DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 274

SE-KPB being prepared at Aeroflite in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Photo: John Kimberley © July 1990 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
N6868B under PZL Polish power.
Photo: Helge Nyhus © September 2006 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
N6868B motors along on the Fraser at Vancouver.
Photo: Fred Barnes © 08 May 2008
N6868B with stable mate.
Photo: Misty Fjords © from their Website

c/n 274

UB-652 • 4652 • C-FINA • SE-KPB • G-GKPB

N6868B

x

• UB-652 Union of Burma Air Force. Delivered 06-Dec-1958.

• 4652 Later re-named Myanmar Air Force. Post Jun-1989.

• Un-regd Trevor Ross, Vancouver. BC. Arrived in Canada Dec-1989.

• C-FINA Vardax Inc., Calgary, AB. Regd 28-Jun-1990. Canx 29-Jun-1990 for administration purposes.

• SE-KPB Tammert Aero AB., Kiruna, Sweden. Regd 07-August 1990

Total time, 3,300hrs.

• C-GKPB Loon Air, Fort Smith, NT. Purchased Mar-1993. Regd 20-May-1993.

Accident Villeneuve, AB, 22-May-1993. Crashed on its first test flight after re- assembly following its return from Sweden. Shortly after take off, the aircraft entered a left turn from which there was no recovery, the angle of bank gradually increasing until it was more than 60 degrees. The Otter then descended until its left wingtip touched the ground in a wheatfield on the airport. It cartwheeled for 90 metres before coming to rest upside down. The two pilots including Billy Bourque, the owner of Loon Air. were killed and the passenger seriously injured. The controls to the left aileron had been mis-rigged. The aircraft was initially described as destroyed, but see the history below.

• C-GKPB Trevor Ross, Vancouver, BC., purchased the wreckage, and stored it in the Aeroflite hangar at Vancouver, although little more than the rear fuselage remained intact.

Note: Rebuilt at Courtenay, BC., by International Aero Products Inc by 2005 using parts from c/n 350.

Power plant: Converted to Pezetel power ASZ-621R-M18.

Modifications: Baron STOL wing modifications and put on Wipline 8100 floats.

• C-GKPB Canx 04-May-2005 and deleted 02-Jun-2005 on export to USA.

• N6868B Kirk M.Thomas, Ketchikan, AK. Regd 15-Jun-2005.

Airworthiness date: 28-Jun-2005.

• N6868B Leased to Pro-Mech Air Ltd., Ketchikan, AK.

Incident: 28-Jul-2005 Engine fire on flight from Misty Fjord National Monument to Ketchikan caused the pilot to carry out an emergency landing on the water. Full story below.

• N6868B Returned to Kirk M. Thomas, trading as Gateway Aviation.  Summer 2006.

• N6868B Doyon Air Transport LLC., Ketchikan, AK.  Regd 07-Dec-2007.

• N6868B Leased to Misty Fjord Air (Alaska). Regd May-2008.

Current

Otter 274 was delivered to the Union of Burma Air Force on 6 December 1958 with serial UB652. It was one of three Otters delivered that month (273, 274 and 277) all three being packed into crates and shipped to Burma where they were re-assembled and entered service. A further six Otters were delivered to Burma in 1960/61. They were operated by 51 Squadron alongside ten Cessna 180s. The Burmese Otters were later re-serialled, UB652 becoming 4652, painted on the side of the aircraft in Burmese numerals. It was one of six Burmese Otters purchased by Trevor Ross of Vancouver in 1989. All six had arrived by December 1989 and were put into store at the Aeroflite Industries hangar at the Vancouver International Airport and put up for sale.

274 was rebuilt by Aeroflite Industries at Vancouver and painted in an attractive white and yellow colour scheme. In June 1990 it was registered C-FINA to Vardax Inc., Calgary, Alberta  in connection with its rebuild and sale. It was sold to Tammert Aero AB., of Kiruna, Sweden and had been painted as SE-KPB in the hangar at Vancouver by 6 June 1990 even though it was not officially registered until August 1990. It then set off from Vancouver for the long ferry flight across Canada and the Atlantic, staging via Greenland and Iceland to its new home in Kiruna in northern Sweden.

