DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 119

C-FBEU at Baie Comeau - CYBC, Québec.
Photos: Kenneth I. Swartz © 18 November 1992
N81FW with appropriate registration marks.
Photo: Unknown photographer © November 2006 - Michael J. Ody Archives
C-FHAD at Victoria Harbour.
Photo: Fred Barnes © 19 June 2011
C-FHAD f/n 315, at Victoria Harbour in latest colours.
Photo: Lenn Bayliss © 10 August 2017

c/n 119

55-3273 • CF-BEU • C-FBEU • N81FW

C-FHAD

X

• 55-3273 United States Army on 19th 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., 15-Aug-1956 until 02-Aug-1961.

57th Aviation Company at Fort Sill, OK., until October 1963.

17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord, CA., as an operational support airlift aircraft Oct-1963 to Sep-1964.

Transported from Fort Ord to Vietnam Sep-1964 where in Nov-1964 it joined the 56th Transportation Company based at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon as a combat support aircraft

Returned to the United States by Douglas C-133A Cargomaster for depot level maintenance at the Army Aeronautical Depot Maintenance Center (ARADMAC), Corpus Christi, TX.

Returned to Vietnam by Douglas C-133 Cargomaster in March 1966, where it joined the 18th Aviation Company until January 1969.

Incident: At Nha Trang. 22nd June 1966 Damaged when two Hueys tangled rotors and the resultant spray of equipment threw a generator through the fuselage of our aircraft resulting in the loss of the U-1A for an indefinite period of time.

79th Transportation Company in Jan-1969 who prepared it for shipment back to the United States.

Arrived at Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, CA. Feb-1969. Possibly for storage.

September 1969 it arrived at the Forest Park Army Depot, Atlanta, GA where it was put into storage as military surplus.. Eventually deleted from Army inventory in., May-1972.

• CF-BEU Air Craftsmen Ltd. St. John, NB. Regd 02-Aug-1974 after they rebuilt it.

• CF-BEU Laurentian Air Services Ltd., Ottawa, ON. Regd 16-May-1975.

• CF-BEU Survair Ltd., Ottawa, ON. Regd 24-Jun-1976.

Accident: Leaf Bay, Québec. 22nd April 1977. Taking off from a very narrow strip with a strong crosswind, overcast with snow on the runway. The Otter became airborne at low speed and drifted to the left side of the strip. The left ski struck a high snow bank, swinging the aircraft to the left and the left wing tip hit the snow heavily. The wing separated from the fuselage and the Otter flipped onto its back. Despite the severity of the crash, neither the pilot nor his two passengers were injured.

• C-FBEU Air Inuit Ltd,. Fort Chimo, QC. Regd 25th July 1979. Canx 12-Aug-1982.

Accident: Fressel Lake, QC. 04-Feb-1980. On an extremely cold afternoon the pilot attempted to take off from the marginal surface of a small lake. During the take-off, the skis passed through surface slush, resulting in an extended take-off run. Once airborne, the aircraft barely cleared the tree tops at the end of the lake. Unable to climb or accelerate the Otter finally stalled and mushed into the trees.

• C-FBEU Air Schefferville (1981) Inc., Schefferville, QC. Regd 07-Sep-1982. Canx 29-Sep-1982.

• C-FBEU Air Inuit Ltd. Kuujjuaq (was Fort Chimo), QC. Regd 25-Nov-1982. Canx 21-Oct-1983.

• C-FBEU Aeropel Inc., Baie Comeau, QC. Regd 31-May-1984. Canx 29-Jul-1986.

Accident: Manicouagan River, QC. 29-May-1985. While taxying in a strong current, the water rudder could not be extended. The engine was shut down but the Otter struck a parked aircraft, sustaining only minor damage.

• C-FBEU Labrador Air Safari (1984) Inc., 26th June 1987 Regd 06-Jun-1994. Re regd 23-Apr-1999 at Jonquière, BC. Based Baie-Comeau. Regd 02-Sep-2003. Canx and deleted 16-Jun-1005 to USA.

• N81FW Lester L & Jill G. Bingman, Dillingham, AK Regd 17-Jun-2005. Canx 07-Nov-2006.

• C-FHAD Harbour Air Ltd., Richmond, BC. Based Vancouver, BC. Regd 01-Dec-2006. f/n 315.

