58-1688 • FAN-1044 • FAS-1014? • C-FANJ • N5056Q • C-FAWZ • N5056Q • C-FFIJ N103SY • C-FXZD
• 58-1688 United States Army. Delivered 01 Nov-1958. Designated as U-1A
Initially allocated to Crissy AAF., San Francisco where it served the Presidio of San Francisco which was a former military base on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula in San Francisco, CA , and is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Unknown date. Joined the 17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord, CA.
Jan-1962. Transferred to 18th Aviation Company for deployment to Vietnam. The unit appears to have deployed to various locations across Vietnam as it has been difficult to assign a specific location. Perhaps Vung Tau.
Mar-1966. Returned to Army Aeronautical Depot Maintenance Centre (ARADMAC), Depot, Corpus Christi, TX.
May-1966. 54th Aviation Company. Vung Tau, Vietnam.
Jan-1971. 56th Transportation Company Vietnam.
Feb-1971. 388th Transportation Company, Vung Tau where it remained in storage.
• FAN-1014 Nicaraguan Air Force under a Military Aid Program.
• Poss FAS-1014 Fuerza Aérea Sandinista/Defensa Anti-Aérea. (FAS/DAA) Circa 1980.
• Purchased by Venture Aviation 1987.Other details unknown.
• C-FANJ C&S Enterprises of Hawkesbury, ON. Regd 04-Nov-1987. Canx 12-Dec-1987.
• N5056Q 40 Mile Air, Tok, AK on 2nd December 1987.
• C-FAWZ Victoria Air Maintenance Ltd. Sidney, Victoria, BC. Regd 19-Jan-1988. Canx 01-Feb-1988 in connection with the test flying at Victoria.
• N5056Q 40 Mile Air, Tok, AK. Re regd Mar-1988.
Accident. Fairbanks International Airport. 10-Feb-1989. The pilot reported that before the flight, the wings & stabilizer were swept, leaving a layer of 'polished' frost. Freight was loaded & the aircraft was serviced to bring the fuel level up to 120 gal. After start, taxi & run-up, the pilot began his takeoff from the approach end of the 10,300 ft runway. At about 100 ft above ground level, he adjusted the power & raised the flaps to climb at 82 kts. However, the aircraft did not climb & would not accelerate in level flight The pilot increased the power but he believed there was a definite loss of power. Subsequently, the aircraft was damaged when the pilot aborted the takeoff on snow covered terrain beyond the end of the rwy. No pre-accident part failure or malfunction of the aircraft or engine was found. An investigation revealed the entire aircraft was covered with a coating of frost. Company records showed the empty weight of the aircraft was 5088 lbs; the aircraft’s actual empty weight was 5285 lbs. An FAA inspector calculated that the takeoff gross weight exceeded the max limit by 130 lbs.
• C-FFIJ Central Patricia Outfitters Ltd., dba Bottenfield's Winisk Air Ltd., Pickle Lake, ON. Regd 08- Aug-1989.
Total time: 6,700 hours at January 1992.
Accident: Eighty miles north-east of Pickle Lake, 06 Apr-1994. when taking off from an ice strip. To quote from the accident report: “The aircraft was reported to be just below maximum take off weight. The wheel-skis struck a three foot high snow bank at the end of the ice strip and the pilot aborted the take off. The left strut collapsed and the left wheel assembly was driven into the fuselage. The pilot had accepted a five to ten knot tail wind for the take off and reported a strong gust at lift off”.
The aircraft was reported to be just below maximum take off weight. The wheel-skis struck a three foot high snow bank at the end of the ice strip and the pilot aborted the take off. The left strut collapsed and the left wheel assembly was driven into the fuselage. The pilot had accepted a five to ten knot tail wind for the take off and reported a strong gust at lift off”.
• C-FFIJ Leuenberger Air Service Ltd., Nakina, ON. Regd Aug-1995. Canx 19-Sep-1996. Deleted as exported to USA 09-Jun-1997.
• C-FFIJ Jeanne C.Porter, dba Bald Mountain Aviation, Homer-Beluga Lake, AK. Regd 19-Jun-1997.
