DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 406

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၄၆၅၇

4657 in the Aeroflite Hangar at Vancouver - CYVR.

Photo: John Kimberley © March 1990 - Karl E, Hayes Collection
SE-KOX at Vancouver - CYVR, British Columbia.
Photos: John Kimberley © May 1990 - Karl E, Hayes Collection
SE-KOX at Västerås, Sweden.
Photo: Karl E. Hayes © June 2001
C-FHAH ready for Malta adventure.
Photo: John W. Olafson © 10 May 2007
C-FHAJ sets off into the setting sun.
Photo: John W. Olafson © 13 September 2014
C-FHAJ f/n 314, takes a break.
Photo: Lenn Bayliss © 12 August 2017

c/n 406

UB-657 • 4657 • SE-KOX • N406H • C-FHAH • 9H-AFA

C-FHAJ

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• UB-657 Union of Burma Air Force. Delivered 21-Nov-1961.

၄၆၅၇ (4657) Re serialled after change of country name to Myanmar. Date unknown.

Operated with Transport Squadron at Mingaladon AFB.

• Un-regd Trevor Ross, Vancouver, BC. Purchased arriving early Dec-1969.

Note Stored in Aeroflite Industries hangar at the Vancouver International Airport and offered for sale.

• SE-KOX Fallskarmsklubben  Aros (The Aros Parachute Club), based Johannisberg Stockholm, Sweden. Regd 15-May-1990.

Total airframe time: 5,323 hours on delivery.

Incident: Johannisberg, Stockholm. August 1997. One undercarriage leg collapsed on landing.. A bolt holding the shock absorber had split and came off on touchdown, resulting in a buckled fuselage frame and damage to a wing tip and aileron.

Total airframe time: 9,295 hours by June 2001.

• N406H Wipaire Inc., South. St. Paul. MN. Regd 03-Mar-2005. Canx 06-Jan-2006.

• C-FHAH Harbour Air Ltd., Richmond, BC. Based Vancouver, BC. Regd 06-Jan-2006. Canx 18-Jul-2007.

• 9H-AFA Harbour Air (Malta) Ltd. Based Valetta (airport or harbour) on amphibious floats. Regd 18-Jul-2007. It operated a regular service to the small adjacent island of Gozo.

 • C-FHAJ Harbour Air Ltd., Richmond, BC. Based Vancouver, BC. Regd 31-Jul-2012. f/n 314.

Current

Otter 406 was delivered to the Union of Burma Air Force on 21 November 1961 with serial UB657. The Air Force took delivery of nine Otters, three in December 1958 and a further batch of six in 1960/61. All were packed into crates and shipped to Burma, where they were re-assembled and entered service. Burma was subsequently re-named Myanmar. Its Air Force aircraft were re-serialled, adopting Burmese numerals, equivalent  to the old serial with a ‘4’ prefix and deleting the UB. Thus UB657 became 4657, depicted on the side of the aircraft in Burmese numerals. The Burmese Otters were withdrawn from service in 1985 and stored.

In 1989 six of the Burmese Otters were purchased by Mr Trevor Ross of Vancouver, British Columbia. Five were located at Mingaladon Air Base and one at Hmawbi Air Base. All six were shipped to Vancouver where they were stored in the Aeroflite Industries hangar at the International Airport and offered for sale. They had arrived by early December 1989. 

The buyer of 406 was Fallskärmsklubben Aros (The Aros Parachute Club) of Sweden, as a replacement for Turbo Beaver SE-IYC which they had previously used. They arranged for Aeroflite Industries to convert it to a Vazar turbine Otter, the total cost of purchase and conversion being 4.7 million Swedish Crowns. It was painted into white with a thin blue cheatline and the club logo on the tail. It was first noted at Vancouver carrying Swedish marks SE-KOX on 2 May 1990, was officially registered on 15 May 1990 and departed Vancouver on its delivery flight the following day, for a very speedy three day delivery flight (16-18 May 1990) to Sweden. There were three pilots on board, borrowed from Harbour Air.  To increase range, nine fuel drums had been installed in the cabin and connected to the centre tank. An electric pump was used to transfer fuel, with a manual pump as back up. Each drum was good for one hour ten minutes flying time.

The ferry routing was from Vancouver across the Rocky Mountains to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for a night stop and then across northern Manitoba to Flin Flon for another fuel stop. The Otter then took off en route VFR to Churchill but recorded an incident on Cadors, described as : “The Otter was observed on radar in controlled airspace above 12,500 feet without clearance. It climbed above 12,500 feet when 43 miles on the 040 degree radial from Flin Flon. The aircraft was later observed climbing to 17,000 feet without clearance”. Clearly the crew had an oxygen supply on board. From Churchill the Otter proceeded across Hudson Bay to Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island, pressing on across the Davis Strait to Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland. By this stage the crew must have been feeling somewhat tired but they pressed on over the ice-cap and kept going until they reached Reykjavik, Iceland where after 27 hours flying a night stop was called. The delivery was completed the next day, 18 May 1990, in a nine hour flight from Reykjavik to the Otter’s new home base, the airfield at Johannisberg near the town of Vasterås on the north side of Lake Mälaren. Its total airframe time on delivery was 5,323 hours.

