DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 247

VH-SBR operating TAA SUNBIRD service in Papua - New Guinea.
Photo: Unknown photographer © Circa 1961 - Paul Sheehan Collection
C-FYLZ of DAWNAIR, at La Ronge, Saskatchewan.
Photo: Anthony J. Hickey © August 1984 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-FYLZ at Lac du Bonnet - CYAX, Manitoba. "A Manitoba Morning".
Photo: Rich Hulina © 25 October 2016

c/n 247




• VH-EAX Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., on 25th February 1958. Operated in PNG.

Note; Operated on wheels in Papua New Guinea having taken over from the Company’s Beavers.

• VH-SBR Trans Australia Airlines (TAA), 01-Sep-1960. Continued to operate in PNG. Retired from TAA service 31-Oct-1966.

Note: Named "Kundiawa".

Accident: Aiome, PNG. 15th February 1965, The aircraft crash landed in a swamp, some thirty miles from Madang. Captain Partridge was at the controls and fortunately there were no injuries. After some time it was recovered by RAAF Iroquois, repaired and returned to service.

• VH-SBR Hawker de Havilland Australia. Circa Nov-1966.

• Un regd Bannock Aerospace Ltd., Toronto, ON. Purchased Jan-1969.

• CF-YLZ North Canada Air Ltd., (Norcanair), Prince Albert, SK. Based La Ronge, SK. Regd Mar-1969.

Accident: Nickel Lake, SK. 06-Jul-1970. The externally loaded aircraft began to sink in the air after take-off, landed hard in the water ahead damaging the float struts. The Otter came to rest in shallow water, partly sub-merged. Repaired and returned to service.

• C-FYLZ North Canada Air Ltd., (Norcanair), Prince Albert, SK. Canx 13-Jun-1983.

• C-FYLZ Dawn Air (559397 Sask Ltd), La Ronge, SK. Regd 23-Jun-1986. Canx 17-Feb-1989.

Accident: Un-named lake in Saskatchewan. 02-Mar-1988. On the return leg of the first flight of the day, the pilot decided to check out a lake he intended to use later in the day. After an aerial inspection circuit, he landed the wheel-ski equipped Otter on what appeared to be a suitable area. On the landing roll, the aircraft travelled down a snow drift, the right ski sank in soft snow and then caught on a hard drift. The Otter nosed down, the right landing gear failed and the right wing was damaged.

 • C-FYLZ Osprey Wings, La Ronge, SK. Based Otter Lake, SK. Regd 16-Oct-1992. Canx 23-Sep-1998.

Accident: Southend, SK. 03-Jul-1997. The float-equipped Otter was on final approach to land on a bay in gusting wind conditions and suffered damage to wing tip and float struts.

• C-FYLZ Nueltin Lake Air Service Ltd., Alonsa, MB. Based Nueltin Lake, NT. Regd 23-Sep-1998. Canx 15-Nov-2005.

• C-FYLZ Mattice Lake Outfitters Ltd., Armstrong, ON. Regd 05-Jan-2006. Canx 19-Apr-2006.

• C-FYLZ Wabakimi Air Ltd., Armstrong, ON. Regd 19-Apr-2006, Canx 16-May-2012.

• C-FYLZ West Caribou Air Service Inc., Thunder Bay, ON. Based Savant Lake, ON. Regd 16-May-2012.

• C-FYLZ Wabakimi Air Ltd., Armstrong, ON. Regd 02-Jul-2013.


was one of four Otters delivered to the Australian national airline for services in the territory of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Otter was put into a crate at Downsview and transported to New York, from where it was shipped to Australia, leaving on the ship SS City of Auckland on 6 March 1958. On arrival it was re-assembled at the Hawker Pacific facility at Bankstown, near Sydney in April 1958 and joined the Qantas fleet on 27 May 1958 named “Kokopo”.  VH-EAX was one of three landplane Otters, with accommodation for 14 passengers and one pilot. The landplane Otters were based at Lae and operated services into the Highlands.

With effect from 1 September 1960 the four Qantas Otters (three landplanes and one amphibian) were taken over by Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) and re-registered. VH-EAX became VH-SBR with TAA and was re-named “Kundiawa”. At the commencement of TAA’s operations, the landplane Otters operated flights LW70/71 and 72/73 between Wau, Bulola and Lae. VH-SBR continued on TAA’s “Sunbird” services within PNG until an accident on 15 February 1965, when it crash landed in a swamp at Aiome, some thirty miles from Madang. Captain Partridge was at the controls and fortunately there were no injuries. Having remained in the swamp for some months, on 3 June 1965 it was airlifted out by a Royal Australian Air Force Iroquois helicopter. The damaged Otter was rebuilt, and resumed flying with TAA on 12 August 1965.