Tammert Aero was the largest pure bush-plane operator in Sweden and as well as the Otter flew a Cessna 185 (SE-EHA) and a Beaver (SE-KKR), all on wheel-skis or floats, depending on the season. The Otter when they received it was in mint condition after its rebuild, with 3,300 hours total time. It was used to fly tourists, fishermen and hunters and also cargo from Kiruna to field bases operated by Tammert Aero around Lapland. At some stage it suffered some damage, as in November 1991 the tail section of Otter 75 (CF-IGM which had crashed in Canada and the wreck had been parted out) was exported to Sweden where it was used in the repair of SE-KPB. Having flown in northern Sweden for two and half years, the Otter was sold, the buyer being Loon Air of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories in March 1993. Loon Air had previously flown Otter C-FMPY (324).

The Otter was put in a crate and shipped back to Canada, arriving at Villeneuve Airfield, Alberta, a small airfield near Edmonton, for re-assembly. It was re-registered in May 1993 to Loon Air as C-GKPB, retaining the last three letters of its Swedish marks. It also retained the yellow and white colour scheme in which it had flown in Sweden, but acquired Loon Air titles. Sadly, the Otter was to crash at Villeneuve on 22 May 1993, on its first test flight after re-assembly, which had taken ten days. Immediately after take off the Otter entered a left turn from which there was no recovery, the angle of bank gradually increasing until it was more than 60 degrees. The aircraft then descended until its left wingtip touched the ground in a wheat-field on the airfield. It cartwheeled for ninety metres before coming to rest upside down. The two pilots were killed and the passenger seriously injured. The controls to the left aileron had been mis-rigged, which had caused the crash.

One of the pilots killed was Billy Bourque, aged 44, the owner of Loon Air. The other pilot was part owner of Villeneuve Aviation, who had re-assembled the Otter. The funeral service at St.Albert for Mr Bourque, a very popular local aviator, was described as a “gathering of Western Canadian bush pilots”. Loon Air also operated Cessna 185s and a Turbo Beaver. The company was sold to its employees and re-named Big River Air, although for a time continued to use Loon Air as a trading name. KPB was replaced in service with Big River Air by Otter C-GKYG (261).

Damage sustained by C-GKPB in the accident had been severe. The entire front fuselage including the cockpit section had been obliterated and the remainder of the fuselage cracked in several places. The left wing had been torn off, with damage to the fin as well. The wreckage was purchased by Trevor Ross, who had imported the Otter into Canada from Burma, and returned to the Aeroflite Industries hangar in Vancouver where it was put into store. Little more than the rear fuselage remained intact. The Otter remained on the Canadian register until marks C-GKPB were cancelled on 2 June 2005, twelve years after the crash, on “export” of the Otter to the United States.

Arrangements had been made to rebuild Otter 274 “using parts from another Otter”. That other Otter was serial 350, originally flown by the United States Army as tail number 92212 but which in September 1968 had been transferred to the Ethiopian Army with tail number EA-53. It was one of four Ethiopian Army Otters eventually returned to Canada and in September 1999 was one of two of these Otters in store at the Aeroflite hangar in Vancouver, both of which were fully complete and undamaged. The rebuilding of Otter 274 was undertaken by International Aero Products Inc at Courtenay, BC on Vancouver Island. The wreckage of Otter 274 was trucked there from Vancouver, as was Otter 350, whose fuselage and wings were used in the rebuild of Otter 274 during the early part of 2005. It appears that by far the major portion of the Otter now carrying serial 274 is in fact serial 350. It facilitated the rebuild to use the identity of 274, which had already carried civilian registration, whereas 350 was never civilian registered and had little paperwork after years of storage in the Ethiopian desert. It appears that the only part of 350 which was not used in the rebuild was its rear fuselage, as the rear fuselage of 274 had survived the crash at Villeneuve undamaged.  In the course of the rebuild, a Polish PZL-1000 engine was installed (the 20th and last such conversion), the BARON STOL modification incorporated and the Otter put on 8100 floats. The Otter was painted into the green, black and white colour scheme of Pro Mech Air of Ketchikan, Alaska.

