DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 21

5321 at N'Dolo Airport, Leopoldville, just after arrival, with c/n 20 on left.
Photo: Torsten Björklund © August 1960 - via Leif Hellström
5321/304 showing UNITED NATIONS titles on other side.
Photo: Arne Berglund © 1960 - via Leif Hellström
5321/304 at Luano airport, Elisabethville, together with a UN DHC-2 Beaver.
Photo: Tore Linghult © 1961 - via Leif Hellström
5321/304 at Kamina air base, with name "Elisabeth" on nose.
Photo: Gunnar Brink © 1963 - via Leif Hellström
C-FRNO of TRANS-PROVINCIAL, at Vancouver - CYVR, British Columbia.
Photo: John Kimberley © July 1989 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-FRNO of HARBOUR AIR at Victoria Harbour.
Photo: Neil Aird © 31 May 2007
C-FRNO in latest livery, heads out to Victoria Harbour take off area.
Photo:Lenn Bayliss © 10 August 2017
C-FRNO at Victoria, starting out on another trip.
Photo:Lenn Bayliss © 12 August 2017

c/n 21

5321 • 304 • N128F

C-FRNO

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 5321 Royal Norwegian Air Force. Handed over on 2nd March 1954, arriving Oslo Harbour 08-Apr-1954.

Total time: Jul-1960 of 2,705 hours.

• 304 United Nations Air Transport Force (UNATF), Light Aircraft Squadron (LAS), Leopoldville, Aug-1960, painted all white and given UN markings. Named "Elisabeth" for a period. Used for liaison and light transport duties throughout the Congo. UNATF was renamed UN Air Division Oct-1961 and LAS became Support Squadron Feb-1962.

• 304 UN Observation Mission in the Yemen. Sep-1963.

• N128F Ferrer Aviation Inc., of Miami, FL., for ferry flight from Yemen to Canada.

• CF-RNO Mr G.Rae MacLeod, Trading As Aero Leasing of Montréal, QC. 26-May-1964 Regd 31-Jul-1964

• CF-RNO Pacific Western Airlines Ltd., Vancouver, BC Regd 08-Apr-1968

• CF-RNO Trans Provincial Airlines Ltd.,Terrace, BC. Regd 05-Aug-1968.

• C-FRNO Re regd Feb-1973.

• C-FRNO Air BC., Vancouver, BC. Regd 14-May-1979. Continued to operate as Trans Provincial Airlines Ltd as a subsidiary of Air BC in its own colours.

• C-FRNO Re-registered to Trans Provincial Airlines, Terrace, BC. 02-Jun-1988. Based Prince Rupert, BC.

Incident: 13-Sep-1988 while in cruise flight the engine failed and the aircraft was landed on a small, un-named lake.

Incident: Skidegate Lake, BC 24-Sep-1988., Following a power interruption, the pilot force-landed on the lake.

Incident: Sandspit on the Queen Charlotte Islands. 18-Jul-1989. Ten minutes after departing the engine began to run rough and a precautionary landing was made.

Incident: Rose Harbour BC, 20-Aug-1991, when reaching cruise altitude two miles west of the location the engine lost power and the pilot landed back on the water. A cylinder head was found to be cracked at the rocker arm housing.

• C-FRNO Trans Provincial Airlines ceased trading and went into receivership on 19-Mar-1993.

Total time: 19,683 hours at Mar-1993.

• C-FRNO Harbour Air Ltd., Vancouver, BC. Regd 13-May-1993. Based Seal Cove, Prince Rupert, BC.

Incident: Eight miles north of Prince Rupert, 12-Jun-1995. The float equipped aircraft developed a rough-running engine en route to Port Simpson and the crew made a precautionary landing on a lake.

Incident: 18-Nov-2000. The aircraft was in cruise flight en route from Seal Cove to Hartley Bay when the engine lost power due to cylinder failure. The pilot performed a precautionary landing on the Oona River near Gibson Island. The aircraft was taxied on the water to the dock without further problems, escorted by local boats to ensure safety.

Incident: Georgetown Lake, fifteen miles north-west of Prince Rupert 5th September 2001. The aircraft was en route from Port Simpson to Seal Cove, Prince Rupert when the pilot noted a decrease in engine power and completed a precautionary landing onto the lake. The company dispatched other aircraft to collect the passengers and a maintenance team to fix the Otter, which had a cracked cylinder.

Note: The aircraft  was ferried south to the Harbour Air maintenance base at the Vancouver International Airport where during November / December 2001 it was converted to turbine Vazar format joining the company's turbine Otter fleet.