Current

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Otter 119 was delivered to the United States Army on 19th May 1956 with serial 55-3273 (tail number 53273). 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. 53273 was then assigned to the 57th Aviation Company at Fort Sill, Oklahoma where it remained until October 1963, when it headed west to join the 17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord, California. It continued in use at Fort Ord as an operational support airlift aircraft after the 17th Aviation Company converted to the Caribou during 1964, and left for Fort Benning. In September 1964 the Otter was transported from Fort Ord to Vietnam where in November 1964 it joined the 56th Transportation Company.

53273 served as a combat support aircraft with the 56th Transportation Company based at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon. The mission was to provide direct support maintenance, supply and recovery of downed Army aircraft. The Otter served alongside three CH-37 Mojave helicopters. The Otter is mentioned in the unit history in June 1965 - “The Company Otter was utilised to haul empty sand bags to Tay Ninh mountain from Tan Son Nhut. With only a helipad available, the sand bags were air dropped, a new experience for the Company”. 53273 continued in use with the 56th Transportation Company until February 1966, when it was replaced by 53284.

53273 was then transported back to the United States for overhaul at the ARADMAC Depot, Corpus Christi, Texas and was then returned to Vietnam in March 1966, where it joined the 18th Aviation Company. It is mentioned once in the unit's history, having been involved in an incident on 22nd June 1966: “At Nha Trang UH-1 helicopter 65-9479 assigned to the 339th Transportation Company was involved in an accident on the ramp in front of the maintenance hangar. The UH-1D overlapped blades with another Huey belonging to the 498th Medical Evacuation Company, causing extensive damage to both helicopters. During the freak accident a generator was thrown from the Huey into the 256th Transportation Detachment hangar. The generator struck U-1A 53273 assigned to the 18th Aviation Company. It penetrated the skin of the fuselage and came to rest inside the fuselage, resulting in the loss of the U-1A for an indefinite period of time. A Caribou upon which maintenance was being performed was also damaged by flying debris”.

After repair, the Otter resumed service with the 18th Aviation Company until January 1969, when it was entrusted to the 79th Transportation Company who prepared it for shipment back to the United States. It arrived at the Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, California the following month and in September 1969 it arrived at the Forest Park Army Depot, Atlanta, Georgia where it was put into storage alongside many other Otters which had been returned from Vietnam. It was deleted from the Army inventory in May 1972 but remained in storage at the Atlanta depot until put up for disposal as military surplus.

53273 was one of six Army Otters purchased by Air Craftsmen Ltd., of St. John, New Brunswick, all six being located at the Atlanta depot. Air Craftsmen Ltd was a company which traded in Otters, buying military surplus aircraft, restoring them as civilian and selling them on. The six were reserved on the Canadian register as CF-BEO / BEP / BEQ / BER / BEU and BEW. The Otters were flown from Atlanta to St. John, New Brunswick during October/November 1972, where they were re-built and civilianised. 53273 was registered to Air Craftsmen Ltd., as CF-BEU on 2nd August 1974 as the re- build was nearing completion. The following year it was sold to Laurentian Air Services Ltd., of Ottawa, to whom it was registered on 16th May 1975.

The Otter was subsequently sold on to Survair Ltd., of Ottawa, Ontario, to whom it was registered on 24th June 1976. This was a company which operated geophysical survey aircraft, including Otter CF-IGM (75). On 22nd April 1977, while flown by Survair, BEU sustained quite a serious accident on take off from Leaf Bay, Québec. The pilot was taking off from a narrow strip (36 feet wide and 2000 feet long) with a strong crosswind from the right. Conditions at the location were sky overcast, temperature was a -5C and there was snow on the runway. The Otter became airborne at low speed and drifted to the left side of the strip. The left ski struck a high snow bank, swinging the aircraft to the left and the left wing tip hit the snow heavily. The wing separated from the fuselage and the Otter flipped onto its back. Despite the severity of the crash, neither the pilot nor his two passengers were injured.

After a lengthy rebuild, the Otter was sold to Air Inuit Ltd., of Fort Chimo, Québec to whom it was registered as C-FBEU on 25th July 1979. It suffered another bad accident at Fressel Lake, Québec on 4th February 1980. It was a cold afternoon, with a temperature of -22C. The pilot attempted to take off from the marginal surface of a small lake. During the take-off, the skis passed through surface slush, resulting in an extended take-off run. Once airborne, the aircraft barely cleared the tree tops at the end of the lake. Unable to climb or accelerate the Otter finally stalled and mushed into the trees. The Otter was again repaired and went on to serve with a number of operators in Québec. It was registered to Air Schefferville (1981) Inc., of Schefferville, Québec on 7th September 1982, for use during the caribou hunting season that year, reverting to Air Inuit on 25th November 1982. It was then sold to Aeropel Inc., of Baie Comeau, Quebec on 31st May 1984. It was involved in a minor incident on the Manicouagan River, Québec on 29th May 1985. While taxying in a strong current, the water rudder could not be extended. The engine was shut down but the Otter struck a parked aircraft, sustaining only minor damage.

