Otter 214 was delivered to A. Fecteau Transport Aerien Ltée, Senneterre, Québec on 17th May 1957 registered CF-JUH. The company was later re-named Air Fecteau. At one stage, with a fleet of eleven DHC-3s, Air Fecteau was the world's largest commercial operator of the Otter, and served the entire of the Québec bush country. CF-JUH is mentioned in the history of the RCAF's radar station at Senneterre, monitored on 27th January 1961 on a flight from Great Whale to Senneterre.
JUH was destined to be the longest serving of the Air Fecteau Otters, becoming C-FJUH. It was re-registered to Propair Inc. in May 1982, when Air Fecteau amalgamated into that company. It was still in service with Propair during the summer of 2001. It was advertised for sale in April 2002 with an impressive total of 22,475 hours on the airframe after 45 years of continuous service in the Quebec bush country without an accident, a remarkable record. It was at that stage parked at Rouyn- Noranda, Quebec and remained in storage throughout 2002. On 20th June 2003, JUH was registered to Somiper Aviation Inc., of Montréal and, having crossed the country to the Pacific Coast, on 7th August 2003 it was registered to Viking Air Ltd., of Victoria, BC. By 1st December '03 it had emerged from the hangar at Victoria converted to a Vazar turbine, painted in the colour scheme of Trans Maldivian Airways.
Viking Air had secured a contract to supply two turbine Otters to Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), JUH being one and G-GVTO (393) the other. JUH was cancelled from the Canadian register on 16th February 2004 and was crated and shipped to the Maldives, a group of islands located in the Indian Ocean. On arrival at the capital Male, the Otter was re-assembled and re-registered 8Q-TMZ to TMA. The Maldives had become a very popular upmarket tourist destination. They comprise a group of atolls, many of which have exclusive tourist resorts. The capital is Male, which has an international airport, and two airlines had developed to provide transportation from Male to the resorts on the other atolls, as well as scenic flights for tourists. The two airlines were Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), with a fleet of twelve DHC-6 Twin Otters and Maldivian Air Taxi, with seventeen Twin Otters. TMA decided to add the two turbine Otters to its fleet.
As its web-site proclaims: “TMA specialises in the transfer of guests from the Hulhule (Male) International Airport to resort destinations including Baa Atoll, Ari Atoll, Dhaalu Atoll, Meemu Atoll and Faafu Atoll. Transfer flight times vary from 25 to 45 minutes. We also operate scenic flights - let TMA take you on an unforgettable scenic flight over the spectacular atolls, islands and lagoons. Soar over untouched coral, pristine beaches, quaint island villages and the intriguing capital Male”. For Otter JUH, which had spent the first 45 years of its existence flying around the often frozen bush country of Québec, this paradise island hopping was certainly a change.
The other Otter, 393, also arrived at Male in the Maldives but was not re-registered. By that stage, TMA had a change of mind, and had concluded that they did not want a mixed fleet, that they would stick with the Twin Otters and the two Single Otters 214 and 393 were put up for sale. A buyer was soon found, in the shape of Sri Lankan Air Taxi, based at Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. This company had been formed in 2003 as a subsidiary of Sri Lankan Airlines, the national carrier, to operate internal flights within Sri Lanka, and had acquired a Cessna Caravan as its first aircraft.
In August 2004 the acquisition of the two turbo Otters was announced, and further destinations were added to the network, Weerawila and Ampara. “Other destinations include the ancient hill capital of Kandy in the central highlands, the southwestern coastal resort of Bentota, the southern heritage city of Galle, the coastal city of Trincomalee on the east coast, famed for its tranquil beaches, the cultural sights and ruined cities of Sigiriya-Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, the seat of the first Sri Lankan kings more than two thousand years ago. Sri Lankan Air Taxi also operates to both of Colombo's airports - the Bandaranaike International Airport and Colombo Airport-Ratmalana”. Scenic tours and photo flights and charters were also operated.
The two Otters were shipped from The Maldives to Sri Lanka, registered to Sri Lankan Air Taxi in October 2004, 214 as 4R-ARA and 393 as 4R-ARB and entered service on these domestic routes alongside the Cessna Caravan. The peaceful existence of this Indian Ocean island was shattered on 26th December 2004 by the infamous tsunami (tidal wave) which wreaked death and destruction on a massive scale throughout the region. Sri Lanka was one of the countries worse affected, with many thousands of people killed and horrific destruction all along its eastern and southern coasts. A huge international aid effort got underway shortly after the disaster and continued throughout January 2005. Air assets in use in Sri Lanka included US Navy CH-46 helicopters, US military Blackhawks and Indian Air Force and Navy Mil-8 and Mil-17 helicopters. The two Otters were also diverted to assist in the relief flights, with 4R-ARA flying as a wheel plane and 4R-ARB on amphibious floats.
These two Otters continued in service for nearly three years but due to the declining security situation within Sri Lanka (with frequent attacks by ‘Tamil Tiger’ insurgents), many of the destinations served had to be abandoned, and this fact together with the declining number of tourists visiting the country rendered the operation no longer viable. Sri Lanka Airlines decided to close down the operation, with the last flight operating on 5 th June 2007. The two Otters were put into storage at Colombo and put up for sale. During nearly three years of operation, Sri Lanka Air Taxis had operated 3,700 revenue flights and carried over 17,000 passengers, demonstrating that in better times there was sufficient demand for such domestic air travel within Sri Lanka. The buyer of the two Otters was Harbour Air of Vancouver. The two Otters were shipped from Colombo to Vancouver, arriving in four large containers on 31st October 2007 and over the winter of 2007 / 2008 the Otters were repainted into Harbour Air colours and made ready for service. 4R-ARA was registered to Harbour Air as C-GHAG on 3rd October 2007 and on the same day 4R-ARB was registered to Harbour Air as C-FJHA.
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)