Current

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Otter number 21 was, like number 20, one of the first six of ten DHC-3 delivered to the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The batch of six were delivered in crates by ship and formally handed over on 2nd March 1954, arriving Oslo Harbour 8th April 1954, being assembled at Kjeller Air Base, Oslo. The Otter took serial 5321. In May '54 the Otter was assigned to the Air Force Flying School at Vaernes for the training of pilots and mechanics. On 1st July 1954 it joined the Communications Flight at Vaernes Air Base, moving to Orland Air Base on 15th November 1954. On 18th December 1954 it joined the Communications Flight at Bodø Air Base, which was designated 7193 Stotteving (Support Flight) in December 1956. It was to remain at Bodø for the rest of its military career with the Royal Norwegian Air Force, with periodic visits to the Horten Marine Base for overhaul.

In July 1960 it was allocated, together with Otter number 20, for duty with the United Nations inthe Belgian Congo. It was painted white with titles “United Nations/Nations Unies” in blue on each side of the fuselage and the UN flag on the tail fin. At this stage, the Otter had total time on the airframe of 2,705 hours. On 24th July 1960, together with Otter number 20, it was flown from Bodø to Gardermoen Air Base, Oslo and on 30th July 1960 was airlifted from there to Leopoldville in the Congo on board a USAF C-124 Globemaster. Having arrived in the Congo, the Otter joined the UN Air Wing, Support Squadron being allocated serial 304. It was one of a number of Otters with the squadron, which was based at N'djili United Nations Air Transport Base, Leopoldville but the aircraft were regularly detached to other airfields in support of UN operations. The Otters, flown and maintained by Swedish UN personnel, were used as general utility support aircraft and for reconnaissance, supply and evacuation missions.

304 served in the Congo for three years, until September 1963 when, along with five other UN Otters, it was transferred to the Yemen, where a requirement had arisen for aircraft for the UN Observation Mission in the Yemen, some 1,500 miles north-east of the Congo. The previous year, a Yemeni Republic had been established, which was opposed by a royalist government in exile. Fighting broke out between the two factions. In June 1963 the UN secured a ceasefire and sent an Observation Mission to the area on 4th July 1963. This Mission was supported by the 134 Air Transport Unit (ATU) of the RCAF who operated DHC-4 Caribous, providing logistics support for ground teams and patrolling the de-militarized zone which had been established on each side of the border separating Saudi Arabia from the Yemen, to monitor the observance of the terms of disengagement.

The six Otters were flown up from the Congo to the Yemen on board RCAF Hercules, where they were taken on charge by 134th ATU and flown and maintained by RCAF personnel of the Unit. At the termination of the Observation Mission in January 1964, the six Otters were flown to the UN Emergency Force air base at El Arish, Egypt to be put into storage, awaiting a decision on their disposal. Two of these six Otters, 301 (serial 164) and 304 (serial 21), were sold by the UN to Mr G.Rae Mac Leod, Trading As Aero Leasing of Montreal on 26th May 1964. They were however registered as N127F and N128F to Ferrer Aviation Inc., of Miami, Florida for the ferry flight from Africa.

This was the company of Mr Frank Ferrer who had a considerable involvement with Otters during the late fifties and throughout the sixties and early seventies, and who was responsible for rebuilding several Otters and returning many more back to Canada from other parts of the world. N127F and N128F passed together through Manchester, England and Prestwick, Scotland on ferry to Montréal, Canada on 21 / 22 June 1964. They were still in the all-white colour scheme they had sported while in UN service.

On arrival at Montreal's Dorval Airport, N128F was registered on 31st July 1964 to Mr MacLeod as CF-RNO and after overhaul it went on lease, although details of its use over the next four years have not been ascertained. It was then sold to Pacific Western Airlines of Vancouver, BC to whom it was registered on 8th April 1968. Its time with them was brief, as a few months later it was sold to Trans Provincial Airlines Ltd., of Terrace, BC to whom it was registered on 5th August 1968, when Trans Provincial took over two routes which up to then had been operated by Pacific Western, serving northern British Columbia out of Prince Rupert.

The Otter crashed near Schaft Lake, BC on 13th December 1968. CF-RNO, on skis, was prepared for flight after being parked outside overnight. A layer of ice on the upper surfaces of the wings had not been completely removed. The pilot took off at near-maximum permissible loading and climbed away slowly in a right turn after a long ground run. There was insufficient altitude to cross a mountain pass ahead and as the turn rate was increased to avoid the mountain, the aircraft stalled and came to rest on the snow-covered western slope of the mountain pass, which was extensively covered with dead trees, one mile east of Schaft Creek. It was repaired and continued to serve northern British Columbia for many years. In February 1973 the registration was changed to C-FRNO.

