that N120BA was 2,500 feet from the departure end of the runway and some two hundred feet above the ground when it “suddenly rolled to the right at an estimated 30 degrees per second, continued to the right and reached a 90 degree angle to the ground”. He maintained control of the aircraft, applied full left aileron and left rudder, pushed forward on the control stick and levelled the wings. He applied full power but realised that the Otter did not have enough altitude to clear the trees, and   then reduced power to idle. The tail struck the ground, the left wing struck trees and the Otter came   to rest in a muddy bog 250 yards from the runway. The left wing was separated from the airframe, the left side of the aircraft was crushed and buckled inward and there was structural damage throughout the airframe. There were six serious and thirteen minor injuries to the occupants, mostly broken legs and ribs.

N120BA Prof Fate Inc., Eastsound, WA. Regd 06-Mar-2002.

N69JJ Prof Fate Inc., Eastsound, WA. Regd 19-Sep-2008.

Note: Acquired as a source of spares. The wrecked Otter was trucked from Decatur to Vancouver, British Columbia, and stored inside the Aeroflite Industries hangar at the Vancouver International Airport.

DQ-PIA Operated by Pacific Island Air, Nadi, Fiji. Regd Jul-2013. Company owned by GCH Aviation Group, Christchurch, NZ.

Current

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Otter 115 was delivered to the United States Army on 15th May 1956 with serial 55-3269 (tail number 53269). 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 whereit continued to fly the Otter until 1961, when it converted to the Caribou, relinquishing its U-1As to other units. 53269 was then assigned to the 2nd Missile Command at Fort Carson, Colorado until April 1962, when it joined the 17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord, California.

53269 was one of the platoon of Otters from the 17th which went to Vietnam in May 1963 by ship to join the 18th Aviation Company, increasing the strength of the 18th Aviation Company to 24 Otters. On arrival in Vietnam, the Otters were re-assembled by Air Vietnam at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon and entered service with the 18th. Many of the Otters which served in Vietnam were given nick-names. 53269 was named “Leapin' Linda” and was based at Nha Trang initially and later at Saigon. One incident was recorded when it flew from Saigon to Ha Thien to pick up some VC prisoners. On take off from Ha Thien the Otter slid off the runway, buckling the bulkhead above the tailwheel. The damage was repaired.

53269 continued to fly with the 18th Aviation Company until February 1966 when it was placed in storage with the 79th Transportation Company. In July 1966 it arrived at the ARADMAC Depot, Corpus Christi, Texas for overhaul and was then transported back to Vietnam where it re-joined the 18th Aviation Company in October '66. It remained with the 18th Aviation Company until April 1969, when it was transported back to the United States, arriving at the Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, California. Here it was overhauled and put into storage until September 1971 when it was allocated to the 568th Transportation Company, Fort Wainright, Alaska as a support aircraft.

It was serving with this unit when a take-off accident at Fort Richardson on 23rd March 1972 ended its military career. It was taking off on the cross runway 06, towards the mountains. To quote from the accident report: “Started take-off; directional control was not maintained. The aircraft veered to the left, became airborne, power was reduced and then re-applied. The aircraft struck a snow bank and skidded to a stop”. The undercarriage collapsed and substantial damage was caused to the engine and propeller. The damaged Otter was put up for sale by the Defense Property Disposal Service and acquired by that master Otter rebuilder Harold J. Hansen, who rebuilt the aircraft at his facility at Boeing Field, Seattle.

The Otter was registered to Mr.Hansen in 1975 as N48148, as the rebuild was nearing completion, and in June of that year he arranged to lease the aircraft to Warren W. Woods. N48148 flew north to its new base at Palmer, Alaska. 'Buddy' Woods was one of Alaska's best known bush pilots and operated a fuel hauling business out of Palmer. He also flew Otters N90574 (174), N48064 (278) and N41755 (339), delivering fuel around Alaska. The fuel could be carried in a bladder tank, which held 400 US gallons, or in fuel drums. N48148 continued to fly for Buddy Woods on the fuel hauling business until an accident on 12th July 1979. It was substantially damaged when the gear collapsed on landing on a sand bar near Arctic Village, Alaska. As the accident report summarised, the pilot “selected unsuitable terrain”, which the landing gear could not handle.

