DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 296

C-FFIJ suitably equipped for snow.
Photo: Rich Hulina © date unknown - Michael J. Ody Collection
N103SY at Ketchikan, Alaska.
Photo: Helge Nyhus © September 2006 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
N103SY at Kelowna - CKLW, British Columbia.
Photo: John W. Olafson ©
C-FXZD at Kelowna - CKLW, British Columbia.
Photo: John W. Olafson ©
C-GRRJ from the pointy end.
Photo: Unknown photographer © Looking for details!
C-GRRJ at Red Lake, Ontario.
Photo: Jan Koppen © 2013

c/n 296

58-1688 • FAN-1044 • FAS-1014? • C-FANJ • N5056Q • C-FAWZ • N5056Q • C-FFIJ  N103SY • C-FXZD

C-GRRJ

x

• 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 at San Francisco, CA., and is now part of the Golden Gate 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 1 November 1958 with serial 58-1688 (tail number 81688). It was delivered from Downsview  to Crissy Army Airfield, 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 in January 1962 to the 18th Aviation Company for service in Vietnam and continued to fly for this unit in Vietnam until March 1966, when it was returned to the ARADMAC depot at Corpus Christi, Texas for overhaul.  Otters were returned from Vietnam to the depot for major overhaul aboard either USAF C-124s or C-133s. 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’s unit history. During June 1968 the Otter was hit by enemy fire at Cao Laun. During September 1968 “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 1968 “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. During 1969 the Otter was based at Long Than North. In January 1970 it made an emergency landing at Vinh Long after engine failure.

81688 continued flying for the 54th Aviation Company until January 1971, when Army use of the Otter in Vietnam came to an end. It was taken on charge by the 56th Transportation Company and then the following month by the 388th Transportation Company at 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 Fuerza Aerea de Nicaragua (FAN) under a Military Aid Program. The five were shipped from Vung Tau, arriving at the port of Balboa in Panama. From the port the five 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 FAN in June 1971.

With the FAN 81688 received the serial FAN-1014. It 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-28 Fennecs, an IAI Arava and several Hughes helicopters and the Otter were sold. The Otter and the T-28s had been purchased by Venture Aviation Services Ltd., of Vancouver, who arranged with Victoria Air Maintenance of Victoria, BC for the repatriation of the aircraft. They were loaded onto trucks at Managua and driven to Costa Rica. By Bill of Sale dated 11 May 1987 a Nicaraguan government agency, Suplidara de Negocios SA of Managua, transferred ownership of the four Fennecs and the Otter, described by its then military identity of YN-BKB, to Victoria Air Maintenance. The aircraft were shipped from Costa Rica to Victoria on Vancouver Island where work started on rebuilding the Otter and converting it to a civilian aircraft.

By Bill of Sale 7 August 1987 Victoria Air Maintenance transferred title of the Otter to Venture Aviation Services who on the same day transferred title to C&S Enterprises (Hawkesbury) Ltd., a firm of aircraft brokers who had bought the Otter for sale on. It was registered as C-FANJ to C&S Enterprises on 4 November 1987. A buyer was quickly found for the Otter, 40 Mile Air of Tok, Alaska and by Bill of Sale 9 November 1987 ownership was transferred to 40 Mile Air, to whom the Otter was registered N5056Q on 2 December 1987.

40 Mile Air were an existing Otter operator and N5056Q was painted at Victoria into their house colours of black lower fuselage, white upper fuselage and a cheatline of two shades of blue, the same colour scheme as their existing Otter N1037G (77). The re-assembly, overhaul and civilianisation of the aircraft was also completed. A Canadian registration was required to test fly the aircraft and it was registered C-FAWZ to Victoria Air Maintenance for that purpose between 19 January and 1 February 1988.  In March 1988 the Otter reverted to N5056Q and was delivered that month from Victoria to Tok, Alaska where it entered service as part of the 40 Mile Air fleet, serving the Alaskan bush country. During this period Victoria Air Maintenance had also been preparing Otter N3125N (394) for 40 Mile Air, so that the company then had a three strong Otter fleet.

With 40 Mile Air N5056Q was based at Tok and was heavily engaged in supporting mineral exploration camps out in the bush. 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.  N5056Q was damaged on take-off from the Fairbanks International Airport on 10 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 the aircraft 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, with 35 inches 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.

The pilot increased the power to 31 inches and 2,100 rpm 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 wrecked Otter was transported back to Victoria Air Maintenance for rebuild. That crash however marked the end of its career with 40 Mile Air.

