Otter number 16 was completed during May 1953, being taken on charge by DHC on 1 June 1953 and registered to DHC on 26 June 1953 as CF-EYO for use as a floatplane demonstrator. It had accumulated 1,255 flying hours by March 1960. It remained in use as a demonstrator until sold by DHC to Eastern Provincial Airways Ltd., (EPA) of Gander, Newfoundland on 28 June 1960, being re-registered to Eastern Provincial Airways (1963) Ltd., on 30 September 1963, after EPA had merged with Maritime Central Airways to become an important regional carrier in eastern Canada. It was painted red overall with yellow engine cowling and cheatline, and would retain that basic red scheme throughout its career.
Otter EYO was acquired by EPA specifically to support a USAF contract to supply radar sites. From its delivery until EPA lost that contract in August 1963, EYO was used to support the USAF radar site at St.Anthony, flying between St.Anthony and the USAF’s Harmon Air Force Base (AFB) at Stephenville, Newfoundland. Personnel of the 921st AC&W Squadron at St.Anthony monitored the skies, checking all air traffic inbound off the Atlantic. They also worked military traffic in their area, flights of Strategic Air Command B-47 bombers and their KC-97 tankers. They often ran practice intercepts using F-102 fighters based at Harmon.
An assignment to St.Anthony was a remote posting. As one serviceman stationed there wrote: “We were totally dependent on that little Otter for all fresh foods, so if it did not fly, we ate canned food. I remember periods of two weeks long, of nothing but powdered eggs, canned bacon, canned ham and canned sweet potatoes. Mail, like fresh food, was dependent on the bush pilot. Sometimes we would go 20 days with no mail. Whenever ‘Easy Yoke Oboe’, our Otter, got airborne at Harmon, the news would spread like wildfire. We’d usually pick him up inbound about 40 miles out. No other track was watched so closely as EYO”. When that serviceman’s tour of duty at St.Anthony was up in April 1962, he departed from a frozen lake near the radar site in EYO on wheel-skis, landing on the runway at Harmon AFB.
EPA also had other contracts from the USAF to fly in supplies and personnel to their radar sites in Labrador. One of these sites was located on the coast at Saglek, 370 miles north of Goose Bay. During 1962 construction work was being undertaken to upgrade the Saglek site, under the control of a Colonel Hicks of the USAF. One of his assistants later wrote of this period, giving a good flavour of the bush flying of the time. Colonel Hicks was using a chartered EPA Otter to commute between Goose and Saglek:
“One memorable trip to Saglek is worth mentioning. We had finished our work at the BMEWS site and returned to the base. It was too late to take off to return to Goose so we stayed another night. In the morning the sky was overcast, not a patch of blue anywhere. We waited. Col. Hicks was a ‘take off at the crack of dawn sort of guy’. Our EPA bush pilot wouldn’t budge. This country was all visual flying. There was so much magnetism in the mountains a compass was practically useless. The Otter had no other advanced navigation equipment, only a compass and an experienced bush pilot”.
“We waited around until noon. Hicks could wait no longer. The sky had begun to lighten up a little. Hicks pulled rank and announced we were leaving. If the bush pilot didn’t want to go that would be OK with Hicks, he would fly the Otter himself. The pilot eventually relented and we took off. The Otter got to 2,500 feet, we arrived above the clouds to see an endless sea of foam as far as the eye could see. The pilot headed in what he thought was the south-west heading we needed to follow. About two hours out of Saglek the sky cleared up. We had lots of topo maps which we spread around the cabin. We had on board Col.Hicks, one of his captains and an RCAF officer. Surely someone would spot some kind of identifiable feature on the ground? No luck. Everything looked like everything else”.