In 1979 a Vancouver industrialist named Jim Pattison began acquiring many of the third level carriers on the BC Pacific coast, with the intention of creating a unified, regional airline called Air BC. He acquired Trans Provincial Airlines in May 1979, which became a subsidiary of Air BC. Although the other carriers acquired were merged into Air BC, and their aircraft painted in Air BC colours, Trans Provincial Airlines continued to operate under its own name, although C-FRNO was registered to Air BC Ltd., on 14th May 1979. Air BC went on to become a successful regional airline insofar as its commuter aircraft operations were concerned, although the same did not happen for its bush aircraft. Over the years that followed, the bush operation was sold off, and Trans Provincial Airlines became an independent carrier again. C-FRNO was re-registered to Trans Provincial Airlines on 2nd June 1988.

All the while C-FRNO continued to fly from its Prince Rupert base, painted in Trans Provincial colour scheme. There were a number of minor mishaps. On 9th August 1987 the main gear collapsed on landing at Prince Rupert. Usually however the Otter was flown on floats from the Seal Cove seaplane base at Prince Rupert. On 13th September 1988 while in cruise flight the engine failed and the Otter was landed on a small, un-named lake. On 24th September 1988, following a power interruption, the pilot force-landed on Skidegate Lake, BC., and on 18th July 1989, ten minutes after departing Sandspit on the Queen Charlotte Islands the engine began to run rough and a precautionary landing was made. On 20th August 1991, when reaching cruise altitude two miles west of Rose Harbour BC the engine lost power and the pilot landed back on the water. A cylinder head was found to be cracked at the rocker arm housing.

C-FRNO continued in the service of Trans Provincial Airlines until the company ceased trading and went into receivership on 19th March 1993. On that day, it had a total time of 19,683 hours on the airframe. It was sold to Harbour Air Ltd., of Vancouver, to whom it was registered on 13th May 1993 and repainted in their attractive yellow and white colour scheme. Harbour Air took over Trans Provincial's Prince Rupert operation, so C-FRNO remained based at Seal Cove seaplane base at Prince Rupert, continuing its service to the northern BC communities. On 12th June 1995, eight miles north of Prince Rupert, the float equipped Otter developed a rough-running engine en route to Port Simpson and the crew made a precautionary landing on a lake.

Another incident was recorded on 18th November 2000. RNO was in cruise flight en route from Seal Cove to Hartley Bay when the engine lost power due to cylinder failure. The pilot performed a precautionary landing on the Oona River near Gibson Island. The Otter was taxied on the water to the dock without further problems, escorted by local boats to ensure safety. On 5th September 2001 the Otter was en route from Port Simpson to Seal Cove when the pilot noted a decrease in engine power and completed a precautionary landing onto Georgetown Lake, fifteen miles north-west of Prince Rupert. The company dispatched other aircraft to collect the passengers and a maintenance team to fix the Otter, which had a cracked cylinder. Shortly after this incident, RNO was ferried south to the Harbour Air maintenance base at the Vancouver International Airport where during November / December 2001 it was converted to a turbine Vazar DHC-3T Otter, joining the company's turbine Otter fleet.

The work was completed on 2 May 2002 and RNO joined Harbour Air’s large fleet of turbine Otters  with fleet number 301. Henceforth it would be based at Vancouver, operating on the company’s scheduled commuter services to Vancouver Island and along the BC coast. It also received the panoramic window conversion.

RNO’s new turbine engine gave it much greater reliability than the aged piston power-plant it had before, but it was now operating in very busy airspace, which over the years produced the occasional difficulty of a different kind. The first of these occurred on 22 May 2003 when C-FRNO was operating the scheduled service from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour. At the same time, Helijet Sikorsky S-76A C-GHJL was on an IFR medevac flight from Victoria to Vancouver Harbour. The S-76 had been cleared to descend from 3,000 feet to 2,200 feet in the vicinity of Active Pass on Vancouver Island. Shortly thereafter the controller alerted the crew that an opposite-direction radar target was one nautical mile ahead. The crew of the helicopter immediately spotted an aircraft landing light directly ahead and took evasive action to the right.

The opposing traffic was the Harbour Air Otter flying VFR. The pilot of the Otter had established contact with the Victoria Tower outer airport controller and as he was levelling at 2,500 feet one mile north of Active Pass, was cleared through the Victoria Airport control zone. Although the pilot was not advised of any conflicting traffic, he spotted the helicopter ahead of him in an evasive manoeuvre. The Otter did not take any evasive action. The two aircraft passed each other, both level at 2,700 feet, with less than 600 feet lateral spacing.

