DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 140

C-FBEW at White River, Ontario.
Photo: Peter Keating © 15 August 1978 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
Photo: Sheldon D. Benner © 15 August 1978 - Michael J. Ody Collection
C-FBEW on regular gear.
Photo: Unknown photographer © March 1979 - Michael J. Ody Collection
C-FBEW with a motley survey crew, at Dryden - CYHD, Ontario. About to leave for Muskegsagagan Lake.
Photo: Unknown photographer © 05 March 1986 - Dalton Farrow Collection
N43SP after Recon Air turbine conversion.
Photo: Recon Air © c. 2012

c/n 140

55-3289 • CF-BEW • C-FBEW • C-FSZS

N43SP

X

 55-3289 United States Army Delivered 24-Jul-1956. Designated U-1A.

Initially attached to 2nd Aviation Company, Fort Riley, KS.

Date unknown. Assigned to support the Corps of Engineers, who were carrying out a survey in Iran.

April 1962. 394th Transportation Battalion. Nettingen, Germany.

Jan-1963. 2nd Aviation Company France Actual location unknown.

Jul-1966.. Coleman Barracks Depot, Mannheim, Germany for overhaul and then storage.

Mar-1967. Aviation Section of the 69th Air Defence Artillery Brigade,32nd Army Air Defence Command, based at Wurzburg Airfield, Germany.

Nov-1967.Returned to at Coleman Barracks Depot, Mannheim, Germany in from where it was returned to the United States and then transported to Vietnam.

Jul-1968. Attached to 21st Signal Group, based at Nha Trang, Vietnam.

May-1969. To the 79th Transportation Company, Qui Nhon, who prepared it for shipment back to the United States.

Oct-1969. Forest Park Army Depot Atlanta, GA., in where it was placed into storage.

May 1972. Deleted from the Army inventory and put up for disposal as military surplus.

• CF-BEW Air Craftsmen Ltd., St.John Airport, NB. Reserved 11-Oct-1972.. Who ferried it to their base and overhauled and converted the aircraft to civilian configuration.

• CF-BEW White River Air Services Ltd., Moosonee, ON. Delivered on 12-Jun-1973 via Moncton and Toronto Island Airport to its new base. Regd 15th Jun-1973.

• C-FBEW Re regd to White River Air Services Ltd., Moosonee, ON

• C-FBEW Austin Airways, Timmins, ON., following merged ownership with White River.

• C-FBEW On lease to Pickle Lake Air Services Ltd, based at Pickle Lake, Ontario. Jun-1983. Canx 14-Apr-1988.

Accident: Un-named lake, 46 miles north of Pickle Lake. 17-Mar-1986. On arrival at the remote lake, the pilot carried out a precautionary approach to assess the surface conditions. With climb flap set and the skis partially retracted, the aircraft was flown over the ice, so that the wheels left imprints in the snow cover. The pilot carried out an overshoot during which he noted water in the tire tracks, deemed that area unsuitable for landing and circled left for a second pass over another section of the lake. The same procedure was followed, but after the throttle was advanced for the overshoot, the port wing folded upward and the aircraft rolled over. One passenger, who was sitting on the cargo and was not restrained, was injured. All other occupants were properly restrained and were uninjured. It appears that during the first approach, the port ski had struck an ice ridge, damaging the ski and its attachments, which subsequently failed. The ski, which was connected to the fuselage by check cables, swung out under the port wheel and severed the wing strut, causing the wing to fold.  By coincidence, the same fate befell this aircraft as did the previous aircraft, number 139. It was considered salvageable and an attempt was made to retrieve it from the accident site by helicopter. This did not work and the Otter was further damaged when dropped by the helicopter. The Otter was taken to Kuby's Aircraft, Kenora, Ontario. The fuselage of the aircraft was still present in Kuby's Yard during 2004.

Note: The aircraft was one of four wrecked Otters sold to Recon Air Corporation of Geraldton, Ontario in October 2005 and which were trucked to Geraldton for rebuild.

• C-FSZS Recon Air Corporation, Geraldton ON. Regd 08-Oct-2008. Canx 13-Mar-2012.

• N43SP Samaritans Purse, Boone, NC. Regd 15-Mar-2012.

Airworthiness Date: 15-Mar-2012.

Power plant: Honeywell TPE 331-12JR. Installation date circa 2012.

Current

Otter 140 was delivered to the United States Army on 24th July 1956 with serial 55-3289 (tail number 53289). It was delivered to the 2nd Aviation Company, Fort Riley, Kansas and deployed with the unit to Illesheim, Germany. Although the 2nd Aviation Company moved to France in 1959, 53289 was assigned to support the Corps of Engineers, who were carrying out a survey in Iran. By April 1962 it had returned to Germany, where it was serving with the 394th Transportation Battalion. In January 1963 it re-joined the 2nd Aviation Company in France, where it continued to serve until July 1966 when it went to the depot at Coleman Barracks, Mannheim, Germany for overhaul and then storage. In March '67 it was allocated to the Aviation Section of the 69th Air Defence Artillery Brigade, 32nd Army Air Defence Command, based at Wurzburg Airfield. The Section had two OH-13 and one CH-34 Choctaw helicopter, the Otter and a Beaver. They were used to transport the Group Commander and his staff. The Otter returned to the Depot at Coleman Barracks in November '67. From there it was returned to the United States and then transported to Vietnam where in July 1968 it joined the 21st Signal Group, based at Nha Trang.