By May 1989 the repairs had been completed and by Bill of Sale 19 May 1989 40 Mile Air sold the Otter to Central Patricia Outfitters Ltd., of Pickle Lake, Ontario to whom the Otter was registered as C-FFIJ on 16 June 1989 and delivered across the country from Victoria to Pickle Lake. It was flown first to Sioux Lookout, Ontario where a set of floats were fitted and then on to Pickle Lake where it entered service alongside two Beavers. The new owners traded as Bottenfields Winisk Air, providing the usual range of bush services around north-western Ontario. The Otter remained in basic 40 Mile Air colour scheme but with Winisk Air fuselage titles. By July 1991 it had 6,488 hours on the airframe and this had increased to 7,340 by June 1993. On 2 April 1993 the Otter had operated a flight from Pickle Lake to Sioux Lookout with a defective radio, which the pilot had failed to write up in the aircraft’s journey log, leading to his licence being suspended for seven days.

In April 1994 C-FFIJ was flying on a contract for a lumber company, transporting a large amount of building material (133,975 pounds) from Kabania Lake, which was 38 miles north of Pickle Lake, to Fishbasket Lake, a distance of 41 miles. Fifty trips had been flown and on 6 April the Otter was to fly the fifty first and last trip. The Otter was taking off from the ice strip when, 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 5 to 10 knot tail wind for the take-off and reported a strong gust at lift off”.

Gold Belt Air Transport Otter C-FCZO (71) was brought in from Pickle Lake to fly the trip. The load was transferred from FIJ to CZO and it attempted to take off a couple of times but was unable to do so. The load was taken off and weighed and found to be 2,000 pounds overweight. “A build-up of extra weight left from the first fifty trips had been loaded on the fifty first trip, resulting in an enormous over-load on what would have been the final clean-up trip”. As a result the pilot of FIJ was fined $500 by the Minister for Transport for operating the Otter in such an overloaded condition. In the meantime, after temporary repairs at the scene of the accident, a ferry permit was issued on 8 April for FIJ to fly from Kabania Lake to Pickle Lake and on to Bar River, Ontario for permanent repairs. These were completed by 21 June 1994 and the Otter resumed service with Winisk Air.

On 25 May 1995 Otter C-FFIJ went on lease from Central Patricia Outfitters to Leuenberger Air Service of Nakina, Ontario for six months and at the end of the lease was bought outright by Leuenberger Air Service, by Bill of Sale 31 December 1995, at a time when Central Patricia Outfitters / Bottenfield Winisk Air was closing down.  FIJ flew as part of the Leuenberger fleet of Otters for summer 1995 and summer 1996 until sold at the end of that season. The buyer was Jeanne C. Porter who together with her husband owned Bald Mountain Aviation, based at Homer-Beluga Lake, Alaska.

By Bill of Sale 14 October 1996 Leuenberger Air Service transferred title to Vazar Aerospace of Bellingham, Washington and by a further Bill of Sale 5 February 1997 ownership was transferred to Jeanne Porter. The Otter, still registered C-FFIJ, was noted at Vancouver Air Maintenance’s facility at Victoria during April 1997, being repainted and readied for its return to Alaska. On 27 May 1997 a ferry permit was issued for a flight from Victoria to Ketchikan. The Canadian registration was cancelled on 9 June 1997 and the Otter registered N103SY to Bald Mountain Air Service Inc. This company also operated Beaver N102SY. In April 2001 these were joined by a second Otter N104BM (118) and all were kept very busy.

As the company website explained: “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 their flying expertise but also thorough understanding of bear behaviour and will also be your guide”. Then aircraft were used, on floats, to fly to whatever location in the four and a half million acre Katmai Park where the bears were to be found. Tours were also conducted to Kodiak Island for bear viewing.

At the end of the summer 2001 season, N103SY was advertised for sale, on EDO 7170 floats, with a total time of 10,300 hours on the airframe. It had an asking price of $360,000. The Otter was eventually sold and was registered to Craig M. Schweizer of Kenai, Alaska on 19 June 2003. It arrived at AOG’s facility at Kelowna, BC in April 2004 where it was converted to a Walter turbine, with the M601 engine. It was painted into a colour scheme of black lower fuselage, cream upper fuselage and blue cheatline, with Mavrik Aire titles on the tail. The Otter then flew to its Kenai base, to fly for Craig Schweizer’s company, Mavrik Aire, this being a trading name of Exousia Inc.  It flew alongside Beaver N613WG and some single Cessnas. The company provided the usual range of bush services, including fly-out fishing and hunting charters, bear viewing and scenic flights. Mostly it flew hunters. For example, on 1 September 2004 it flew hunters from Kotzebue to a lake at Noatak National Preserve, where they hunted caribou but in a place and at a time when such hunting was prohibited. Craig Schweizer was subsequently prosecuted for this.

