DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 394

9416 on static display.
Photo:Unknown photographer ® July 1973 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
9416 arrives back at Downsview - CYZD, Ontario.
Photo: B. McN © 18 September 1980 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
N3125N at Tok - TKJ, Alaska.
Photo: John Kimberley © July 1990 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
N3125N with Alaska Air Taxi, at Lake Hood, Anchorage, Alaska.
Photos: Neil Aird © 06 September 2004
Photo: Neil Aird © 08 September 2004
N3125N in her current configuration with Alaska Air Taxi.
Photo: Ben Cogger © 24 May 2016
N3125N now with KATMAI.
Photo: Ben Cogger © 20 June 2018

c/n 394

9416 • N3125N • C-FAXD

N3125N

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• 9416 Royal Canadian Air Force. Delivered 26-Oct-1960. Designated CSR-123.

Initially allocated to 402 Squadron, Winnipeg, MB.

Jan-1961. Transferred to 406 Squadron, Saskatoon, SK.

Mar-1964. Returned to 402 Squadron, Winnipeg, MB.

Nov-1975. Transferred to CFB Downsview, ON., for use by 400 and 411 Squadrons.

17-Feb-1981. Into storage at the Mountain View, ON., depot.

Feb-1982 Crown Assets Disposal Corporation, sold at auction.

Total time: 7,592 hrs.

• N3125N Newcal Aviation Inc., Little Ferry, NJ. Regd Jun-1982.

Note Into open storage at Decatur, TX., for several years before being sold.

• N3125N Purchased by 40 Mile Air Ltd., Tok, AK. Date unknown.

• C-FAXD Victoria Air Maintenance Ltd., Victoria, BC. Regd 18-Jan-1988. For overhaul and certification purposes. Canx 24-Feb-1988.

Airworthiness date: 03-Feb-1988.

• N3125N 40 Mile Air Ltd., Tok, AK. May-1988.

Accident: Eagle, Alaska. 01-Jun-1988.  The heavily loaded aircraft, landing in a crosswind, ran down an embankment on the gravel strip. It was further damaged when the  helicopter lifting it out dropped it. Dismantled and transported by train and truck back to Victoria Air Maintenance at Victoria during which further damage was incurred.

Power plant: Rebuilt and re-engined with a Polish PZL 1,000 horse power engine

Accident: Remote airstrip 13ml NE of Healy, AK. 27-Apr- 1999, On a very narrow strip the aircraft veered off line and the leading edge of the left wing struck a tree, damaging the wing.

• N3125N Alaska Air Taxi LLC., Anchorage, AK. Regd 03-Dec-2003.

Mods include:  BARON / STOL kit installed; gross weight upgrade to 9,000lb.

Total time: 14,166 hrs at Nov-2004.

Power-plant. Vazar Garrett TPE331 turbine. 18-Nov-2008.

Accident: Wainright, AK. 02-Sep-2006. While flying freight out of Barrow the Otter was landing at Wainright Village when it ran off the runway, knocked down a light, rolled down an embankment and went into a ditch. Seriously damaged. Further detail below.

• N3125N Katmai Air Leasing LLC., Anchorage, AK. Regd 05-Jun-2008.

Incident: Near Homer, AK. 30-May-2014.The aircraft, en route from Seldovia to Anchorage, experienced an anomalous in-flight vibration and un-commanded nose-down pitch during cruise flight. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the right elevator. According to the pilot, during cruise flight, the airplane vibrated and subsequently pitched nose-down. The pilot applied corrections and continued the flight to the destination. After landing, the pilot and a mechanic examined the airplane and found that the skin on the right elevator servo tab was separated from the hinge, and spar structures inside the right elevator were cracked.

Incident: Location unknown. 04-Jun-2015. During cruise flight, while applying back pressure to the control yoke, a vibration was felt. The pilot immediately reduced power and executed a precautionary landing. After landing it was found that exactly the same structural damage had occurred as mentioned in the incident above.