53289 was the only Otter serving with the unit at that time, its mission being to support all the outlying signal operations under the Group, which covered most of South Vietnam. Gerald Buchta was the pilot and he describes his arrival in-country: “I arrived in Vietnam and was assigned to the 21st Signal Battalion on 5th June 1968 and was sent to Vung Tau for Otter transition. It was the first time for me to even see an Otter, much less fly one, but I managed to get through the mandatory take-off and landings until I was told that I would have plenty of time to get proficient during the rest of my stay. I flew the Otter back to Nha Trang and received a mission to transport a group of communications specialists to Pleiku the next morning. The weather was not good, with thunderstorms forecast along the entire route, but since I really did not know better we left as scheduled.”

“Thunderstorms can always create problems and they certainly did for me this inaugural flight. The flight path was over and around some mountain peaks up to 6,800 feet and almost immediately after departure IFR conditions were encountered. The rain, thunder, lightning and turbulence were ferocious, with water coming into the cockpit around the instrument panel and my feet. My comfort level was at zero and I began to wonder if this was going to be my first and last mission. In spite of all this adversity the Otter just kept chugging along and after about two and half hours I was able to contact Pleiku tower, who was able to make radar contact and asked my altitude. When I responded he very urgently asked that I begin an emergency climb since my indicated position was  in mountains higher than my altitude. Now since I was still in IFR conditions I only had my chart for reference I wondered about how I had gotten through the storm only to have it all end possibly flying into a mountain. However, vectors to final were followed successfully and we landed without further incident, with the passengers not having a clue that they all almost had met their doom while I also considered my future if all the missions would be like this one.”

Destinations served by the Otter included Quang Tri, Hue, Phu Bai, Da Nang, Chu Lai, Dak To, Pleiku, Qui Nhon, Ban Me Thuot, Gia, Nghia, Da Lat, Phan Thiet, Tay Ninh, Bien Hoa, Xuan Loc, Vung Tau, My Tho and Can Tho. The Otter continued flying for the 21st Signal Group until May 1969 when it was taken in charge by the 79th Transportation Company at Qui Nhon, who prepared it for shipment back to the United States. It arrived at the Army Depot, Atlanta, Georgia in October 1969 where it was placed into storage alongside many other Otters returned from Vietnam. It was deleted from the Army inventory in May 1972 and put up for disposal as military surplus.

53289 was one of six Army Otters purchased by Air Craftsmen Ltd., of St. John Airport, New Brunswick, a company which traded in Otters, buying military surplus aircraft, restoring them as civilian aircraft and selling them on. The six Otters were reserved as CF-BEO / BEP / BEQ / BER / BEU and BEW. Otter 140 was reserved as CF-BEW and on 11th October 1972 a ferry permit was issued for a flight from the Forest Park Army Depot, Atlanta, Georgia to St. John Airport, New Brunswick where the aircraft was overhauled and converted to civilian configuration. It was then sold to White River Air Services Ltd and set off on its delivery flight on 12th June 1973 via Moncton and Toronto Island Airport to its new base at Moosonee, Ontario. It was registered to White River Air Services on 15th June 1973 as CF-BEW, later becoming C-FBEW. In 1974 White River Air Services and Austin Airways Ltd., came under the same ownership, which led to C-FBEW being operated as part of the Austin Airways fleet, based at Timmins, Ontario and serving the Ontario bush country.

In June 1983 the Otter went on lease to Pickle Lake Air Services Ltd., based at Pickle Lake, Ontario. It was still operated by this company when it crashed on 17th March 1986 at a 'no name' lake 46 miles north of its Pickle Lake base. On arrival at the remote lake, the pilot carried out a precautionary approach to assess the surface conditions. With climb flap set and the skis partially retracted, the aircraft was flown over the ice, so that the wheels left imprints in the snow cover. The pilot carried out an overshoot during which he noted water in the tire tracks, deemed that area unsuitable for landing and circled left for a second pass over another section of the lake. The same procedure was followed, but after the throttle was advanced for the overshoot, the port wing folded upward and the aircraft rolled over. One passenger, who was sitting on the cargo and was not restrained, was injured. All other occupants were properly restrained and were uninjured. It appears that during the first approach, the port ski had struck an ice ridge, damaging the ski and its attachments, which subsequently failed. The ski, which was connected to the fuselage by check cables, swung out under the port wheel and severed the wing strut, causing the wing to fold.

By coincidence, the same fate befell this Otter as did the previous aircraft, number 139.   Otter BEW was considered salvageable and an attempt was made to retrieve it from the accident site by helicopter. This did not work and the Otter was further damaged when dropped by the helicopter. The Otter was taken to Kuby's Aircraft, Kenora, Ontario. The fuselage of the aircraft was still present in Kuby's Yard during 2004.