VH-SBR continued in service with TAA until it was retired on 31 October 1966. On 12 December 1966 it was ferried from Lae to Bankstown Airfield, Sydney where it was put into storage awaiting sale. Here it was joined by Otter VH-SBT (258) and both Otters were traded in to Hawker De Havilland against new DHC-6 Twin Otters. Hawker De Havilland in turn sold the two Otters to Bannock Aerospace Ltd., of Toronto in January 1969. Bannock Aerospace sold VH-SBR the following month to North Canada Air Ltd (Norcanair) of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and marks CF-YLZ were allocated. The Otter was noted at Bankstown carrying these marks in April 1969, prior to the long ferry flight to Edmonton, Alberta. The story is told that on the sector from Honolulu to San Francisco, which took 22 hours, a TWA crew following the same route spoke to the lone pilot on HF radio, and were surprised to hear the same fellow still airborne the next day while they were on the return flight to Honolulu!  In any event, the ferry flight was successfully completed and after overhaul in Edmonton CF-YLZ entered service with Norcanair. It was painted into the company’s full colour scheme of white fuselage, blue cheatline, blue tip of tail with an orange line, Norcanair fuselage titles and a blue speed stripe on the floats.

The Otter was to serve with Norcanair for 14 years, mostly based at La Ronge, Saskatchewan but also sometimes at the company’s Uranium City base. It crashed once, at Nickel Lake, Sask on 6 July 1970. At a height of 150 feet after take-off from the lake, the heavily loaded Otter, which was also carrying an externally loaded canoe, began to sink. The pilot increased power until full throttle was applied. After judging that there was insufficient altitude to clear the trees, he landed on the remaining water ahead. The right float struck the water first, collapsing the right struts. The aircraft swung and in the ensuing skid, collapsed the left struts. The Otter came to rest in shallow water, partly submerged. The accident report concluded that the pilot had not assessed the effect of the terrain on the wind in the take-off area. The wind was ninety degrees to the take-off run and would have produced a downdraft in the lee of a ridge to the windward side of the lake.

The Otter was repaired and resumed service with Norcanair. In summer 1971 it was based at Matagami, Quebec on floats. It was re-registered C-FYLZ.  Also flying for Norcanair were Otters C-FIGM (75) and C-FJFJ (147). During 1977 YLZ was flying out of the Uranium City base alongside IGM. The company had a base there at Martin Lake with a hangar. Operations were conducted from here on floats in summer, wheel-skis in winter when the lake froze over. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, as well as charters, Norcanair flew a scheduled service out of Uranium City with the Otter, known as the “Lake Sched”. The schedule was between Uranium City, Fond du Lac and Stony Rapids. As one report put it “Stony was on the route of the Lake Sched, a thundering Single Otter on floats that leap-frogged along Lake Athabasca’s north shore”. It carried native people, drums of fuel, supplies and equipment. Norcanair F-27s flew into Uranium City and Stony Rapids from La Ronge, Prince Albert and Saskatoon, connecting into the Otter services. Norcanair’s three Otters alternated between being based at La Ronge, flying charters, and the base at Uranium City, flying charters and the schedule. Otter IGM crashed at Uranium City in November 1979, leaving Norcanair with JFJ and YLZ, which alternated between the two bases. YLZ was based at La Ronge during summer 1980, with JFJ at Uranium City.

The scheduled services continued into 1981. The Norcanair timetable for March 1981 showed Flight 51 with Otter equipment departing Uranium City at 09:00 hours each Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, transiting Fond du Lac 0935/0950 and arriving Stony Rapids 10:20. The return Flight 52 left Stony at 1035, through Fond du Lac 1110/20 and back into Uranium City at 11:55. These scheduled services with the Otters were terminated at the end of the summer 1981 season.

In October 1981 Norcanair agreed to sell its F-27s and the routes they operated to the Provincial Government but the following year this government fell and its replacement did not want the deal. In 1983 Norcanair was taken over by new owners who wanted to get out of bush flying, to concentrate on larger aircraft. As a result, both Otters were sold. The registration of C-FYLZ to Norcanair was cancelled on 13 June 1983 on its sale to Dawn Air (559372 Sask Ltd., DBA). This was a company formed by George and Andy Eikel, both Norcanair veterans, which was also based at La Ronge, with the intention of continuing on the bush services which Norcanair had offered around northern Saskatchewan. YLZ retained its basic Norcanair colour scheme, but acquired an all blue tail and Dawn Air titles. Also in the Dawn Air fleet were Beavers and a Twin Otter.

While flying for Dawn Air, YLZ had an accident at an un-named lake in Saskatchewan on 2 March 1988. On the return leg of the first flight of the day, the pilot decided to check out a lake he intended to use later in the day. After an aerial inspection circuit, he landed the wheel-ski equipped Otter on what appeared to be a suitable area on the frozen lake. On the landing roll, as the aircraft travelled down a snow drift, the right ski sank in the soft snow and then caught on a hard drift. The Otter nosed down, the right landing gear failed and the right wing was damaged. Soft snow had covered hard snow drifts which, as a result, were not visible from the air. That was the end of the Otter’s career with Dawn Air which in any event ceased trading later that year. Registration of YLZ to Dawn Air was cancelled on 17 February 1989.

