Otter number 13, registered CF-ODK to the Department of Lands & Forests, was delivered to the Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS) on 22 May 1953, based at Sault Ste.Marie, Ontario. It was the second Otter delivered to OPAS, the first being CF-ODJ (14) on 8 May 1953, these being the first two of an order for eleven new Otters from DHC. In their attractive and distinctive all yellow scheme, with black trim, these Otters served the Province for many years providing a full range of bush services.
They were most active during the summer months but some of the fleet were also kept going, on wheel-skis, during the winter. The Otters were modified as water bombers, to fight forest fires, which plague the Province during the summer and were also invaluable for moving fire crews. The Fish & Wildlife Branch was another big user of the Otter, on surveys, census taking, fish stocking and enforcement of game laws. Timber surveys were another task. Year round the Otters provided transportation for officials to all remote parts of this huge Province, including the many native settlements and for cargo whenever it was needed. They were also available year round for SAR and medevacs. An OPAS report for 1955/56 noted that the three Otters which they then operated (ODJ/K/L) were excellent for long trips carrying staff and heavy loads of equipment from Sioux Lookout to the Hudson Bay coast.
Sometimes known as the “Yellowbirds”, most of the OPAS Otters had tail numbers, ODK being 61. Only one minor incident is recorded in respect of CF-ODK during its service with OPAS. It was damaged in a hard landing at Terrace Bay on Lake Superior on 11 August 1970. The pilot had “misjudged speed and distance”. The damage was repaired and ODK returned to service. In September 1972 along with all other OPAS Otters, the registered owner was changed to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the registration became C-FODK.
After thirty years of faithful service, C-FODK was put up for sale, as the Province disposed of its Otter fleet. This Otter was destined to stay in Ontario however as its purchaser was Huron Air & Outfitting Inc., of Armstrong - McKenzie Lake to whom ODK was registered in May 1984. Armstrong is one of these “end of the road” towns, ideally located to serve the vast region of northern Ontario. ODK joined Huron Air’s then fleet of Cessna 185s. It was to serve Huron Air for 14 years, the registration reverting to CF-ODK in April 1997. During this long period of service, it flew fishermen to the many lodges in this remote and beautiful land, flew passengers and cargo to the native settlements, flew personnel into the bush to establish mining camps and kept the camps supplied.
It also flew some unusual charters, an example of which is as follows, which occurred in wintertime west of Lansdowne House. A large bulldozer had proved too heavy for the ice on the lake and went straight down to the bottom. The salvage equipment was flown in by Otter ODK, including several huge inflatable airbags, winches, generators, compressors and other heavy equipment. It took several flights with the Otter to transport all this to the site. They managed to raise the bulldozer which, although it had been submerged for six months, started up after a little maintenance.
ODK’s time with Huron Air came to an end on 26 May 1998. The float-equipped Otter had just taken off from Machawaian Lake some one hundred miles to the north of Armstrong after dropping off six passengers. At an altitude of 500 feet the engine began to backfire and lose power. The pilot switched fuel tanks and turned on the electric fuel boost pump but the engine would not stop backfiring. The Otter began to lose airspeed and altitude and the pilot elected to land straight ahead. ODK crashed into trees and muskeg some three miles south of the lake and was substantially damaged, which ended its career with Huron Air, with its registration to that company cancelled 18 January 1999. Huron Air leased Otter C-FCEE (282) for summer 1998, until they purchased another former Ontario Government Otter C-GOFF (65) as a replacement in October 1998.
The wreck of ODK was sold by the insurers to Aviation V. L. Inc .,who retrieved the Otter from the crash site and transported it to their facility at St.Jean Airfield, Montreal where the rebuild commenced. It was registered to Aviation V. L. Inc., on 28 April 1999, reverting to C-FODK the following month. After the rebuild was complete, the Otter was sold to Nestor Falls Fly-In Outposts Ltd., to whom it was registered as C-FODK on 28 July 1999, joining their other Otter C-FSOR (239) as well as a Beaver and Beech 18. This carrier is based at Nestor Falls, Ontario not far from the US border and is a summer-only operator, catering for fishermen and tourists. Their web-site says it all: “Climb aboard one of our float planes and soar over the magnificent beauty of the Canadian Shield. A tremendous photo opportunity of the rugged cliffs, pristine waters and abundance of wild life awaits you…….Savour the beauty of the Canadian bush, a wilderness for the most part accessible only by air”.
For the fishermen, the company flies to nine different lakes, with twelve cottages to chose from, all about two hundred miles north of Nestor Falls. ODK entered service with the company, flying the larger groups to the lakes and on sightseeing flights during the summer months, put into storage for the winter. During the winter of 2007 / 2008, ODK was converted to a Texas Turbine Otter with the Garrett engine by Recon Air at Geraldton, Ontario and continued in service alongside Otter SOR (now also a turbine) and the Beech 18. As at summer 2016, this Otter celebrated its 63rd birthday, having spent its entire career to that date flying in Ontario.
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.