Otter number 30 was one of ten DHC-3 delivered by DHC to the Royal Norwegian Air Force (Kongelige Norske Luftvorsvaret), the first six of which were delivered in 1954. All six were formally handed over on 2 March 1954 and were then shipped in crates from Downsview to Oslo, arriving in Oslo Harbour 8 April ’54. They were assembled at Kjeller Air Base. With the Royal Norwegian Air Force the serial number comprised the Fiscal Year in which the aircraft were ordered together with the constructor’s number, and the serial was painted on the fin. Thus aircraft 30, ordered in FY53, became serial 5330.
The Otter was allocated code O-AF and on 16 July ’54 it joined the Communications Flight at Jarlsberg Air Force Base (AFB), which moved in November 1954 to Gardermoen AFB., near Oslo, where it would serve for the next few years. Otter number 30 was one of two Norwegian Air Force Otters (the other was number 31) selected to support a Norwegian scientific expedition to the Antarctic during the International Geophysical Year 1958/59. One of the Expedition’s tasks was to map large sections of Queen Maud’s Land, for which the Otters were to be used. The aircraft unit was given the designation Support Flight 7070. In March 1958 the Otter deployed to Tyin in Norway for winter exercises/training for the Antarctic mission.
The two Otters had to undergo some modifications to equip them for the mission. Additional fuel tanks were installed in the cabin to increase range. A radio-compass, gyrosyn remote compass, sun compass, directional gyro, radio altimeter, periscope drift measuring equipment and HF radio and cameras were installed. This work was undertaken at the Horten Marine Base, where the two Otters were crated and loaded aboard ship. The deployment was code named “Operation Penguin”. The Expedition left Oslo on board the vessel ‘POLARBJORN’ on 1 November 1958. Nearly two months later they arrived in the Antarctic. The two Otters were unloaded on the ice and re-assembled. An automatic radio beacon was positioned at the base as a navigation aid. For five weeks missions were flown for photographic purposes in the area 70 to 74 degrees South, 0 to 15 degrees East. When the mission was finished the aircraft were dis-assembled and shipped back to Oslo on board the ‘POLARBJORN’, arriving home on 5 March 1959 after a successful job. The Otters were again unloaded at the Horten Marine Base and re-assembled there.
In May 1959 Otter 5330 joined the 7193 Stotteving (Support Flight) at Bodø AFB., in northern Norway where it would be based for some years. In March 1963 while on floats it suffered engine failure near Hamaroy and was towed from there by a tug back to base at Bodø. It continued to be based at Bodo until April 1965, making periodic trips to the Horten Marine Base, Kjeller AFB., and Wideroes at Oslo’s Fornebu Airport for maintenance. After maintenance at Fornebu in April 1965 it was assigned to 7192 Support Flight at Orland AFB and it was to serve at Orland for the remainder of its military career. On 1 January 1967 7192 Support Flight was re-designated 720 Squadron at Orland, the Otter joining the Squadron’s D Flight. On 25 January 1967 the Otter made its first flight with its new squadron code JT-R. On 30 May 1967 its military career came to an end when it was struck off charge, having flown 5,293 hours in Air Force service.
The Royal Norwegian Air Force were replacing their Single Otters with DHC-6 Twin Otters and as with all the Single Otters, 5330 was handed over to Halle & Peterson in Oslo, the DHC agents in Norway, for disposal. In fact the Otter had already been advertised for sale and a buyer found, this being Varangfly Air Service, based at Kirkenes in remote northern Norway, to whom the Otter was registered as LN-IKI on 31 May 1967. At Kirkenes it joined a Norseman and some Cessna 185s in service with Varangfly. The Otter suffered a taxying accident at Varanger, not far from Kirkenes, on 11 July 1970 but was repaired. The following year Varangfly combined with Norwings A/S of Tromso and then became known as A/S Varangfly-Norwings. The following year the company acquired Norlandsfly A/S of Bodø and the combined operation was re-named Norving A/S.