The Otter was repaired and then sold to Osprey Wings Ltd., of Missinipe, Saskatchewan to whom it was registered as C-FYLZ on 16 October 1992. Here it joined Otter C-FXRI (258), the one-time VH-SBT, the two surviving ex Australian Otters once again united in the same fleet, based at the appropriately named Otter Lake at Missinipe. Both served the bush country of northern Saskatchewan. YLZ was involved in another incident while flying for Osprey Wings on 3 July 1997. The float equipped Otter was on final approach to land in a bay near the community of Southend, Saskatchewan. The pilot was the only occupant and the Otter was empty. It was landing in gusting wind conditions with a 90 degree crosswind from the left. From an approximate height of 15 feet above the water surface, the Otter encountered a downdraft and dropped abruptly to strike the water. The left float failed ahead of the forward float attachment. The pilot pulled the aircraft back into the air, regained control and landed further down the bay. YLZ came to rest on the surface of the lake with the left wing tip and nose of the aircraft touching the water. That incident ended YLZ’s career with Osprey Wings.

The Otter was again repaired and on 23 September 1998 was registered to its new owners, Nueltin Lake Air Service Ltd of Nueltin Lake, Manitoba, affiliated with Nueltin Fishing Lodge, joining their fleet of single Cessnas and a Norseman. It was repainted into a white fuselage with a red cheatline and red tip of tail. During the summer months it served the Lodge, until put up for sale after the summer 2002 season. It was advertised with a total time of 18,800 hours and on EDO 7170 floats, with an asking price of $675,000 Canadian. It was “recently restored with new paint and interior”. The sale of the Otter did not proceed and YLZ continued in service with Nueltin Lake Air Service, which also used Lynn Lake Air Service as a trading name.

C-FYLZ arrived at Silver Falls, Manitoba in July 2005 carrying Lynn Lake Air Service titles. It remained parked at Silver Falls for the remainder of the year and that winter work commenced by Winnipeg River Aircraft to convert YLZ to a Walter Turbine. The Otter was sold and the registration of Nueltin Lake A/S., its previous owner, was cancelled on 15 November 2005. The turbine conversion was completed by January 2006 and on 5 January 2006 the Otter was registered to Mattice Lake Outfitters Ltd., of Armstrong, Ontario. The registration was changed to Wabakimi Air Ltd., on 19 April 2006, in advance of the Otter entering service for summer 2006. It retained its overall white with red cheatline colour scheme.

Mattice Lake Outfitters and Wabakimi Air are associated companies, both with the same address in Armstrong, Ontario.  As the website proclaimed -“At Mattice Lake Outfitters and Wabakimi Air we offer fly-in trips to two remote wilderness lodges and nine de luxe outpost camps in and around Wabakimi Wilderness Park and the Ogoki Albany Watersheds, wilderness areas north of Armstrong”. Wabakimi Air also operated two Beavers. Another outfitter, Due North Outpost Camps, also used the services of Wabakimi Air to fly its fishing guests to their remote outpost camps. As its website also explained, Wabakimi Air was owned and operated locally and was a long established air charter company, conveniently located on a lake adjacent to the Due North Outpost Camps main base. Wabakimi Air had been providing air transportation for anglers, hunters and tourists in the Armstrong area for over twenty years.

This arrangement continued for six years until Don Elliott, owner of Mattice Lake Outfitters and Wabakimi Air, attempted to move towards retirement. On 16 May 2012 Otter YLZ was registered to West Caribou Air Services of Thunder Bay, Ontario on lease from its owner. However, it remained based at Armstrong, fulfilling the same role as when it was registered to Wabakimi Air, flying fishermen and tourists including the guests of Mattice Lake Outfitters. An incident was recorded on Whiteclay Lake North, Ontario bringing a fishing party to the lodge there. The pilot circled once to check for obstructions due to a change in lake levels. As the aircraft was settling off the step, the left float struck a submerged rock. The pilot attempted to steer the aircraft towards shallow water. The engine was shut down as the float filled with water and sank. The Otter came to rest with the left float resting on the bottom of the lake. The fuselage remained above the water. There were no injuries and the pilot and passengers were evacuated by boat. Damage was confined to the left float and struts.

The Otter was repaired but the lease arrangement with West Caribou Air was fraught with difficulties and proved unsatisfactory. West Caribou Air were declared bankrupt later that year and YLZ was registered back to Wabakimi Air on 2 July 2013. In the course of a refurbishment by  Recon Air at Geraldton, Ontario, the Otter was repainted into a striking new colour scheme of white lower fuselage, black upper fuselage and tail and gold on the tip of the tail and wingtips. His retirement plans somewhat upset, the Otter was flown again by Don Elliott, the Wabakimi Air owner, for summer 2013. It was photographed at Armstrong, Ontario on 31 October 2013 with a dusting of early winter snow, about to depart to Geraldton where it was to be stored over the winter. It flew again for Wabakimi Air in the years that followed, including summer 2017.

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.