Current

Otter 394 was delivered to the RCAF on 26th October 1960 with serial 9416. It was allocated to 402 Squadron, Winnipeg and for the first few years of its RCAF service its career would parallel that of 9415 (393). Both Otters were transferred to 406 Squadron, Saskatoon in January 1961 and  both went back to 402 Squadron, Winnipeg in March 1964. 9416 continued to fly for 402 Squadron until November 1975, when it was transferred to Downsview, for use by 400 and 411 Squadrons. It continued to fly from Downsview until 17th February 1981 when it went into storage at the Mountain View depot. It was disposed of through the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation, one of a number of Otters sold at auction in February 1982, advertised as having a total airframe time of 7,592 hours. It was one of seven Otters purchased by Newcal Aviation Inc of Little Ferry, New Jersey, to whom  it was registered N3125N in June 1982. These Otters were ferried from Mountain View to an airstrip at Decatur, Texas where they were put into open storage. It appears that the market for Otters was poor at that time, as these Otters were to spend several years in store at Decatur before being sold on.

The purchaser of Otter 394 was 40 Mile Air Ltd., of Tok, Alaska. They arranged for the Otter to be overhauled and prepared for service for them by Victoria Air Maintenance Ltd., of Victoria, BC. The Otter was ferried from Decatur to Victoria and in January 1988 was registered C-FAXD to Victoria Air Maintenance. This was necessary, as the company could only certify a Canadian registered aircraft. When the work was completed, the Otter reverted to N3125N and was registered in May 1988 to 40 Mile Air and was delivered to its new base at Tok, Alaska. It was in service only a few weeks when it crashed at Eagle, Alaska on 1st June 1988. The pilot was attempting to land the heavily loaded Otter on the gravel strip at Eagle. Upon touchdown, the airplane veered slightly to the right. The pilot unlocked the tail wheel centering device and attempted to correct to the left, into the prevailing crosswind. The Otter continued to the left, however, out of control and went down a steep embankment before coming to a stop.

N3125N was lifted from the crash scene by helicopter but was dropped in the process, sustaining further damage. It was dismantled and transported by train and truck back to Victoria Air Maintenance at Victoria. The wings were further damaged en route as they were rubbing together, having been badly packed. As a result the Otter needed a complete re-build at Victoria. While this work was going on, the Otter was re-engined with a Polish PZL 1,000 horse power engine. Airtech Canada sent their technicians to do this work at Victoria. When the work was completed, N3125N re-entered service with 40 Mile Air. It met with another accident on 27th April 1999, landing on a remote airstrip thirteen miles northeast of Healy, Alaska. The Otter was flying from Fairbanks, transporting building supplies and workers to the area. It was landing at Daniels Strip, 1,500 feet long but only ten feet wide. It was a 'one way' airstrip, with landings performed towards the west. The airstrip was flat for half its length and then proceeded uphill. According to the pilot, on the third landing of the day, at about 13:15 hours, he touched down on the main landing gear. Before the tail wheel touched down, a gust of wind pushed the aircraft off the left side of the strip. The leading edge of the left wing struck a tree, damaging the wing. The damage was repaired and N3125N was restored to service.

While flying for 40 Mile Air, the Otter was usually based at Tok, supporting mineral exploration camps in the bush, and flying hunters during the summer. It also spent much of its time based at Prudhoe Bay, and at a nearby camp called Kavik. The work out of here was supporting 'cat trains' and exploration camps, continuing the work which had been performed by other 40 Mile Air Otters, for example N1037G (77). Other Otters operated by 40 Mile Air were N5056Q (296) and N2899J (425). Eventually the users in Prudhoe Bay insisted that they wanted turbine equipment, so Otter N3125N could no longer be used. The loss of the Prudhoe Bay contract meant that 40 Mile Air's Otter operation was no longer viable, as the work out of Tok was insufficient to support the Otter. Reluctantly, a decision was taken to sell the aircraft, bringing to an end over twenty years of DHC-3 operations by 40 Mile Air. N3125N was sold in October 2003 and flown to Anchorage for overhaul. It was registered to its new owners, Alaska Air Taxi LLC, on 3rd December 2003. It had  a BARON / STOL kit installed and a gross weight upgrade to nine thousand pounds, and  entered service based out of Anchorage. In November 2004 the Otter was advertised for sale by Alaska Air Taxi, with an asking price of $780,000. At that stage of its career, it had 14,166 hours on the airframe.