Although Kuby’s Aircraft had acquired Otter 140 for rebuild, as well as several other wrecked Otters, that never happened and it lay for years in outside storage. Nineteen years after its crash BEW was one of four wrecked Otters sold by Kuby’s Aircraft to Recon Air of Geraldton, Ontario in October 2005, which were trucked to Geraldton for rebuild.

Work commenced during 2008 in rebuilding Otter 140 and converting it to a turbine. On 8 October 2008 it was registered to Recon Air Corporation, Geraldton as C-FSZS. The Otter was advertised for sale in May 2010 as a “like new aircraft” after complete airframe overhaul, with 14,682 hours total time. The asking price was $925,000 Canadian, not including engine. The buyer could install his choice of turbine engine – Garrett or Pratt and chose his own paint scheme. The Otter was still advertised for sale in July 2011, price reduced to $900,000. The wings of BEW were not used in the rebuild, as they were seen dumped outside the Recon Air hangar years later. Recon Air sourced a set of wings from another damaged Otter for the rebuild of 140.

The Otter was eventually sold, the buyer being a charitable organisation known as Samaritans Purse, of Boone, North Carolina. The buyer selected the Garrett engine, which was installed by Recon Air, becoming Texas Turbines conversion # 41. The Canadian registration was cancelled on 13 March 2012, the Otter being registered to its new owners two days later as N43SP. Samaritans Purse is a non-denominational evangelical Christian humanitarian organisation that works world-wide to assist people in physical need, alongside their Christian missionary work. They operate in more than 100 countries world-wide, seeking to meet the spiritual and physical needs of people suffering from war, poverty, disaster, disease and famine. The organisation specialises in emergency relief, shelter, water, sanitation, food, medical care, livestock and livelihood projects. It employs aircraft in support of its projects, including DHC-6 Twin Otters in Haiti and Turbo DC-3 N467SP in Africa.

N43SP was its first Otter and was destined for service in Alaska. First however it had to be prepared. On 20 March 2012 the Otter in “green primer” paint flew from Geraldton to Saginaw, Michigan to refuel, continuing on to Smyrna, Tennessee for avionics to be installed. On 6 April it departed Smyrna en route to the South Arkansas Regional Airport, El Dorado, Arkansas, a flight of 2 hours 24 minutes conducted at 4,500 feet, working first the Memphis Centre on the radio, then the Fort Worth Centre. It continued on to Bishop’s Landing Airport, Celina, Texas (home base of Bishop Aviation, the providers of the Texas Turbine conversion for the Otter), where it was painted into its Samaritans Purse colour scheme, basically all white with a cheatline of two shades of grey and black.

On 13 May 2012 N43SP flew from Celina, Texas to Grider Field, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, a flight of one hour 42 minutes, at 9,000 feet at 120 knots. Having refuelled it flew on that day to Wilkes County Airport, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, a flight of three hours 39 minutes at 11,000 feet at 120 knots. This is the home base of the Samaritan’s Purse aviation section, near to headquarters at Boone, North Carolina. The organisation has a hangar here where its Falcon 900 and King Air are kept. Here the Charity’s personnel could have a look at the Otter before it left for Alaska, which it did shortly thereafter, a long cross-country flight to its new base at Soldotna, Alaska.

At Soldotna the Otter joined the other members of the Samaritans Purse Alaska fleet, which included a CASA 212, King Air 200, Cessna 208 and Kodiak 100. These are mostly used to fly relief to remote native settlements but the Otter had been acquired specifically to support a lodge, which would serve as a retreat centre for US servicemen and women who had been wounded in combat. Samaritans Purse had spent two years renovating a dilapidated lodge at Port Alsworth on Lake Clark, as well as ten adjacent cabins. The Otter made its first public appearance on 21 June 2012 at the official opening of the lodge.

As its website explains: “Operation Heal our Patriots retreat centre, Samaritan Lodge, Alaska sits on five acres of pristine lakefront property on the shores of Hardenburg Bay in the south-western portion of Lake Clark National Park and Reserve. One of the deepest lakes in Alaska, Lake Clark spans 42 miles, surrounded by the glories of the Alaskan wild. The lodge stands peacefully within the great wilderness of America’s last frontier. It is here, among the mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and wildlife that we can minister to the needs of America’s own victims of war. Military service members and their spouses have the opportunity to stay for one week”.

The lodge is open each year June through September. During this period the Otter, on amphibious floats, is based on the lake at the lodge. The wounded veterans and their spouses are flown from Anchorage to Port Alsworth on the King Air. The Otter is used to fly out to remote lakes for fishing, sightseeing and bear viewing trips. The whole experience is designed to provide healing for the wounded veterans by exposure to the pristine Alaskan wilderness. The Otter is then parked for the winter in the Samaritans Purse hangar at the Soldotna Airport. This remained the pattern of operation for the Otter during 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.