SE-KOX remained based at Johannisberg while flying for the parachute club. It visited other airfields around Sweden on ‘parachute boogies’ and usually deployed for a week’s summer camp to Karlsborg or Õland. The club had some 250 members and also flew a Cessna 182 SE-CYL alongside the Otter. All maintenance was carried out by Bromma Air Maintenance at Stockholm’s Bromma Airfield. The only incident with the Otter took place in August 1997 when one undercarriage leg collapsed on landing at Johannisberg. A bolt holding the shock absorber had split and came off on touchdown, resulting in a buckled fuselage frame and damage to a wing tip. After temporary repairs on site the Otter was flown to Bromma and repaired at a cost of 280,000 Swedish crowns. It was back in service in November 1997.

Its total time by June 2001 had risen to 9,295 hours, giving an average utilisation of 360 hours a year. The Otter flew year round but the bulk of the flying took place during the summer. During summer weekends operations were particularly hectic, when the Otter was flying from 9am to 9pm, often achieving 24 jumps a day. The interior had been stripped so that it could carry up to 18 parachutists. The preferred altitude for a jump was 13,000 feet and it took the Otter about 25 minutes circling overhead the airfield to attain this height. After the parachutists jumped out, it took only a few minutes for the Otter to spiral down for its landing.  The Otter acquired Statoil titles when this company became a sponsor of the club.

After nearly 15 years service with the parachute club, SE-KOX was sold to Wipaire Inc., of South St.Paul, Minnesota. They employed a ferry pilot for the delivery flight. The Otter left Stockholm-Bromma on 20 February 2005 and flew that day to Helsinki-Vantaa airport and then to Oslo where it overnighted. The following day it flew from Oslo to Wick in northern Scotland, where it again overnighted, flying on the next day to Akureyri, Iceland where it arrived that evening. It took off from Akureyri at 08:36 hours on 23 February en route to Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland. Onward routing was via Goose Bay and it eventually arrived at St.Paul, Minnesota on 28 February. The Swedish registration was cancelled 3 March 2005 and the next day the Otter was registered N406H to Wipair Inc.  With the departure of the Otter from Sweden, Europe lost its last active Otter at that time.

In May 2005 the Otter was advertised for sale by Wipaire, with an asking price of $725,000. It was advertised as having 10,300 hours on the airframe and could be purchased for $890,000 on Wipline 8000 straight floats or for $980,000 on Wipline 8000 amphibious floats. The Otter was sold to Harbour Air Ltd., of Vancouver and registered C-FHAH to its new owners on 6 January 2006. It was delivered Minneapolis-Calgary (on 2 March)-Golden, BC - Vancouver as C-FHAH. It entered Harbour Air’s hangar at the Vancouver International Airport where it underwent a refurbish and overhaul  and received the panoramic window conversion and was painted into Harbour Air’s colour scheme. It entered service with Harbour Air at the end of March 2006 with fleet number 314. The opportunity arose to place the Otter on a contract in Malta that summer but there was insufficient time to arrange the necessary matters and the deployment to Malta was postponed to the following year. Early in 2007 procedures were undertaken to increase the aircraft’s gross weight to 9,000 pounds for the Malta contract.

Malta is an island in the Mediterranean and for many years there had been a helicopter service connecting Valetta, the capital of Malta, with the outlying island of Gozo, a popular tourist destination. Malta Air Charters had used Mil-8 helicopters leased from Bulgaria, which were suspended in October 2004 and then Helisureste of Spain started in March 2005 with Bell 412s but this ended October 2006.  The helicopters had proved just too expensive and Harbour Air combined with local interests to provide the Otter as a replacement. By May 2007 the Otter was ready to be ferried to Malta, on wheels, the floats and all necessary spares and equipment for the operation being shipped to Malta in a container.

Flown by two Harbour Air pilots (one was Captain Darrel Hanson) C-FHAH departed Vancouver on 14 May 2007, its routing being to Calgary (Springbank)-Flin Flon, Manitoba-Churchill-Iqaluit-Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland-Reykjavik, Iceland-Prestwick, Scotland, where it arrived on 21 May-Duxford-Marseille-Luqa, Malta where it arrived on 24 May. On 14 June it entered the Medavia maintenance facility and on 24 June was put on its amphibious floats there. It then undertook the necessary local test flying for the operation to achieve Maltese certification. The Canadian registration was cancelled on 18 July 2007 and the Otter registered 9H-AFA to Harbour Air (Malta) Ltd.