Harold Hansen travelled to Alaska to repair the Otter, after which he leased it to Bering Air Inc., of Nome, Alaska, to whom it was registered in September 1979. It was the first Otter flown by this recently formed operator and several more would follow. Bering Air took delivery of the Otter on 16th September 1979 and it entered service on 3rd October '79, flying alongside a Cessna 207, the humble beginnings of a fleet which was to expand greatly over the years. The Otters operated by Bering Air were used to transport passengers and cargo to destinations within a four hundred mile radius of Nome. Cargoes included mail, groceries, lumber, even animals (reindeer and polar bear cubs). Jim Rowe, the founder of Bering Air, remembers going out with an Otter for a week at a time, landing offairport on the snow or ice, with teams of geologists. Other Otters flown by Bering Air over the years were N11250 (171), N83U (371) and N2899J (425).

Unfortunately however N48148 was not to remain in service for long. On 19th October 1979, barely two weeks after it had entered service, it crashed. The Otter had departed from Nome that morning and landed at Koyuk. The accident happened when it was taking off from Koyuk at 16:00 hours to return to Nome. Conditions were not good, with an overcast sky and falling snow. The Otter ran off the end of the runway and into the tundra. Although the two on board were unhurt, N48148 received substantial damage which was to end its flying career for quite a time. The accident report blamed “Inadequate pre-flight preparation and/or planning; delayed action in aborting take-off;airframe ice; snow on wings and tail surfaces”.

Harold Hansen yet again travelled to the Alaskan outback to retrieve his Otter. The wreckage of N48148 was loaded on board a Northern Air Cargo C-82 Packet and flown from Koyuk to Anchorage. It was then placed on board a truck (Mr Hansen had a special truck adapted for carrying Otters) and driven all the way south to Seattle. It was registered to Mr. Hansen in May 1980. It remained in its
damaged condition at various locations around the Seattle area for the next 17 years. It was stored at first at Boeing Field, then at Mount Vernon for a time, where Mr Hansen had a yard, at Sedro Woolley, where North Sound Aviation Inc., are based, and it even spent a few years sitting on a trailer in the driveway of Harold Hansen's house in Seattle, much to the annoyance of his neighbours.

Eventually it was sold to T.C.Leasing Ltd., of La Ronge, Saskatchewan and registered to that company in March 1996 as C-FXOB. T.C. Leasing is associated with La Ronge Aviation Services and has traded in many Otters over the years, specifically those returned to Canada from the Indian Air Force. C-FXOB was trucked to the company's facility at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and rebuilt. In May 1998 the Otter was sold to Bishop Aviation Inc and was flown south to their base at Decatur, Texas. It was registered to Bishop Aviation Inc., as N120BA on 15th April 1999. At Decatur, the Otter was converted to turbine power with a 1000 horse power Garrett TPE-331-10 engine (flat rated to 900 hp). It was the prototype of this new turbine version of the Otter, by far the most powerful of all the versions available. After a period of test flying, the conversion received its Supplemental Type Certificate, and went on sale. N120BA was retained by Bishop Aviation for its own use. It also operated a parachute business called Skydive Texas and the Otter went into service for parachute work, alongside a Pilatus Turbo Porter, two Cessna 182s and an Antonov AN-2.

Sadly to relate, this historic aircraft came to grief on 31st March 2001 on take-off from Bishop Airfield, Decatur. It was carrying 21 skydivers aloft for a jump from 13,000 feet. The pilot reported that N120BA was 2,500 feet from the departure end of the runway and some two hundred feet above the ground when it “suddenly rolled to the right at an estimated 30 degrees per second, continued to the right and reached a 90 degree angle to the ground”. He maintained control of the aircraft, applied full left aileron and left rudder, pushed forward on the control stick and levelled the wings. He applied full power but realised that the Otter did not have enough altitude to clear the trees, and then reduced power to idle. The tail struck the ground, the left wing struck trees and the Otter came to rest in a muddy bog 250 yards from the runway. The left wing was separated from the airframe, the left side of the aircraft was crushed and buckled inward and there was structural damage throughout the airframe. There were six serious and thirteen minor injuries to the occupants, mostly broken legs and ribs.

