DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 338

N424KT at Vernon, British Columbia.
Photo: John W. Olafson © 13 August 2008
N424KT flightseeing from Talkeetna, Alaska.
Photo: Ruud Leeuw © 17 June 2012

c/n 338

58-1719 • C-GLES • N338D

N424KT

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• 58-1719 United States Army. Delivered 28-Jul-1959. Designated as U-1A .

Delivered to Fort Rucker, AL., to the Army Aviation Board, and carried TATSA titles (Transportation Aircraft Test & Support Activity).

Jan-1962. Fort Benning, GA. Unit unknown.

Jul-1963. Returned to Fort Rucker as a test support aircraft, presumably to the Army Aviation Board.

Feb-1966 To Vietnam, joining the 54th Aviation Company.

August 1966. Arrived in the US at the Army Aeronautical Depot Maintenance Centre (ARADMAC) Depot, Corpus Christi, TX., into “serviceable storage”.

May 1969. Army Security Agency, Test & Evaluation Centre, Fort Huachuca, AZ., but based at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, NJ. (See note below).

Feb-1974. Assigned to an unknown unit in Alaska.

Incident: Watson Lake, YT. Feb-1974. On the ferry flight to Alaska suffered an engine failure.

Note: Following the above noted incident it was decided to advertise the aircraft for sale.

Notes preceeded by a date are extracts from Canadian Department of Transport archives.

07-Feb-1975 allotment C-GLES DHC-3 msn 338 to Air-Craftsmen Ltd., Rothesay, NB.

07-Feb-1975 Flight Permit & Temporary Certificate of Registration to ferry Watson Lake, YT., to Saint John, NB., and for Certificate of Airworthiness test flights.

Note Ferry permit subsequently cancelled following sale to Northern Thunderbird and changed to Watson Lake to Prince George.

• C-GLES Air-Craftsmen Ltd., Rothesay, NB. Temp regd 07-Feb-1975.

06-May-1975 Certificate of Airworthiness issued.

07-May-1975 Application for Certificate of Registration by Northern Thunderbird Air Ltd., Prince George, BC.

07-May-1975 Flight Permit & Temporary Certificate of Registration to ferry Edmonton, AB., to Prince George, BC., valid to 07-Jun-1975.

08-May-1975 Certificate of Registration issued to Northern Thunderbird Air Ltd., Prince George, BC.

• C-GLES Northern Thunderbird Air Ltd., Prince George, BC. Regd 20-Oct-1984. Bill of Sale; Northern Thunderbird Air Ltd., to St Cloud Aviation Inc., $CDN110,000 with floats and skis. Total time 11.357.hrs.

Total time since new as recorded in Canadian Department of Transport archives.

06-May-1975 - 5,823 hours

05-May-1976 - 6,626 hours

07-Apr-1977 - 7,411 hours

12-Apr-1978 - 7,962 hours

29-Apr-1979 - 8,557 hours

09-Apr-1980 - 9,268 hours

04-Apr-1981 - 10,051 hours

26-May-1982 - 10,607 hours

26-May-1983 - 11,084 hours

06-Jun-1984 - 11,301 hours

• C-GLES Cancelled from Canadian Civil Aircraft Register 07-Nov-1984.

• N338D St Cloud Aviation Inc., St.Cloud, MN. Regd 07-Nov-1984.

Airworthiness date: 29-Nov-1984.

• N338D Wayne C. Alsworth, Port Alsworth, AK. Regd Jan-1985

• Power-plant. Re-engined with a Wright Cyclone R-1820 engine, rated  at 1,200 horse power,. This work together with additional work was undertaken at Merrill Field, Anchorage during the early part of 1987.

Power plant. Converted back to its original R-1340 powerplant. The story of this aspect of the aircraft’s history can be read below.

• N338D Leased to Sound Adventures Air Service Inc., Lake Hood, Anchorange, AK. 1988 to 1990.

• N338D Returned from lease to Wayne Alsworth, Port Alsworth, AK  Regd late 1990.

• N338D Dan Michel, Sterling, AK. dba All West Freight Inc. Regd early 1991.

Accident. Sterling, AK. Early 1992, Aircraft crashed at Sterling, details unknown. The wreck was dumped in the All West Freight hangar.

• N338D Mike Spisak, Kotzebue, AK. Regd circa Aug-2005.

• N338D Northern Aircraft Leasing LLC., of Cheyenne, WY. Regd 08 Aug 2005.

Note; Aircraft was rebuilt over the winter of 2005 / 2006, retaining the R-1340 engine.

• N338D Mavrik Aire, Soldotna, AK. Date unknown.

Incident; Approx six miles northeast of the Kenai Municipal Airport. 22- Aug-2006. The aircraft suffered engine failure, and force landed on swampy terrain. It was to remain there for some time. See the story below.

• N424KT Rustair Inc., Anchorage, AK. Regd 07-Jan-2008.

