Otter number 31 was the last of the first batch of six of ten DHC-3 delivered to the Royal Norwegian Air Force. This batch of six were delivered in crates, formally handed over at Downsview on 2 March 1954 and arrived in Oslo Harbour on 8 April 1954, being assembled at Kjeller Air Force Base (AFB) near Oslo. Otter 31 took serial 5331 and code O-AG and originally joined the Communications Flight at Jarlsberg AFB in July ’54, moving to Gardermoen AFB., in November 1954. In May 1955 it joined the Communications Flight at Bodø AFB., in northern Norway.
Otter 31 deployed to the Antarctic on “Operation Penguin” from October 1958 until March 1959, travelling on board the ship “Polarbjorn” there and back, in company with Otter 5330. Both Otters carried out photo reconnaissance in support of the International Geophysical Year in the Antarctic. On its return it was re-assembled at the Horten Marine Base and then joined 7192 Stotteving (Support Flight) at Orland AFB in May 1959. In June 1964 it joined 7193 Stotteving at Bodø AFB. In January 1966 this unit was re-designated 719 Squadron and in December ’66 the Otter received its new squadron code XJ-U. In April ’67 the Otter moved south to Orland AFB, joining C Flight of 720 Squadron and it continued to fly for that unit until 16 June 1967 when its military career came to an end, and it was struck off charge, having flown 4,177 hours in Air Force service. The Air Force was replacing its Otters with new DHC-6 Twin Otters, and as with all the other Royal Norwegian Air Force Otters, 5331 was handed over to Halle & Peterson of Oslo, the DHC agents in Norway, for disposal.
As it happened, Widerøes Flyveselskap A/S of Bodø were in need of an Otter to replace their LN-SUV (41) which had been damaged in an accident on 26 May 1967. Wideroes purchased Otter 31, which was registered to its new owners as LN-LMM on 22 June 1967, thus restoring the Wideroes Otter fleet to four units. LN-LMM was painted into the Widerøes “Spartan green” colour scheme with white trim and entered service as part of the Wideroes Otter fleet, based at Bodø. From March 1968, following the crash of LN-FAE (18), the Wideroes Otter fleet was reduced to three aircraft (LN-BDD / BIB / LMM) and these three would continue in service until the end of the summer 1971 season, by which time they had been replaced by Twin Otters.
The three Otters were parked at the Bodø base in full colours but with the registrations and titles removed and were advertised for sale. Laurentian Air Services of Ottawa sent a team to Bodø to inspect the Otters and in September 1971 submitted a bid of CAD$200,000 for all three and Wideroes holding of Otter spares. A deal was done and title transferred to Laurentian Air Services by Bill of Sale dated 19 October 1971. The three Otters were flown south from Bodø to Oslo’s Fornebu Airport where Fred Olsen A/T packed them into crates for shipping to Canada. They were loaded on board the ‘Atlantic Causeway’ and the ‘Atlantic Conveyor’ ships at Goteborg, Sweden and sailed via Halifax to Montréal, the containers then being taken by rail to Ottawa where they arrived in January 1972.
The three Otters were re-assembled by Laurentian Air Services at their Ottawa base, and registered to Laurentian Air Services, LN-BDD (138) becoming CF-APP; LN-BIB (201) becoming CF-APQ and LN-LMM (31) becoming CF-APR, which at this stage of its career had 8,150 hours on the airframe. CF-APR was noted at Ottawa Airport during May 1972 on amphibious floats. All three Otters entered service with Laurentian Air Services, still painted in the green Widerøes scheme. By June 1972 all three had been ferried north to the Schefferville base, from where they would serve the northern Québec bush country.
After flying for some time in the green colour scheme, CF-APR was repainted into the Laurentian Air Service scheme of white upper fuselage, blue cheatline and tail band and grey lower fuselage. APR continued in service with Laurentian Air Service until sold in 1977 to Bearskin Lake Air Service of Big Trout Lake, Ontario, the registration by that stage having been changed to C-FAPR. Initially it flew in the Laurentian colour scheme, with Bearskin Lake Air Service titles. This airline had been established by bush pilot Otto Hegland, based at Big Trout Lake, but named after Bearskin Lake where Hegland had a general store. The Otter was used to provide charter service to remote First Nations reserves in northern Ontario, on floats in summer and wheel-skis in winter.
One incident was recorded on 19 December 1979 at the aircraft’s base at Big Trout Lake, where the outside air temperature was a sharp -20C. This extract from the accident report: “Prior to commencing take-off from the ice strip, the pilot selected an abort point. On take-off the aircraft passed the selected point but the pilot continued, thinking that the aircraft would soon lift off. The Otter did become airborne but the gear struck a pile of snow. The pilot continued and landed at a land strip to inspect the damage”. This was considerable, and the Otter was transported to Calgary for repair by Field Aviation, where it was noted under repair in February 1980. In the course of the work it was repainted into Bearskin’s own colour scheme of orange cheatline outlined in black. It continued in service with Bearskin Lake Air Service until sold to Leuenberger Air Service of Nakina, Ontario in December 1984, its registration to Bearskin Lake A/S being cancelled on 5 December 1984. After overhaul it was registered to Leuenberger Air Service on 8 August 1985, entering service with this company alongside Otters C-FSOX (437) and C-GLCW (172) as well as a Beaver and Cessna 185 on charter work, including fishermen to lodges.
In April 1988 Otter C-FAPR was sold by Leuenberger Air Service to Ignace Airways Ltd., of Ignace, Ontario to whom it was registered on 28 April ’88. It had been acquired by Ignace as a replacement for their Otter C-FNWX (412) which had crashed in October ’87. It still retained the Bearskin Lake colour scheme at this stage, which it would continue to wear for some years. Ignace Airways was associated with Ignace Outposts Ltd., which operated fishing lodges throughout Northwestern Ontario. The Otter was used to service the fishing camps during the summer months, as well as for general charter work. In August 1996 C-FAPR was re-registered to Ignace Airways (1996) Ltd and was repainted into a yellow overall colour scheme with black trim. It continued to support the fishing lodges and for charters.
In summer 2016 Otter APR was still in service with Ignace Airways, having served the carrier without mishap for an impressive 28 years. It flies alongside a Beaver and Cessna 206. That summer, it was one of only fourteen Otters still flying with its original P&W R-1340 piston engine.
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.