“We had to make sure our heading took us east of Goose Bay. If we missed and flew west of Goose we would be heading out over one thousand miles of bush, rock and swamp. On the other hand going south-east we could probably find Hopedale, or might get to Cartwright before running out of fuel, or at least be along the Atlantic where we might make radio contact with someone. As things turned out we found the Hamilton River, mostly a series of inter-connected lakes that ran from Cartwright to Goose. We landed at Goose well after dark. We had broken just about every rule there was for flying in the Arctic but here we were safe and sound”. Having survived that type of flying, EYO continued on these USAF contracts with EPA until August 1963 when EPA lost the contract and Laurentian Air Services took over.
As well as the USAF contracts, EYO was also used on other tasks by EPA, including the winter mails, on which it continued after the USAF contract. A number of incidents were recorded. On 4 March 1963 en route from Gulp Pond to Burnt Hill, Newfoundland, on landing at Burnt Hill heavy snowdrifts and a cross-wind caused the aircraft to veer to the left, and the left wing struck trees. On 19 January 1964 en route from St.Anthony to Belle Isle, Newfoundland during the landing run the right ski broke on striking a reef, which protruded through the ice. On 4 February 1964, after temporary repairs on site, it was ferried from Belle Isle to Montreal for permanent repair, during which its Certificate of Airworthiness check was carried out. At that stage of its career it had 3,803 hours on the airframe and returned from Montreal to Gander on April 1964. On 24 January 1965 at St.Anthony Harbour, 350 feet east of Mission Dock, while taxying the Otter sank through weak ice and ended up with its wings resting on the ice. It was retrieved and returned to service, moving base to Goose Bay, Labrador.
On 29 March 1967 EYO was damaged while taking off at Postville, Labrador. After a successful landing to off-load a small amount of cargo, a take off was attempted in a westerly direction, with a cross wind. Although the aircraft did not accelerate as well as the pilot expected, the take-off was continued. The Otter became airborne at the end of an area of smooth ice, but struck rough ice and was damaged. A successful landing was later made at Makkovik and the next day the Otter was ferried from Makkovik to Montreal for repair, returning to Gander on 26 May 1967 and then back to Goose Bay.
EYO and the company’s other Otters continued in use until 1970, when EPA’s bush operation and aircraft were sold to Labrador Airways Ltd in a management buy-out by former EPA employees. C-FEYO was registered to Labrador Airways Ltd in January 1971, remaining based at Goose Bay, the centre of aviation in Labrador. Labrador Airways had also acquired another four Otters from EPA (AGM, HXY, LEA and PMQ) giving the new carrier a good solid fleet of bush aircraft. It also operated Beavers and Cessnas. As at April 1971 EYO’s total time had increased to 8,598 flying hours.
With Labrador Airways, the Otters were used to establish a network of scheduled services from Goose Bay to the coastal communities of Labrador. They went north to Rigolet, Postville, Makkovik, Hopedale, Davis Inlet and Nain and south out of Goose to Paradise River, Cartwright, Black Tickle, Charlottetown, Port Hope, Simpson, Williams Harbour, Fox Harbour, St.Mary’s Harbour and Red Bay. At that stage there were no airstrips at these locations. During the summer months the Otters flew on floats from the appropriately named Otter Creek on Lake Melville near to Goose Bay, landing on the water at the communities. In winter the Otters flew on wheel-skis out of the Goose Bay airport, landing on the ice at destination. On 19 December 1971 at Cartwright, on take off EYO suffered a loss of power and made a forced landing, later continuing on to Goose. By May 1980 its total time had increased to 16,779 hours.
Labrador Airways went on to acquire more Otters, until it had a fleet of ten DHC-3s by 1978. As well as flying on the scheduled services, the Otters also flew on charters throughout Labrador, providing a full range of bush services. In the fall of each year a few of the Otters moved south to the island of Newfoundland for the moose hunting season. In June 1978 Labrador Airways acquired the first of its fleet of DHC-6 Twin Otters, which over time took over the scheduled services out of Goose Bay. From then on the Otters including EYO were used for charter work, and as a back up for the Twin Otters whenever required. The Otter fleet was progressively reduced and by 1981 was down to six Otters. In June of that year, Labrador Airways divested itself of most of its single-engined aircraft to concentrate on Twin Otters services and although it retained one Otter (C-FZYL) for general charter work out of Goose Bay, C-FEYO and its other four Otters (AGM, IKT, LJH and NLA) were sold to Newfoundland Labrador Air Transport (NLAT) of Corner Brook, Newfoundland. EYO was registered to NLAT on 16 July 1981, having been transferred to that company by Bill of Sale 23 June 1981.