Current

Otter 338 was delivered to the United States Army on 28 July 1959 with serial 58-1719 (tail number 81719). It was delivered from Downsview to Fort Rucker, Alabama together with Otter 81718 on the same day, and joined the Army Aviation Board. It carried TATSA titles, standing for Transportation Aircraft Test & Support Activity.   By January 1962 81719 was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia but in July 1963 it returned to Fort Rucker, again flying for the Army Aviation Board as a test aircraft. It continued in use at Fort Rucker until February 1966 when it was sent to Vietnam, joining the 54th Aviation Company.

81719 returned to the United States in August 1966, arriving at the ARADMAC Depot, Corpus Christi, Texas where it went into serviceable storage. In May 1969 it was issued to the Army Security Agency, Test and Evaluation Centre, Fort Huachuca, Arizona for use on an “Intelligence and Classified Project”. The aircraft in fact went to Lakehurst NAS, New Jersey where it was modified under a project named “Sore Thumb”. This was the first attempt at a 360 degree VHF Direction Finder using a “spinning Adcock array”. The modification involved a large antenna under the fuselage. The Project was however unsuccessful and never progressed beyond the research stage. The Otter was restored to its original configuration and served at Fort Huachuca as a test support aircraft.

This use continued until February 1974, at which stage the Otter was assigned to Alaska. On the ferry flight north, it suffered engine failure at Watson Lake in the Yukon and required an engine change. Rather than incur this expense, the Army decided to sell the aircraft and advertised it for sale “as, where is” (that is, in Watson Lake and needing a new engine!). At that stage of its career the aircraft had 5,823 hours on the airframe. It was in the Army olive drab colours.

The buyer of 81719 was Air Craftsmen Ltd., of St.John, New Brunswick, a company which traded in Otters and specialised in purchasing former military aircraft and refurbishing them. They sent a mechanic to Watson Lake to work on the Otter, change the engine and get it fit for flight. On 7 February 1975 registration C-GLES was provisionally allocated to Air Craftsmen Ltd and painted on the Otter in yellow paint. A ferry permit issued that day for a flight from Watson Lake to St.John. That was later changed however when the Otter was sold to Northern Thunderbird Air Ltd., of Prince George, BC. On 7 May 1975 a ferry permit was issued for a flight from Watson Lake to Prince George and C-GLES was registered to Northern Thunderbird Air Ltd., on 8 May 1975. The Otter then went to Edmonton for overhaul and then to Vancouver, where it was painted in Northern Thunderbird Air colour scheme by West Coast Air. It then returned to Prince George and entered service with Northern Thunderbird Air, replacing Otter CF-GCV (2) which had crashed in October 1974. It served the bush country of northern BC.

C-GLES remained in service with Northern Thunderbird Air from 1975 until sold to St.Cloud Aviation Inc., of St.Cloud, Minnesota by Bill of Sale dated 20 October 1984 for $110,000.  The Canadian registration was cancelled on 7 November 1984 and on 29 November the Otter was registered to its new owners as N338D.  It then had 11,357 hours on the airframe. The Otter was sold on almost immediately to Wayne C. Alsworth of Port Alsworth, Alaska to whom it was registered in January 1985. He operated a general cargo and aircraft salvage, known as “Otter Air Cargo” and also as “Wayne’s Aircraft Salvage”, based at Port Alsworth. His business frequently involved landing the Otter in remote bush locations with heavy loads, and he was concerned with the lack of adequate power for this work from the P&W R-1340 600 horse power engine. Having flown N338D during 1985 and 1986 in Northern Thunderbird colours with Wayne’s Aircraft Salvage titles, he decided to re-engine the Otter with a Wright Cyclone R-1820 engine, rated at 1,200 horse power, the engine which powers the Douglas DC-3.  While N338D was out of action for this conversion, he acquired Otter N8510T (307) to continue his business.

The work on N338D was undertaken at Merrill Field, Anchorage during the winter of 1986 / 1987. All the design, planning and actual conversion works were undertaken by Mr Alsworth himself. The engine mount was custom built. The cowling came from a Lockheed Lodestar. The cowl flaps came from a DC-3 and were modified to fit the installation. The propeller came from a Grumman Albatross. The Otter’s trademark exhaust augmenter system was completely revamped and there was a huge single exhaust port on the right side. The propeller spinner came from an aviation surplus house. There were some control modifications in the cockpit but perhaps most significant was the change in weight and balance. The new engine was 400 pounds heavier than the old one, requiring the engine to be recessed closer to the firewall and the battery box to be relocated in the tail, to preserve the balance. There was no hydraulic accessory pump, so the flaps and skis would have to be hand pumped.