The scheduled service commenced on 23 July 2007 and for the summer season involved five daily flights connecting the Valetta Sea Passenger Terminal in Malta with Mgarr Harbour, Gozo where the Otter arrived at Pontoon F. Flight time was 20 minutes and the new service proved much cheaper and more comfortable than the previous helicopter operation. As well as the scheduled services, scenic tours were flown, also proving popular. A newspaper article published in September 2007 gave some more information:

“After years of dawdling business for the chugging Russian helicopters and a failed Spanish attempt, a Canadian-Maltese venture is filling the great demand for a fixed-wing service to the sister island. Harbour Air Malta, operated by Winston Azzopardi and Alfie Manduca and backed by its Canadian parent, has brought together wings, speed and fun for the ultimate trip to Gozo. The view is superb. As you leave the Grand Harbour the seaplane lifts off gently over St.Angelo and right there beneath you are the Three Cities and the heritage of the Knights of the Order of St Johns in one compact view. Its picture-perfect coastline all along. There is a glimpse of the Sliema promenade and the cluster of hotels that appropriate the St.George’s peninsula and the Pembroke garigue. Once clear of Maghtab the seaplane flies by St.Paul’s Bay, Mistra, I-Ahrax, tal-Mellieha and then right over Comino before arriving at the Mgarr harbour. The 14 passenger Otter itself inspires more confidence than the helicopter journey. At present (winter schedule) the Otter does three trip to Gozo a day and three scenic trips”.

The Otter continued flying for Harbour Air Malta in the years that followed. For summer 2009 it was joined by DHC-6 Twin Otter SX-GIK, on lease from its owners. The Twin Otter was ferried from Altenrhein, Switzerland via Olbia to Malta on 20 April 2009 and flew for Harbour Air Malta on amphibious floats as 9H-AFY. However this only lasted until December 2009 when the Twin Otter left for the Maldives. Otter 9H-AFA was again Harbour Air Malta’s only aircraft. In January 2011 a new colour scheme was adopted for the Otter. The fuselage was now all white with large Harbour Air titles. HA was on the tail, as before, and there was a green/blue logo on the fuselage.

By April 2012 the Otter had been flying in Malta for nearly five years but sadly the operation came to an end at the end of April 2012. The Maltese interests decided to suspend operations pending a re-structuring of the company. It appears that they intended to proceed from then on without the involvement of Harbour Air and with new equipment. The company’s website advised that flight operations had been suspended until further notice and the Otter remained parked at Malta. It was clear that relations had broken down between Harbour Air (Canada) and the Maltese interests. Registration 9H-AFA was cancelled on 4 May 2012 and the Otter dis-assembled, packed into two containers and was soon on its way back to Vancouver by ship. That was to be the end of the Malta-Gozo airlink.

The Otter had arrived back in Vancouver by mid June 2012 and was registered C-FHAJ to Harbour Air Ltd., Vancouver on 31 July 2012. It was overhauled and its paint scheme was now white fuselage, blue tail with yellow HA on the tail and Harbour Air fuselage titles. It retained fleet number 314, the same number it had prior to leaving for Malta. By early November 2012 it was again flying for Harbour Air, based at Vancouver Harbour. Over the years that followed a number of incidents were recorded on CADORS:

2 July 2013.    The Otter suffered a bird strike on departure from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour.  It landed safely.

21 August 2014.  HAJ was en route Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour. The pilot contacted the FSS for an advisory prior to taxying and was asked to stand by, as the specialist was engaged with another aircraft. When the specialist returned to the Otter he received no reply. The Otter continued to taxi to Area A with no response. Another company aircraft attempted to call the Otter with no response on the company frequency. The company then contacted the pilot by phone at which point the pilot responded to the FSS and indicated he had had a radio problem.

13 June 2016.  Carson Air SA227 Metroliner C-FAFR was on flight CA8081 from Kelowna to Vancouver, on final approach to runway 08 Right at Vancouver.  The Tower had to move Otter C-FHAJ (Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour) and Beaver C-FJOS (Vancouver Harbour to Ganges), which were at 900 feet on published routes crossing underneath the Metroliner.

20 April 2017.    Air Canada Jazz Dash 8 C-GVTA on flight JZA8264 from Nanaimo to Vancouver, responded to a traffic alert and TCAS resolution advisory when passing two miles behind  Otter C-FHAJ from Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour VFR at 3,500 feet. The Dash 8 descended from 3,000 feet to 2,700 feet and passed the Otter.

7 September 2017.  Otter HAJ from Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour. Reported a drone in the vicinity on departure from Victoria Harbour.

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.