• N103SY Bald Mountain Air Service, Homer, AK. (Jeanne C. Porter) Regd 19-June 1997.
• N103SY Craig M. Schweitzer, Kenai, AK Regd 19-Jun-2003.
Power plant: Converted at the AOG facility at Kelowna, BC, April 2004 to be converted to a Walter turbine. April 2004
• N103SY Mavrik Aire, Soldotna, AK (Craig M. Schweitzer). Canx 31-Jul-2008.
• N103SY Ascention LLC., Kenai, AK. Regd 12-Jun-2007. Remained operating for Mavrik Aire.. FAA record shows Canx 31-Jul-2008 but no operator/owner shown.
• C-FXZD Arctic Aerospace Inc., Richmond BC. Regd 27-Apr-2010. Canx 12-Apr-2011.
• C-GRRJ 3097448 Manitoba Ltd., (Adventure Air) Lac du Bonnet, MB. Regd 12-Apr-2011.
• Current •
Otter 296 was delivered to the United States Army on 1st November 1958 with serial 58-1688 (tail number 81688). It was delivered from Downsview to Crissy AAF., San Francisco where it served the Presidio of San Francisco for a time before joining the 17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord, California. It was transferred to the 18th Aviation Company for deployment to Vietnam in January 1962 and continued to fly for the Company until March 1966, when it was returned to the ARADMAC Depot, Corpus Christi, Texas for overhaul. On completion of the work, 81688 was airlifted back to Vietnam in May 1966 and joined the 54th Aviation Company.
The Otter is mentioned a few times in the 54th Aviation Company history. During June 1968 the Otter was hit by enemy fire at Cao Laun. During September '68 “the Photo Mission had a frustrating week with aircraft 688 pumping oil out of the collector box and, by way of the slipstream, all over the camera lens”. In October '68 on take off out of Plantation Airstrip at Long Binh, 688 experienced an erratic take off during which the landing gear was slightly damaged. Landing was made at Vung Tau without incident. In January 1970, the Otter made an emergency landing at Vinh Long after engine failure.
81688 continued flying for the 54th Aviation Company until January 1971, when it was taken on charge by the 56th Transportation Company and then the following month by the 388th Transportation Company, Vung Tau where it remained in storage until May 1971. 81688 was one of five Otters in Vietnam selected by the Army for transfer to the Nicaraguan Air Force under a Military Aid Program. The five were shipped from Vung Tau, arriving at the port of Balboa in Panama. From the port, they were towed with wings removed to Albrook AFB, where they were re-assembled by the Army's 590th Aviation Maintenance Company and refurbished and repainted, ready to be handed over to the Fuerza Aerea de Nicaragua (FAN) in June 1971. With the FAN, 81688 received the serial FAN-1014.
The Otter continued to fly for the FAN throughout the 1970s, and was the only one of the five Otters to continue flying after the fall of the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua in July 1979. The following year, the air arm became the Fuerza Aerea Sandinista, and was increasingly supplied with Soviet equipment. In 1987 there was a clear out of what was left of the original western-supplied equipment. Four T-28s, an IAI Arava, several Hughes helicopters and the Otter were sold. They were all loaded onto trucks at Managua and driven to Costa Rica. The Otter and the T-28s had been purchased by Venture Aviation, who had them shipped to Victoria Air Maintenance at Sidney Airport, Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island. Here the Otter was sold to aircraft brokers C&S Enterprises of Hawkesbury, Ontario to whom it was registered C-FANJ on 4th November 1987. It was almost immediately sold on, being registered N5056Q to its new owners, 40 Mile Air, of Tok, Alaska on 2nd December 1987.
It was restored to airworthy condition on behalf of its new owners by Victoria Air Maintenance at Victoria and was actually registered C-FAWZ to that company from 19th January to 1st February 1988 in connection with the test flying at Victoria. A Canadian maintenance company is not allowed to test fly a foreign registered aircraft, and so the Otter had to be registered in Canada, albeit briefly, for that purpose. It then reverted to N5056Q in March 1988 and set off on its delivery flight from Victoria to Tok, entering service with 40 Mile Air. It was heavily engaged in supporting mineral exploration camps out in the bush. From its base at Tok, it flew into remote mining camp airstrips such as Slate Creek, Pogo and Robertson River. At one stage it flew alongside the company's other Otters N1037G and N3125N on a large exploration project at Yukon Flats.