The pilot concluded that a wing had been caught by a “dust devil”, a whirlwind that normally travels along the ground like a small tornado and becomes visible because of the dust it sucks into the air. With twenty two persons on the Otter, and such a severe impact, it is fortunate indeed that the outcome of the accident was not worse. The wrecked Otter was sold to Prof Fate Inc., of Eastsound, Washington and registered to that company on 6th March 2002. This company is the owner and operator of turbine Otter N79JJ (300) and was acquired as a source of spares. The wrecked Otter was trucked from Decatur to Vancouver and stored inside the Aeroflite Industries hangar at the Vancouver International Airport, where N79JJ is serviced.

The Otter lay in the Aeroflite hangar at Vancouver until rebuilding and conversion to a Vazar turbine commenced during 2008.  The owner of Prof Fate Inc., is James Jannard, the founder and main shareholder in Oakley Inc., the world famous eyewear (sunglasses) and apparel company and he already owned turbine Otter N79JJ (300), which he based at Bellingham Airport in Washington and used to commute to his home on Orcas Island. He also had a turbine DHC-2 Beaver N69JJ for the same purpose, both registered to his company Prof Fate Inc., but the ‘JJ’ of the registrations standing for his initials, James Jannard. He had bought the wreck of Otter 115 as a rebuild project, to be sold on, and he arranged with Aeroflite Industries at Vancouver to rebuild 115 for him and convert it to a Vazar turbine, work on which commenced in the spring of 2008.

As the work was progressing Mr Jannard sold his Turbo Beaver N69JJ and when the rebuild of Otter 115 had been completed and its turbine engine installed, it took the Beaver’s registration and was registered N69JJ to Prof Fate Inc., on 19 September 2008. It was painted all white and flown that month the short distance south to Seattle, where it was put into storage in a hangar, where it was to remain for the next few years. The next development occurred in April 2012, when Otter N69JJ was advertised for sale, located in Seattle. It was advertised as having total airframe time of 6,541 hours and as having been completely restored, with only three and a half hours flown since its restoration. It had a PT-6A-34 engine and a brand new eight place leather interior. It had an asking price of $1,370,000. It was still for sale in June 2012, the price having risen to $1,425,000. A sale was then agreed and registration N69JJ was cancelled on 8 March 2013 “on export to Canada”.

The Otter had been flown back to Vancouver, but it was not registered in Canada. It had in fact been sold to an operator in Fiji and it was to be prepared for export in Vancouver. It was painted there in a stylised white, blue and red colour scheme, packed into a container and shipped to Fiji. On arrival it was re-assembled, given Pacific Island Air titles, put on amphibious floats and registered as DQ-PIA to Pacific Island Air on 28 May 2013. It entered service with that company on 14 June 2013, visiting Castaway Island to pick up its first customers.

Pacific Island Air was a company based in Nadi, Fiji which was owned by a Canadian, Dusty Simon. In December 1999 it acquired turbine Otter DQ-GLL (288) which for the next ten years serviced the tourist industry in Fiji. It flew guests who had arrived at Nadi International Airport to their resorts on the numerous islands around Fiji and back to the airport when they were departing, also providing sight-seeing flights. This activity continued until December 2009 when the Otter was badly damaged but business continued with the company’s Beaver and other aircraft. In 2013 New Zealand interests bought the company and also acquired Otter 115 to fly for the company as DQ-PIA, flying alongside two Beavers. The Otter, known locally as the “Island Airbus” was fitted with the latest GPS equipment, and headsets for each passenger. According to the company it is able to service most resorts in the Mamanucas, Yasawa, Kadavu and Vanua Levu. In January 2016 it was joined by turbine Otter DQ-SEA (397) and both turbine Otters continued to fly for Pacific Island Air in the years that followed.

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.