The PZL-powered Otter continued in service with Alaska Air Taxi during 2005 and 2006, based at Anchorage on wheels. It was involved in an accident on 2 September 2006 when it was deployed to the north of Alaska, flying freight out of Barrow to outlying communities. The Otter was landing on runway 23 at Wainright Village when it ran off the runway, knocked down a light, rolled down an embankment and went into a ditch. The flight was arriving at Wainright from the Wiley Post / Will Rogers Memorial Airport at Barrow. In the crash, the left main landing gear assembly was fractured and displaced aft against the fuselage. The left aileron was damaged, the fuselage firewall was buckled and the fuselage suffered some structural damage. The propeller, engine and left wingtip struck the ground. On 20th September 2006, after delays in getting recovery equipment to Wainright, the Otter was recovered and disassembled for removal to Anchorage for repair. Lynden Air Cargo Hercules N406LC was used to retrieve the Otter. Having finished its scheduled freight run to Kotzebue on Saturday 23 September, it then flew to Wainright to collect the Otter and flew it back to Anchorage.

The Otter was under rebuild in the Alaska Air Taxi hangar at Anchorage throughout 2007, with repairs finally completed on 19 March 2008. By Bill of Sale dated 18 April 2008 Alaska Air Taxi LLC., sold the Otter to Katmai Air Leasing LLC., and it was registered that day to its new owner still as N3125N. This was part of a larger deal to have the Otter converted to a turbine, after which it would be leased back to Alaska Air Taxi for continued operation by them. The fuselage of the Otter was put into a crate at Anchorage and taken to Vernon, BC in early May 2008, with the wings following separately. Over the months that followed, the Otter received a new interior by Kal Air in Vernon and was converted to Texas Turbine Otter configuration, the 36th such conversion. It was however the first such conversion to use the -12 series Garret TPE-331 engine. The work was certified complete on 18 November 2008, with N3125N making its test flight at Vernon on 22 November.

All of the Texas Turbine Otter conversions carried out by Kal Air at Vernon were test flown by Bobby Bishop, the engineer responsible for the STC, who would travel for that purpose from his home base in Texas when he was notified an Otter was ready. Our Vernon correspondent describes the test flight of N3125N, typical of all such test flights: “He dons his parachute and takes the Otter for at least a half hour flight, putting it through a series of performance tests. He stays close to the airport but takes it up to 11,000 feet. I commented to him how I enjoyed the long stream of smoke coming out from it at one time and how it looked like an airshow performance but he said it was a test to see how the engine re-started after it was shut down. First he shut off the fuel, then the engine. Then he turned on the fuel and the engine re-start came to life automatically. The ‘smoke trail’ was actually raw fuel coming from the exhaust. He did that twice. I could hear the silence as the engine shut down and both times felt very relieved to hear the engine again. He made a very low, high speed pass to beat up the field, then a circuit and a landing”.

The following day, 23 November 2008, N3125N left Vernon, heading north on its delivery flight back to Anchorage. It re-joined the fleet of Alaska Air Taxi, on lease from Katmai Air Leasing. In December 2009 the Otter was advertised for sale or lease by Katmai Air Leasing, with less than 300 hours on the airframe/engine since its turbine conversion. It did not sell however and continued in operation by Alaska Air Taxi in the years that followed. There were a number of minor incidents:

16 March 2011.  Veered off the runway landing at Anchorage, the propeller striking the ground.

30 May 2014.  En route Seldovia to Anchorage, pilot and two passengers. In the vicinity of Homer, the Otter experienced in-flight vibration and un-commanded nose down pitch during the cruise. It continued to Anchorage and landed normally. Examination showed that skin on the right elevator servo tab was separated from the hinge and the spar structure inside the right elevator was cracked. The damage was repaired.

4 June 2015.  En route from Anchorage to an off-airport strip near Big River, Alaska. In the vicinity of Skwentna, the flight experienced an anomalous in-flight vibration. The pilot reduced power and made a precautionary landing. Examination after landing showed that the skin on the right elevator servo tab was fractured. Repaired and returned to service.

N3125N continues in operation with Alaska Air Taxi.

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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