The next operator of C-FBEU was Labrador Air Safari (1984) Inc., of Baie Comeau, Québec to whom the Otter was registered on 26th June 1987 and for whom it would fly for many years, serving the bush country of Québec during the summer months, alongside the company's other Otters. It was still serving with Labrador Air Safari during 2004.

C-FBEU continued in service with Labrador Air Safari until the end of the summer 2004 season, when it was put into winter storage at the Air Saguenay base, Chicoutimi, Quebec and put up for sale. It was on EDO 7170 floats and with an asking price of $650,000 Canadian, and with 16,062 hours on the airframe. It was sold in June 2005 to Lester L.Bingman of Dillingham, Alaska for operation by his company Fresh Water Adventures Inc of Dillingham. The Otter, on wheels, made the long cross-country flight all the way from Quebec to Kenai, Alaska where it arrived on 15 June 2005. The Canadian registration was cancelled on 16 June and the following day the Otter was re-registered N81FW to Mr.Bingman. At Kenai it was put on floats and completed its delivery flight to its new base at Dillingham.

Fresh Water Adventures Inc was a long-established bush operator, serving the Bristol Bay and Kuskokwim areas of western Alaska. As the company’s website explained: “We specialise in fresh water lakes and rivers and hold permits to operate within the 1.6 million acre Wood-Tikchik State Park and the 4.2 million acres of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. Our clientele consist of a variety of people, such as Federal and State personnel carrying out their park management duties, independent sports people and the adventurous guided rafters and tent based sports people. Our unique Grumman (Goose) amphibious aircraft and new DHC-3 Otter will delight you with their antique atmosphere and ability to fit the needs of our guests”.

N81FW spent the winter of 2005 / 2006 at Courtenay, BC having work done on it by International Aeroproducts Inc., before returning to Alaska. It flew for Fresh Water Adventures for the summer of 2006 and was then flown back to Courtenay and sold. The buyer was Harbour Air of Vancouver and the Otter was trucked from Courtenay to Vancouver. It was recorded as being exported to Canada on 7 November 2006 and on 1 December 2006 was registered C-FHAD to Harbour Air. It was converted by Harbour Air to a Vazar DHC-3T turbine Otter at the Aeroflite hangar at Vancouver International Airport over the winter of 2006 / 2007 and put on Wipline 8000 floats, and given the fleet number 315. It was flown in basic Harbour Air yellow and white colour scheme but without titles or tail markings. It received the panoramic window conversion and was painted into full Harbour Air scheme over the winter of 2009 / 2010 and ever since has been serving as a hard working member of the Harbour Air fleet of turbine Otters, on their schedules serving Vancouver Island. f/n 315.

A number of incidents have been reported on CADORS:

15 September 2011. The Otter flew from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour. On landing, both water rudders snapped off but the Otter managed to taxi successfully off the manoeuvring area without assistance.

1 December 2011. Flying from Victoria Harbour to Vancouver harbour. On short finals to Vancouver Harbour, a West Coast Air DHC-6 Twin Otter operating flight CZ603 from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour was cleared for take-off. The controller cancelled the take-off clearance when Otter HAD was on very short finals.

8 August 2013 at 10:20 local time.  Otter HAD from Vancouver Harbour executed a missed approach at Victoria Harbour due to a ferry crossing its path. Strobe lights were activated and calls directed to the ferry without effect. Same day at time 13:25.  Otter HAD on its next trip from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour was inbound for a west landing. Company Otter C-GLCP was departing Victoria Harbour destined for Vancouver Harbour, indicated its intention to depart westbound when HAD was downwind for its west landing. The FSS was unable to request C-GLCP to delay its departure due to an extended radio call from a Victoria Flying Club Cessna 172 C-GTQQ and so HAD initiated a missed approach.

Over the winter of 2013 / 2014 Otter HAD was painted into the new Harbour Air white and blue colour scheme.

11 November 2014. HAD departed Vancouver Harbour en route to Victoria Harbour but had to return due to a mechanical problem. No assistance was required and the flight landed without incident. A torque transmitter had failed and was replaced and the Otter returned to service.

8 June 2017. HAD aborted take-off at Victoria Harbour due to a vessel in its path.

Otter C-FHAD continued in service with Harbour Air during summer 2018.

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.