DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 209

C-GBTU at Silver Falls, Manitoba.
Photo: Karl E. Hayes © May 2004
C-GBTU with Walter powerplant.
Photo: Unknown photographer © Date unknown

c/n 209




• IM-1711 / C Indian Air Force. Delivered 26-Dec-1957.

41 Squadron at Palam Air Base during the years 1976 to 1980.

Accident:  Unknown location & date. Suffered a ground loop.

• IM-1711 Removed from inventory on unknown date.

• Un regd Mike Hackman Aircraft Sales / La Ronge Aviation

• C-GBTU Blue Water Aviation Services, Pine Falls, MB. Rebuilt and re engined. Regd Jun-1996 Canx 23 Feb-1998.

Power plant Polish PZL-1000 engine was installed Jun-1996.

• C-GBTU Leased to South Peace Services Ltd., Pine Falls, MB. Regd 23-Feb-1998. Canx 03-Sep-1998.

• C-GBTU Returned to Blue Water Aviation Services, Pine Falls, MB. Based Silver Falls MB. Regd 03-Sep-1998. Canx 02-Feb-2004. Re-regd 20-Jul-2004 & 06-Aug-2004., Based Silver Falls. Canx 08-Jan-2015 & 01-Apr-2015. Re regd 26-May-2015.

Power plant: Walter turbine Jan-2005.

Accident:  3K 26-Oct-2019. Family Lake, near Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba. 270 kilometers northeast of Winnipeg.

tt 16,474 hours


Otter 209 was delivered to the Indian Air Force on 26 December 1957 with serial IM-1711. After test flying at Downsview it was packed into a crate and shipped to India, where it was re-assembled. It was in service with 41 Squadron at Palam during the years 1976 to 1980, code C. No other details of its Indian Air Force service are known. It was withdrawn from service after being damaged in a ground loop, date unknown. The Indian Air Force continued to fly its other Otters until the type was formally withdrawn from the inventory on 31 March 1991 and the surviving aircraft were offered for sale.

The successful bidders for the Indian Otters were Mike Hackman Aircraft Sales / La Ronge Aviation, who sent personnel to India to prepare the Otters to be shipped back to Canada.  IM-1711 left India in March 1995 and was shipped to Canada and then transported to Saskatoon. The Otter was sold to Blue Water Aviation Services Ltd of Silver Falls, Manitoba who were to undertake the rebuilding of it themselves. It was trucked from Saskatoon to Silver Falls where it was rebuilt and painted white with a cheatline of two shades of blue. It was registered to Blue Water Aviation Services in May 1996 as C-GBTU and entered service with them.

This is a very active company which over the years has had six Otters registered to it. During the summer months the Otters fly hunters, fishermen and tourists into northern Manitoba bush country and year round support exploration activity and fly supplies to native settlements, such as Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi. According to its website the company “provides fly-in canoeing packages to the Gammon River, Bloodvein River, Pigeon River, Berens River and Poplar River. We fly de Havilland Otter, Beech 18, Cessna 185 and Cessna 337 aircraft with float, wheel and ski capabilities. In addition to the canoeing packages, we service Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge and Atikaki Outcamps”.

The owners of Blue Water Aviation Services also own a number of other businesses based at Silver Falls. One of these is a company called great Northern Wild Rice Ltd., which uses the trade name South Peace Services, whose business it was to harvest wild rice, quite a delicacy, which grows in lakes in northern Manitoba. Otter C-GBTU was registered to South Peace Services in February 1998 and flew for this company for some months. Another associated company at Silver Falls is Winnipeg River Aircraft, a full service maintenance facility. BTU was taken into their hangar in July 1998 and converted with the Polish PZL-1000 engine. When this work was completed in September 1998 it was registered back to Blue Water Aviation Services and resumed flying for that company.

Having flown for Blue Water Aviation for six years as a PZL-powered Otter, in October 2004 BTU was taken into the Winnipeg River Aircraft hangar where work started on converting the Otter to a turbine with the Walter engine. This work continued until January 2005 in the course of which a BARON STOL kit was installed, the aircraft was repainted into a revised scheme of light blue cheatline with dark blue under-fuselage. This was Walter conversion number six (WTOC  # 6) and it made its first flight as a turbine Otter at Silver Falls on 27 January 2005 and then resumed service with Blue Water Aviation. At that stage the company still operated PZL- engined Otter C-GHYB (385) which would later also be converted as a Walter turbine and for many years these two Otters would operate together for Blue Water Aviation. Also in the fleet were Cessna 185s and business continued as before, supporting the hunting, fishing and tourist industries and supplying northern settlements.

During March / April 2007 C-GBTU and also Walter turbine Otter C-FIOF (24) of Huron Air were chartered by a film company and used in the making of a movie called “Whiteout”. The plot of this film was a US Marshal tracking a killer in the Antarctic, the film being shot on location on frozen Lake Manitoba, which had to make do as “Antarctica”. Both turbine Otters were painted in overall grey fuselages and red tails. The film was released in 2009 but despite the participation of the Otters received poor reviews from the critics. When the filming was completed both Otters were returned to their previous colour schemes and BTU resumed normal service with Blue Water Aviation.

The Otter features in a CADORS report on 20 December 2013. BTU was taxying for departure from runway 27 at Norman Wells en route to Whitehorse in the Yukon, but reported a flat tire at the threshold and was unable to take off blocking the runway. It was repaired and took off one hour forty minutes later. Unfortunately the report does not explain what it was doing so far north in the depths of winter.

Since then BTU has continued in service with Blue Water Aviation, flying alongside HYB.

Having been in service with Blue Water Aviation for more than 23 years, C-GBTU sadly came to grief on Saturday 26 October 2019 while landing on Family Lake, near Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba.  This is a fly-in community 270 miles north-east of Winnipeg and the airstrip and lake also serve the Pauingassi First Nation, located across the lake from the community. The Otter was on a charter flight from Bissett, Manitoba with the pilot and two passengers on board, whose destination was the lodge on the lake. It was landing on the lake at 8.30am that morning when disaster struck. According to an eye witness, “I looked out the window and there was a plane and it looked to be making a really strange turn and all of a sudden the wing fell off one side and it started to go down. I saw it go down behind the trees and heard a loud bang”.

The RCAF Rescue Unit at Winnipeg, 435 Squadron, sent one of its CC-130 Hercules to the scene, which conducted a shoreline-to-shoreline search of the lake at low altitude, but was unable to locate the crash site and returned to base. In the meantime the RCMP had arrived and they found debris floating in the lake. Having been delayed by snowy weather conditions, RCMP divers dived down to the wreck the next day, Sunday 27th. By that stage it was clear that sadly all three occupants had perished in the crash. The body of one of the passengers was recovered that day and further dives were being carried out in the days that followed to locate the other two.  Blue Water Aviation confirmed that its pilot who had been killed in the crash as 39 years old and had flown for the company for the past seventeen years, fifteen of those on the Otter. He had 9,000 hours flying time.

On 6 January 2021 the Transportation Safety Board issued its findings on the accident.   A fatigue fracture in the right hand lift strut assembly led to an overstress failure of the other fittings. During a left turn prior to final approach, the right hand wing separated from the fuselage. Following this in-flight break up the Otter fell into the lake.

TSB Final Report

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.