Otter 279 was delivered to A. Fecteau Transport Aérien Ltée., on 5th January 1959, registered CF- LGA. It was one of a number of Otters operated by Arthur Fecteau and his company, and was destined to spend its entire existence serving the bush country of Québec. It was delivered as a wheel plane, but changed its undercarriage with the seasons, on floats during the summer and on wheel-skis in winter. The company name was later changed to Air Fecteau Ltée., and in 1981 the company merged with La Sarre Air Services to form Propair Inc. C-FLGA was registered to Propair Inc., in May 1982, one of its massive fleet of 14 Otters and 14 Beavers, which were based at different locations throughout Québec.
During the summer of 1994, LGA went on lease to Aviation Québec Labrador Ltée., of Sept Îles, Québec, reverting to Propair Inc., in February 1995. It continued to fly for Propair until sold to Deraps Aviation Inc., in September 1997. It moved to its new base at Natashquan, Québec on the north shore of the St.Lawrence seaway, serving the 'North Shore', as Otters have done for many years, and also flying charters deep into the hinterland of Québec and Labrador. The Otter was badly damaged in a crash on 19th May 2000, in an accident which had its origins in the crash of another Otter a few days before. Turbo Otter C-FSVP (28) of Northern Lights Air Service, Goose Bay had been chartered by two local men to fly in materials for a hunting camp which they were building north of Goose Bay. On 11th May 2000 'SVP had crashed while engaged on this work, fortunately without injury to the men or the pilot. The two men then chartered C-FLGA to complete the task, and it flew up from its base at Natashquan to Goose to collect the men and more material.
On 19th May, the Otter departed from Goose en route to Crystal Lake, 176 miles to the north- west. Otter LGA was carrying all of the men's winter clothes and gear, as they expected to be gone for quite some time to build the camp. The pilot had started the descent for landing when the aircraft encountered a strong downdraft. The airspeed dropped suddenly to 70 mph, at which time the pilot applied full power and selected flap. He was unable to pull out of the subsiding air, and as a result the Otter struck the top of a hill and came to rest with damage to the left main landing gear, left wing and engine. As one of the passengers later recounted “We crossed over Border Beacon Lake and everything was clear below us but we could see an awful storm ahead. We were about three minutes into the storm and it didn't clear and all of a sudden, rocks and moss came flying towards us and all around us”. The passengers saw the pilot trying to give the plane more power to bring it up. He made a hard bank, and when he did a loud 'smack' was heard and the Otter went down, coming to rest in a large snowbank. The two passengers and the pilot got out to survey the damage and realized the big 'smack' they heard was the Otter clipping the side of a mountain and the ski dangling off.
The pilot and his two passengers sought shelter near a giant boulder in blizzard conditions and used a satellite phone to call for help. The Rescue Co-Ordination Centre at Halifax dispatched a 444 Squadron CH-146 Griffon helicopter from Goose Bay and a CH-113 Labrador helicopter from 103 Rescue Squadron at Gander, supported by a Hercules from 413 Squadron, Greenwood. The Griffon arrived four hours after the crash, after the weather had cleared, and brought the three survivors back to Goose Bay, where it was realised that the two passengers were the same two individuals who had been rescued eight days previous from the crash of SVP. The Hercules was called back to Greenwood, while the Labrador was refuelling at Blanc Sablon. It returned to Gander when it heard that the men had been rescued.
A ski-equipped DC-3 was chartered by Deraps Aviation to fly in a new wing for the Otter, which was repaired on site and flown back to Natashquan. After some further work there, it re-entered service with Deraps Aviation, until it was tragically destroyed in an accident on Saturday 28th September 2002, on a charter from Natashquan to Aguanish, Québec. The charter was carrying three persons, all of the same family, on a hunting expedition in the Côte Nord region. The Otter took off from Lac de l'Avion near Natashquan Airport for the 57 mile flight to the north along the Aguanish River. The accident happened at 11:35am on the Saturday morning, the Otter coming down in wooded terrain, on its approach to land on the river where the family had their hunting camp. The pilot was Stephane Deraps, whose Uncle Alain was the owner of Deraps Aviation, the company which owned and operated the Otter. The pilot survived the crash but was badly injured. The three passengers sadly were killed.
The impact set off the aircraft's ELT. Halifax RCC deployed the same rescue assets as it had for LGA's previous accident. “Rescue 317” was the Hercules from 413 Squadron, Greenwood, “Rescue 02” the Labrador from 103 Rescue Squadron, Gander and “Rescue 475” the CH-146 Griffon from Goose. Also taking part in the rescue was “Coast Guard 364”, a Bolkow helicopter flying from the cutter “George R. Pearkes”. As the accident site was in extremely difficult terrain, two PJs had to parachute from the Hercules and hike some distance to the downed Otter. 'Jaws of Life' cutting equipment had to be air-dropped to cut the pilot from the wreckage. He was trapped there for 18 hours before being flown the next day to hospital in Sept Îles by the Labrador helicopter.
As the accident report recorded: “The mountain bordering the north side of the Aguanish River at the hunting camp is very steep. Since the pilot had not been to the location for a year, he flew over the camp to assess the landing area. He also noticed moose tracks on the bank and initiated a turn to the left to show the passengers. The turn was done at approximately 95 mph. After completing almost 360 degrees of the turn, the pilot felt vibrations he associated with wake turbulence. Because the aircraft seemed to sink, he applied full power. The left wing hit the tops of several trees and the aircraft flipped over before crashing upside down on the slope of the mountain”. The report concluded that due to the weather and geographic conditions, the pilot had trouble judging the horizontal and vertical distance between himself and the mountain. It was not until the last moment, when he noticed that he had drifted toward the mountain, that he was able to realize that he had come much too close to the obstacle. The aircraft then hit the trees.
To be updated. With Recon Air, Geraldton, Ontario (2016).
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)