With the rebuild complete, Otter 274 (although in reality comprising mostly Otter 350) was registered to Kirk M. Thomas of Ketchikan as N6868B on 15 June 2005. Mr Thomas was a long-time Ketchikan resident and years ago had been the owner of Tyee Airlines of Ketchikan, which had operated several Otters. Since then he had traded in aircraft, including Otters, and he also owned a number of fishing lodges in Alaska. He also owned Otter N435B (183).  Otter N6868B was delivered north from Courtenay BC to Ketchikan where it went on lease from Kirk Thomas to Pro Mech Air, part of its Otter fleet.

It was not long in service with Pro Mech Air when it was involved in an incident on Thursday 28 July 2005, flown by Pro Mech pilot Fred Wright and carrying ten passengers back to Ketchikan from the Misty Fjords National Park, where they had  been on a sight-seeing flight. A major part of Pro Mech’s business was flying passengers on such flights from the cruise ships which docked at Ketchikan throughout the summer months. On that day, while the Otter was near Cutter Rocks in the Mountain Point area, about five miles south-east of Ketchikan, a flash fire erupted near the windshield area of the cockpit in front of the pilot. The pilot made an emergency landing of the float-equipped Otter on the water and used the fire extinguisher to put out the fire. However he received second-degree burns while using the burning hot control yoke to land the Otter. Pro Mech dispatched a second Otter to bring the pilot and passengers back to Ketchikan and the pilot was then flown to a burns centre in Portland, Oregon for treatment. The Southeast Stevedoring vessel “Shoreline IX” towed Otter N6868B to Pro Mech’s hangar at Peninsula Point, Ketchikan for repairs.

The Otter continued to fly on lease to Pro Mech Air until the end of the summer 2005 season. It spent the winter of 2005/06 in storage at the Peninsula Point maintenance facility. For summer 2006 it was in use based out of Ketchikan by its owner Kirk Thomas, Trading As Gateway Aviation in support of his fishing lodges, and on tourist flights to the Misty Fjords area. It retained the Pro Mech Air colour scheme but with Gateway Aviation titles. It was again in store at Peninsula Point over the winter of 2006/07 and again used by Kirk Thomas / Gateway Aviation during summer 2007 to service the fishing lodges, which were the Clover Pass Resort north of Ketchikan and Silver King Lodge on Grant Island west of Ketchikan.

At the end of the summer 2007 season Kirk Thomas sold the Otter to Doyon Air Transport LLC., of Ketchikan and in mid October it was flown south to Vancouver where over the winter of 2007 / 2008 it was converted from the PZL engine to a Vazar turbine Otter by Aeroflite Industries. Doyon Air Transport traded as Misty Fjords Air and Outfitting and N6868B was registered to its new owners on 7 December 2007.  Work on installing the turbine engine was nearing completion in the Aeroflite hangar at Vancouver during April 2008, by which stage the Otter had already been repainted into Misty Fjords Air’s striking white, black and gold colour scheme. The refurbish of the Otter included Chelton glass cockpit displays, executive seating, tray tables and reading lights for all passengers, who could also enjoy voice-activated noise-cancelling headsets and digital stereo music while looking out of the Pana-View windows.

Work on the aircraft was completed in early May and N6868B was delivered from Vancouver to Ketchikan on 9 May 2008 and entered service with Misty Fjords Air, joining its existing fleet of Cessna 185 and Beaver. As its website explains: “Misty Fjords Air & Outfitting flies to all points in Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, providing executive class seaplane service, specializing in flight-seeing tours of Misty Fjords National Monument, transport to all Southeast Alaska Forest Service cabins, charter flights and fresh-water sport fishing guide service”.

N6868B flew for Misty Fjords Air for summer 2008 and was back at Vancouver for maintenance over the winter of 2008 / 2009 by Aeroflite. It again flew out of Ketchikan for summer 2009 and 2010, arriving back at Vancouver mid October 2010, returning to Ketchikan spring 2011 and continuing in service with Misty Fjords Air in subsequent years. In February 2014 the Otter was advertised for sale through Island Aero Services of Sidney, BC with an asking price of US$1,850,000. Total time in the advertisement was given as 6,644 hours and time on the turbine engine as 2,178 hours since new. It was on EDO 8100 straight floats with BARON STOL kit, Aeroflite picture windows and Viking 9000 pound gross weight conversion. Colour scheme was described as gloss black, Matterhorn white and Las Vegas gold. It did not sell however and continued in service with Misty Fjords Air. It was still in service during summer 2017, flying alongside the company’s Beaver which is in the same colour scheme.

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.