Otter LN-IKI, on amphibious floats, moved base from Kirkenes to Bodø and would be based there from then on, for use on charter work and as an air ambulance. It was painted into Norwings colour scheme of blue lower fuselage, white upper fuselage, blue band on a white tail, with the top of the tail painted red. Norving had their own hangar at the Bodø Airport, where LN-IKI resided. The Otter was involved in an accident at Ornes, south of Bodø, on 25 October 1972 when it landed on the water on its amphibious floats but with the wheels down and flipped over. Despite substantial damage it was repaired and returned to service from Bodø, from where it would continue to serve the people of northern Norway for several more years.
By 1979 A/S Norving had become quite a sizeable operation, with several bases throughout northern Norway and a fleet of Islanders, Navajos and Cessna 404s. In Flight magazine for 14 July 1979 it placed an advertisement offering for sale one Otter amphibian (LN-IKI) and one Beaver amphibian and two Beaver floatplanes (LN-BFH/KCQ/MAB). The Otter did not sell however and continued in service. By 1980 this hard-working Otter had put up nearly 10,000 flying hours and by that stage was the last active Otter in Norway and indeed the only active Otter in all of Europe.
Operating Europe’s only active Otter from a base in remote northern Norway was not without its problems. As A/S Norving wrote in 1980: “It will be a sad day when our company will have to sell the last remaining single Otter in Norway and to our knowledge in Europe. An era will then be over and a very fine flying machine will then forever be lost from our country. It is sad because this machine was one of the very first to pick up scheduled flights after WWII. It served our part of Norway with a regularity only next to seagulls. Thousands of people in northern Norway still remember the green machine turning finals two feet above the water in their familiar harbour, bringing news, people and post to and from” – a reference to the Wideroes Otter operation which ran from 1954 to 1971. However Norving also pointed out that by 1980, in relation to LN-IKI: “The engine is a thirsty devil and parts are unbelievably costly”.
Nevertheless Norving A/S., continued to fly LN-IKI until July 1982, when it was sold to Sirdalsflyg A/S., of Tjorhom, along with Beavers LN-BFH and LN-KCQ. LN-IKI was registered to its new owners, who traded as Transit Air, on 26 July 1982 and was based at Stavangar-Sola. It was repainted with an attractive colour scheme of white undersides, red cheatline and blue upper fuselage, with “Transit Air – Inter City Sky Taxi” on the tail. The Otter remained in service with Transit Air for a few months, until the company went bankrupt, and the Otter was put into storage at Oslo’s Fornebu Airport. That left Europe without any active Otters, a situation that was to obtain for the next seven years, until two Otters (274 and 406) arrived in Sweden.
On 11 April 1983 Otter LN-IKI was put up for sale by auction in the course of the bankruptcy of Transit Air but a bid of 105,000 kroner was rejected by the bank who had a charge on the aircraft. On 2 June 1983 LN-IKI was officially registered to the Oslo Handelsbank, the main creditor. There was a second auction on 20 June 1983 and the Otter was sold to Norronafly A/S., of Rakkestad and it was registered to its new owners, a firm of aircraft brokers. They sold it on almost immediately by Bill of Sale dated 30 June 1983 from Norronafly A/S to Dodson Aviation Inc, Ottawa, Kansas. The Otter was transported from Oslo to Stockholm, from where it sailed to the United States. The Norwegian registration was officially cancelled on 18 August 1983.
On 30 January 1984 Dodson Aviation Inc., reserved marks N4683K for the Otter and wrote to the FAA and informed them: “The Otter was crated in Europe and shipped to Dodson Aviation and has been in our hangar in Ottawa, Kansas since arrival. Dodson now wishes to re-assemble the aircraft”. On 7 February ’84 the Otter was officially registered to Dodson Aviation Inc as N4683K. Dodson were a firm of aircraft brokers and sellers of aircraft parts and the Otter remained registered to the company for two and a half years until sold to Newcal Aviation Inc of Little Ferry, New Jersey by Bill of Sale dated 25 August 1986. Newcal were also a company supplying aircraft parts, specialising in DHC parts, and held on to the Otter until they sold it to Mr Eugene Q. Weiler of Anchorage, Alaska in May 1988. It was registered as N4683K to Mr Weiler and his wife Nadine.