Another ‘airprox’ incident was recorded on 1 November 2005 involving RNO and another Sikorsky helicopter, this time S-61N C-FXEC. To quote from the incident summary: “The Executive Air Transport helicopter operating as JBA 903 for Helijet was maintaining 3,000 feet on an IFR flight plan in IMC about ten nautical miles south of the Vancouver VOR en route from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour. The crew was advised of traffic at 12 o’clock, four miles, at 2,400 feet. Shortly thereafter the crew observed the Turbo Otter on floats pass close to their left side, about one quarter mile and 400 feet below. The Otter was operating on flight HR301 from Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour VFR at 2,500 feet. The pilot reported that visibility was reduced in rain but he was still VFR. He reported that he saw some cloud ahead and climbed to 2,700 feet to clear it, then observed the helicopter at 10 o’clock high. He reported that he was not on a collision course with the helicopter and that no evasive action was necessary”.

After that the Otter returned north to be based out of Prince Rupert and some further incidents were recorded on CADORS:

19 May 2006.   RNO reported water taxying at Seal Cove for what the FSS operator thought was a departure to Kitkatla. Communication was poor and the FSS operator did not ask the pilot for clarification. RNO subsequently entered the Prince Rupert control zone without co-ordination with FSS and landed at Digby Dock.

24 May 2006.   RNO aborted take-off at Seal Cove due to a balloon popping on board. It departed again without incident a minute later.

28 July 2006.  RNO was inbound to Prince Rupert. As he approached the pilot received an unsafe gear indication and executed a missed approach. He proceeded for a water landing. The Otter was on Wipline amphibious floats which have a magnetic gear location sensor in the main float. One sensor went out of alignment resulting in the unsafe gear indication. The fault was corrected and the Otter returned to service.

18 August 2006.   RNO reported a broken water rudder after arrival at Seal Cove, which was repaired.

At the end of the summer season, RNO returned south to again be based at Vancouver. Although the Harbour Air schedules out of Vancouver are between water aerodromes, on 1 November 2006 the company started a service between Victoria Harbour and Langley Airport, BC. For this service an amphibian was required. C-FRNO was selected, being already on amphibious floats and operated this service over the following years. Again, some more incidents from CADORS:

18 August 2007.   RNO from Victoria Harbour to Langley. When the pilot selected the gear down for landing he could not get a positive indication for any of the four wheels. He flew by the Langley Tower and was advised that the Tower personnel could see the landing gear. He decided to land. When the Otter touched down the gear folded up and minor damage was sustained to the floats. None of the eleven occupants was injured. Maintenance found a hydraulic leak, which had caused the problem, and which was fixed.

29 September 2009.  RNO from Langley to Victoria Harbour. Bird strike on final approach. Landed safely.

24 March 2010.  RNO from Langley to Victoria Harbour, on a one and a half mile final approach to the harbour. A departing Twin Otter noticed that the wheel landing gear on RNO’s amphibious floats was still down. RNO’s pilot thanked the Twin Otter and went around, landing safely with the gear up.

15 May 2010.  RNO was again operating the Victoria Harbour to Langley service. On short finals to runway 19 the pilot conducted an overshoot as the landing clearance was not received in time to carry out a safe landing. Contributing factors were another aircraft exiting the runway ahead and another pilot transmitting on the frequency, which prevented ATC from giving a landing clearance, ATC was extremely busy at the time with circuit traffic and other aircraft in the control zone.

In August 2010 C-FRNO was replaced on the Langley service by company Otter C-FHAS (382) which was also on amphibious floats. RNO then flew on the services from Vancouver Harbour to Vancouver Island on straight floats. Further incidents from CADORS:

19 September 2013.  RNO on a flight from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour, diverted to the water aerodrome at Vancouver Airport due to a smell of smoke in the cabin. Landed safely.

15 May 2016.  RNO from Ganges to Vancouver Harbour inbound for a landing over English Bay at 700 feet when the pilot reported overflying a drone at 500 feet, after which it landed safely.

20 August 2016. RNO landing at Vancouver Harbour. Overshot due to a powerboat turning and darting in front of the Otter.

14 September 2016.  RNO was twelve miles north-east of Victoria en route to Vancouver Harbour. Air Canada Jazz DHC-8 C-GABP on flight Jazz 8060 from Victoria to Vancouver descended from 3,000 feet to 2,800 feet in response to a TCAS advisory concerning the Otter.

4 October 2018. RNO from Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour, was sequenced to follow Helijet S-76A C-GHJW on flight JBA 720 from Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour over Science World. The Otter acknowledged the instruction. Over the harbour the Otter was observed cutting off the S-76. The Otter and the S-76 were re-sequenced accordingly.

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.