N103SY continued to fly for Mavrik Aire for a few years. Main base was at Kenai but during the summer months it often deployed north to Kotzebue from where it flew hunters out into the bush. It was also used in winter and during April 2007 was based at Bethel hauling mining equipment to Kisaralik Lake in the Kilbuck Mountains. On 12 June 2007 the Otter was re-registered to Ascention LLC., of Kenai, another Craig Schweizer company, but continued to fly for Mavrik Aire. Trouble struck the following month. “The Anchorage Daily News reported earlier this week that Craig Schweizer, son of imprisoned Montana Freemen leader Leroy Schweizer, lost his aviation licence in July for multiple safety and legal violations. But Craig Schweizer says that is baloney and maintains that FAA inspectors have a vendetta against him because of his family ties to the Freemen, the defunct self-described ‘Christian Patriot Group’ famously headed by his father”. According to various newspaper reports, the FAA revoked Mavrik Aire’s operating certificate and also revoked Craig Schweizer’s pilots licence and aviation mechanic’s licence, citing a long list of violations.

Craig Schweizer appealed to an Administrative Law judge and an appeal hearing was held in Anchorage on 8 and 9 August 2007. The FAA administrator produced witnesses who gave evidence of a long list of violations of rules, both by Mr Schweizer and by Mavrik Aire. Among these witnesses was a former Mavrik Aire pilot who testified that he made numerous trips in the Otter when it was substantially over-loaded due to incorrect weight and balance information provided by Mr Schweizer. When the pilot brought this to his attention he flew into a rage and was so angry that the pilot abandoned the Otter in the field. Evidence of this nature clearly did not help Mavrik Aire’s case and the Law Judge dismissed the appeal. Mr Schweizer and Mavrik Aire appealed further to the NTSB but on 21 September 2007 the Board also denied the appeal and affirmed the Law Judge’s decision. That was the end of the road for Mavrik Aire, which was closed down, leaving Otter N103SY in store in the company’s hangar in Kenai.

In February 2008 N103SY was advertised for sale by Island Aero Services of Victoria, BC on behalf of its owner Ascention LLC. It was for sale on EDO 7170 floats, with 12,100 hours on the airframe and with an asking price of $995,000. The buyer of the Otter was STOLAirus of Kelowna, BC where the Otter arrived in July 2008. Its US registration was cancelled on 31 July 2008 but it was not immediately re-registered in Canada, as it was to spend several months at Kelowna being overhauled and refurbished. By October 2008 it had been stripped of its paint scheme and re-painted white and work continued on preparing the Otter for re-sale.

The Otter was advertised for sale by Arctic Aerospace Inc of Vancouver, a company associated with STOLAirus, in February 2009. The advert gave total airframe time of 12,128 hours, an increase of 28 hours since February 2008, and an asking price of $1,395,000. The advertisement quoted a registration of C-FXZD, although the aircraft was not at that time on the Canadian register. That remained the position as at December 2009, the Otter still at Kelowna and advertised for sale by Arctic Aerospace, alongside serial 465, which was also for sale as a Walter Turbine Otter.  C-FXZD was eventually registered to Arctic Aerospace Inc, Richmond, BC on 27 April 2010, still advertised for sale in September 2010, painted all white and still parked at Kelowna.

More than two and a half years after it had arrived in Kelowna, the Otter was sold, being re-registered C-GRRJ to its new owners, 3097448 Manitoba Ltd., (Adventure Air) of Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba on 12 April 2011, and was painted into Adventure Air’s colour scheme and acquired company titles on the side of the fuselage. Adventure Air is a leasing company, as well as an operating company, and already owned a number of Otters. The delivery flight from Kelowna to Lac du Bonnet took place on 19 April 2011, in the course of which an incident took place near Castlegar, BC. The Otter climbed into Class B airspace without obtaining a clearance from air traffic control. The pilot contacted ATC while descending back to 12,500 feet to advise he had made an emergency climb due to icing. Having arrived at Lac du Bonnet, RRJ entered service as part of the Adventure Air Otter fleet.

As well as leasing out its Otters, Adventure Air also flew in support of their own fishing operation, Jacksons Lodge and Outposts, with several lodges located throughout north-eastern Manitoba, within three of Manitoba’s beautiful Provincial Parks – Atikaki, Nopiming and Whiteshell.  RRJ was used to service this business.  It was based at Red Lake, Ontario during summer 2013 flying fishermen to lodges, on charter to lodge owners. An incident was reported on CADORS for 17 June 2014 at the Lac du Bonnet water aerodrome. The float-equipped Otter was climbing about three minutes after take-off when the pilot observed flames from the engine exhaust and the engine lost power. The pilot conducted a forced landing on Lac du Bonnet. There was no damage to the aircraft and no injuries. The engine was removed and sent to the Czech Republic for repair, after which Otter RRJ returned to service.

On 25 August 2016 C-GRRJ was registered to Peter Hagedorn Investments Ltd., trading as Chimo Air Service, and began operating from the company’s base at Red Lake, Ontario. It retained the previous colour scheme but without titles. As at January 2018 the Otter was still registered to this company.

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.