The Otter was damaged on take off from the Fairbanks International Airport on 10th February 1989. The pilot reported that before the flight, the wings and stabilizer were swept, leaving a layer of “polished” frost. Freight was loaded and N5056Q was serviced to bring the fuel level up to 120 gallons. After start, taxi and run-up, the pilot began his take off from the approach end of the 10,300 foot runway. He used 35 inches of manifold pressure and 2,250 RPM. At about one hundred feet above the ground, he adjusted the power to 30 inches and 2,000 RPM, and raised the flaps to climb at 82 knots. However, the Otter did not climb and would not accelerate in level flight. He increased the power but he believed there was a definite loss of power. The Otter was damaged when the pilot aborted the take off on snow covered terrain beyond the end of the runway. An investigation revealed that the take off gross weight exceeded the maximum limit by 130 pounds and that the entire aircraft was covered with a coating of frost. The Otter was ferried back to Victoria Air Maintenance for repair, but that accident marked the end of its career with 40 Mile Air.
After repair, the Otter was sold to Central Patricia Outfitters Ltd., trading as Bottenfield's Winisk Air of Pickle Lake, Ontario to whom it was registered C-FFIJ on 8th August 1989. It was flown from Victoria to Sioux Lookout, Ontario where a set of floats were fitted, and FIJ entered service based out of Pickle Lake, servicing fishing camps. By January 1992 it had 6,700 hours total airframe time. On 6th April 1994 it met with a mishap eighty miles north-east of Pickle Lake, when taking off from an ice strip. To quote from the accident report: “The aircraft was reported to be just below maximum take off weight. The wheel-skis struck a three foot high snow bank at the end of the ice strip and the pilot aborted the take off. The left strut collapsed and the left wheel assembly was driven into the fuselage. The pilot had accepted a five to ten knot tail wind for the take off and reported a strong gust at lift off”.
That incident ended the Otter's career with Bottenfield's Winisk Air. After repair, it was acquired by Leuenberger Air Service Ltd., of Nakina, Ontario to whom it was registered in August 1995. After a period of operation out of Nakina, it was sold on to Jeanne C.Porter, trading as Bald Mountain Aviation, of Homer-Beluga Lake, Alaska. The Otter, still registered C-FFIJ, was noted at the Victoria Air Maintenance facility at Victoria on Vancouver Island during April 1997, being repainted and readied for its return to Alaska. It was registered N103SY in June 1997 to Bald Mountain Air Service Inc, and joined Beaver N102SY. In April 2001 a second Otter joined the fleet, N104BM (118). All three aircraft were in operation during the summer of 2001 and were kept very busy.
As the company's website explains: “We are Gary and Jeanne Porter, owners and operators of Bald Mountain Air. We are both lifelong Alaskans and take great pleasure in showing our guests all that we know and love about Alaska. Among our great loves are the mountains and waters of South Central Alaska. There we find one of Alaska's greatest natural wonders - the great brown bears of Katmai National Park. Our all day tour is kept to a small group. Our pilots are selected not only for flying expertise but also thorough understanding of bear behaviour and will also be your guide”. The aircraft are used on floats, to fly to whatever location in the four and a half million acre Katmai Park where the bears are to be found. Tours are also conducted to Kodiak Island for bear viewing.
At the end of the 2001 summer season, Otter N103SY was advertised for sale, on EDO 71710 floats, with a total airframe time of 10,300 hours and an asking price of $360,000. It was eventually sold, and was registered to Craig M. Schweitzer, Kenai, Alaska on 19th June 2003. It arrived at the AOG facility at Kelowna, BC in April 2004 to be converted to a Walter turbine. Following the conversion, it entered service with Mavrik Aire, based at Soldotna, Alaska. Its registered owner, Craig Schweitzer, is the head of Mavrik Aire, which also flies Beaver N613WB and some single Cessnas. The company provides the usual range of Alaskan bush services, including fly-out fishing and hunting charters, bear viewing and scenic flights.
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)