Mr Alsworth was aiming for experimental status first and after he had flown several hundred hours he would review matters and decide whether to go for full certification. Exactly how far he got with all this is not known, but perhaps not surprisingly his ambitious but somewhat makeshift conversion was not certificated by the authorities and the Otter was converted back to its original R-1340 engine. Together with a partner, James O’Meara, Mr Alsworth founded a company called Sound Adventures Air Service Inc, based at Lake Hood adjacent to the Anchorage International Airport, which flew a number of Otters as well as other aircraft, for air taxi and charter work. For summer 1987 N338D was one of four Otters flown by Sound Adventures on lease, the others being N90627 (106), N8510T (307) and N666SA (408).   N338D continued to fly for Sound Adventures for the summers of 1988 and 1989, being in storage over the winter months.

At the end of the summer 1989 season N338D was returned off lease to Wayne Alsworth, who then sold it to Dan Michel of Sterling, Alaska for operation by his company, All West Freight, which already had Otter N26DE (26). On a date unknown in 1991, N338D was damaged in a forced landing due to engine failure at Sterling and the damaged aircraft was stored in a hangar there. Also during 1991 Otter N26DE was taken out of service for an attempted turbine conversion, which was not successful, so Mr Michel had two grounded Otters at his Sterling base. Dan’s brother Bill was also involved with All West Freight and in January 1992 he acquired the GAFHAWK prototype N101GH as a replacement for the Otters. It was flown to Sterling in July 1992 but saw limited use over the next few years, before being grounded.

Having lain at Sterling for some years, in August 2005 Otter N338D was sold by All West Freight to a Mike Spisack of Kotzebue, Alaska who also bought N26DE at the same time. Both Otters were carried off in trucks.  N338D was registered to Mr Spisack’s company, Northern Aircraft Leasing LLC ., of Cheyenne, Wyoming on 8 August 2005. Both Otters were taken the short distance from Sterling to the airfield at Kenai, Alaska where N338D was rebuilt over the winter of 2005 / 2006 and then leased to Mavrik Aire of Soldotna, Alaska who also flew Otter N103SY (296).   N338D continued in service with Mavrik Aire until an incident on 22 August 2006, when it suffered engine failure six miles northeast of the Kenai Municipal Airport and force landed in swampy terrain. It was to remain there for some time.

Photo: M. Scott Moon © 08 September 2006 - Peninsula Chronicle

As the local newspaper, the Peninsula Clarion, reported on 8 September 2006: “A single engine Otter that emergency landed on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge wetlands more than two weeks ago remains waiting among the moose and the birds while its owners and refuge officials puzzle how to remove it. Because of its size and the terrain it is stuck in, the plane could continue to wait until the snow comes, said a park ranger. It could be out there for a while because basically it is just sitting there out in the swamp”. The newspaper report said that the aircraft’s owners had to obtain a salvage and removal permit to ensure that it would be removed safely and with as little environmental damage as possible. “So here they are with this plane that is intact and not very damaged out there where they don’t want it. It’s a tough situation to be in”, the park ranger added. A photograph showed N338D in an attractive blue and white colour scheme with no titles, sitting apparently undamaged on its floats on the soggy vegetation.

The Otter was much needed to assist with Mavrik Aire’s charters flying hunters to the Kotzebue area during the fall of 2006 but unfortunately could not be liberated from the swamp. A mechanic was sent in to replace the blown cylinder in the engine, which had caused the forced landing. An attempt was then made to fly the Otter out of the swamp after a period of heavy rain, but without success. Three months after the forced landing N338D was still stuck in the swamp, having been further damaged by high winds. The saga came to an end in mid December 2006 when the Otter was dis-assembled and flown out by helicopter. Bell 204 N70NW of Northern Pioneer Helicopters was used. On 11 December the engine was airlifted, followed by the Otter itself the next day, and taken to the Kenai Airport for rebuild.

N338D remained at the Kenai Airport during 2007 and was noted there in June 2007 without engine. It was advertised for sale that month as having 12,000 hours on the airframe and having had its last annual check in August 2005. The asking price was US$550,000 with an additional $25,000 for a spare engine. Also noted in June 2007 at Kenai under rebuild alongside N338D were Otters N26DE (26) and C-FQOS (398).   N338D was sold in December 2007 to Rustair Inc., of Anchorage for $575,000 and registered to its new owner on 7 January 2008. Rustair Inc., is the parent company of Rusts Flying Service of Anchorage, a long-established operation, and also of K2 Aviation, a new division which was set up to provide glacier and sightseeing flights out of Talkeetna, Alaska to Mount McKinley and the Denali National Park.

N338D left Alaska by ship in a container to Seattle, where it was put on a truck and driven to Vernon, BC where it arrived at the Kal Air facility mid February 2008. It was re-registered to Rustair Inc, Anchorage on 11 February 2008 as N424KT. Work started by Kal Air on a rebuild and refurbish and conversion to a Vazar turbine with PT-6A engine. The aircraft was repainted into Rusts red and white colour scheme, with K2 Aviation on the tail. N424KT was delivered out of Vernon on 14 August 2008, en route to Anchorage and entered service with Rusts / K2 Aviation as part of its fleet of turbine Otters. During the summer months the Otter is based at Talkeetna for the glacier/sightseeing flights.

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.

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