As well as these five Otters, NLAT also operated a fleet of Beavers, a Turbo Beaver, a Widgeon and Cessna 180/185s and had two principal bases, Goose Bay in Labrador and Deer Lake on the island of Newfoundland. The Otters remained based at Goose Bay, although some flew out of Deer Lake during the summer months. NLAT decided to have four of its Otters (AGM, EYO, IKT and LJH) converted to the 600 hp Polish PZL-3S engine. This work was undertaken at the Airtech facility at Peterborough, Ontario after which the Otters returned to Goose Bay. This engine however did not work well with the Otter and gave nothing but trouble. All four aircraft were converted back to the P&W Wasp engine.
A re-structuring took place in 1983 which saw NLAT operating in Newfoundland only, and a new company was formed, Goose Bay Air Services Ltd, to carry on the operation in Labrador. This was a management buy out by some NLAT staff based in Goose. All five of the NLAT Otters were sold to the new company and some were repainted from the red and white scheme they had carried into an attractive new white, blue and green colour scheme, but EYO retained its red and white scheme. C-FEYO was registered to Goose Bay Air Services on 3 March 1983 and continued in use with the company for the next two years.
During this period one incident was recorded, at Forteau Pond, Labrador on 27 September 1983. Just after lift off the Otter (which was overloaded by 517 pounds) was forced back down to the surface of the lake due to gusting winds and downdrafts. With not enough space to stop, it ran up onto the shore and was damaged. The damage was repaired and EYO continued in service with Goose Bay Air Services until it was sold to Air Caribou Inc., of Fermont, Québec by Bill of Sale dated 15 June 1984.
The Otter’s new owners were an existing bush operator equipped with a Cessna 206 and a Beaver based at Fermont – Lac Daviault in northern Québec bush country, just across the border from Wabush, Labrador. Title was transferred on by Bill of Sale 21 August 1985 to Air Caribou (1985) Inc., when the company became a subsidiary of Air Saguenay. EYO’s total time had by then increased to 18,549 hours. EYO was not flying for long with them before it came to grief near Schefferville, Québec on 24 September 1985 during the annual caribou hunting season, flying that day for Air Saguenay.
The Otter on that day was on a VFR flight from Fermont with a party of six hunters and their equipment, en route to a camp 210 miles to the north. After take off, deteriorating weather conditions were encountered. The pilot altered course to the east of the intended route, to follow a railroad track heading north into a valley. While en route the pilot communicated with another company pilot who was heading south to Fermont and inquired about the weather. He was told he could probably get through to his destination. Shortly after the pilot realised it would be impossible to get through the area of poor weather. He decided to turn back, keeping the railroad track in sight. He initiated a left turn at low airspeed, lowered some flap, applied maximum power and increased the angle of bank. He then pulled hard on the controls to remain within the confines of the valley. During the turn, the aircraft mushed and the left wing struck the railroad track, the Otter crashing to the ground. No one was killed, luckily, but the pilot and two passengers were injured.
At the time of its destruction EYO had amassed total time of 18,638 hours. The wreckage was taken to the Air Saguenay base at St.David-de-Fallardeau at Lac Sebastien, Québec where for many years it languished behind their hangar, still in the red colour scheme in which it had been delivered all those years ago. Ownership of the wreck was passed on to Aviation V.L.Inc., of Montréal and by Bill of Sale 22 November 2000 was transferred to Lakeland Aviation of Fort Frances, Ontario. The Otter was never rebuilt and likely parted out for spares.
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.