Eugene Weiler was an Instructor Pilot with the Alaska Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, which flew its own Otters, and had acquired Otter N4683K to lease it out. The Otter was noted at the Vancouver International Airport on 10 August 1988 painted all white with a red/black cheatline, with N4683K on the fuselage side. A Certificate of Airworthiness issued to Mr Weiler for the Otter on 25 August 1988, its total time given as 9,787 hours. It was then leased by Mr Weiler to Diamond Aviation, based out of Wrangell, Alaska. This company supported a gold mine in the mountains of northern British Columbia, flying in fuel and supplies and flying out gold concentrate. Their first Otter had been N61LC (393), operated from August 1987 until it crashed in November ’87. This was replaced by N55CX (139) operated from December ’87 until it crashed in July ’88. N4683K was taken on lease as the replacement, and remained in service with Diamond Aviation from August 1988 until June 1992, when support of the mine was taken over by another operator.
The Otter having been returned to its owners Eugene and Nadine Weiler by Bill of Sale dated 11 June 1992, they sold the aircraft to Beaukent Developments Ltd., of Richmond, BC who arranged for a lease of the Otter to Waglisla Air Inc., trading as Wagair of Bella Bella, BC. N4683K arrived at the Vancouver International Airport on 15 June 1992 where it was prepared for the lease and painted into Wagair colours. The American registration was cancelled on 2 July ’92 and the Otter registered to Wagair on 20 July ’92 as C-FWAF and entered service with Wagair.
Wagair were one of several Canadian native-owned First Nations operators which were formed during the 1980s. Otter C-FWAF joined their fleet, painted in their attractive yellow and green colour scheme and for two years provided charter services along the BC Pacific Coast from its base at Bella Bella, flying alongside the company’s other Otter C-FMPY (324) and also C-FRHW (445) which flew out of Prince Rupert. In December 1993 bubble windows were installed and an extensive overhaul of the Otter carried out by Aero Flite Industries at Vancouver, this work being completed during May 1994 when C-FWAF continued to fly as part of the Wagair fleet.
Sadly things did not work out for Wagair, which ceased trading during 1995 and Otter C-FWAF returned to the lessor. The Canadian registration was cancelled on 19 April 1996 and by Bill of Sale 30 April ’96 the Otter was sold to Edward K.Kiesel and others, trading as Ward Air of Juneau, Alaska to whom the Otter was registered as N63354. Subsequently title was transferred to Red Leasing LLC, Juneau which leased the Otter to Ward Air, which continued to operate the Otter. Ward Air was a business which had been formed in 1974 by Ken Ward to provide a bush charter service out of Juneau serving the Alaskan panhandle and had previously operated Otter N62355 (262). Mr Kiesel took over the business in 1993 and added Otter N63354 to the fleet of Beavers and single Cessnas in April 1996. Initially the Otter was flown in its Wagair colour scheme with Ward Air titles for a few years, until repainted into Ward Air’s blue and red colour scheme. As its website proclaims: “Ward Air offers unmatched excellence in floatplane and amphibious air charter service for Juneau’s outlying wilderness areas. Aircraft such as the Otter, Beaver or Cessna 185 provide the flexibility for Ward Air to travel almost anywhere within Southeast Alaska”. Texas Turbine Otter N93356 (144) joined the Ward Air fleet in March 2003, also on lease from Red Leasing LLC.
Ward Air decided to have N63354 also converted to a Texas Turbine and the Otter arrived at Vernon BC on 4 October 2006 to have the conversion done by Kal Air and to have a new interior installed. The work was done over the winter of 2006/7, being Texas Turbine’s conversion # 28. N63354 departed Vernon on 7 April 2007 on completion of the work, returning to Juneau where it re-entered service with Ward Air alongside the company’s other turbine Otter N93356. An incident was recorded on 13 September 2010. N63354 took off from Juneau with the pilot and one passenger on amphibious floats. It returned immediately after take off for an emergency landing due to difficulties with the landing gear, which collapsed on landing. Emergency services were waiting and moved the Otter off the runway after ten minutes. No one was injured and only minor damage was caused to the underside of the floats. Both Turbine Otters are still in use with Ward Air during summer 2016, N63354 as an amphibian and N93356 on straight floats. The company also still operates Beavers and Cessnas as well.
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.