Otter 409 was delivered to the RCAF on 30th December 1960 with serial 9426. It was allocated to 6 Repair Depot at Dunnville, Ontario where it was placed into storage as a reserve aircraft. It was assigned to 400 Squadron, Downsview in June 1961. It suffered a 'B' category accident while on a training detail on 2nd December 1961. During the final approach of a simulated forced landing, the airspeed was maintained at 58 knots, which was 7 knots less than recommended. The aircraft then rounded out high, a high sink rate ensued and the Otter landed heavily on the port wheel, damaging the landing gear and fuselage. The Otter was still flyable and was flown to the DHC factory at Downsview on 18th December 1961 for repair.
On completion of the repairs, on 11th May 1962 it was flown to Dunnville and again put into storage with 6 Repair Depot. Only a few weeks later, however, it was taken out of storage and on 13th June 1962 set off for Sea Island, Vancouver, having been assigned to 443 Squadron, as a replacement for their amphibious Otter 9409 (375), which had been damaged in an accident on 28th May '1962. 9426 flew with 443 Squadron that summer on wheels, its crews being most impressed with its sprightly performance compared with the amphibious Otters the squadron operated. 9406 was deployed to Comox for the squadron's summer camp in July. It continued to fly for 443 Squadron until 9409 returned after repairs in Calgary on 6th September 1962. Four days later, 9426 headed east across the country to its next assignment, back with 400 Squadron at Calgary.
In September 1965, 9426 was withdrawn from the squadron and allocated as a spare aircraft for service with 117 Air Transport Unit (ATU) in Pakistan, if required. It was flown to Trenton, where withtwo other Otters also allocated as spares (9404 and 9415) it was painted all white and stored in a hangar, ready for immediate dispatch to 117 ATU. In the event, none of the spares were required, and during January/February 1966, 9426 was painted back into RCAF colours by 12 TSU (Technical Support Unit) at DHC Downsview, and it was then allocated to St.Hubert, near Montréal for use by 401 and 438 Squadrons.
9426 served at St. Hubert for many years without incident until it 'came a cropper' on 7th January 1978 when it sank through the ice after landing on Brooker Lake, Québec. It was on wheel-skis at the time and became totally submerged, apart from the tail. Brooker Lake was in the eastern townships area of Québec. A Canadian Armed Forces Chinook helicopter was used to sling the Otter out of the lake and return it to St. Hubert. Casey Kusek describes the scene: “It was in the afternoon, with an overcast sky. A Kiowa helicopter was used as a lead aircraft. You can see the Kiowa approach from the east, just below the cloud cover, and then you can hear the distinctive sound of the Chinook from afar. The Kiowa landed on the ramp but you still cannot see the Chinook, though it was very near. Then out of the heavy overcast you see only the Otter, flying as it seems just below the cloud cover, with many mattresses strapped on top of her wings (to dampen lift). The Chinook put her down nice and easy, then moved slightly to the left and dropped the chord line as quickly as possible, to avoid the rotor wash on the Otter. 9426 was then towed to Hangar 10. She thawed for a few days and after the investigation was dismantled, placed on a flatbed and trucked to the depot for repair”.
Following repair, the Otter returned to St. Hubert and continued to fly for 401/438 Squadrons until 11th August 1981 when it went to the Mountain View depot and was placed in storage. It was put up for disposal through the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation, and was one of a number of Otters sold at auction in February 1982, advertised as having 7,241 hours on the airframe. It was one of seven Otters purchased by Newcal Aviation Inc., of Little Ferry, New Jersey to whom it was registered N3125U 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 the time, as these Otters were to spend several years in store at Decatur before being sold on.
At Decatur, the Otters were tied down, but they were in open storage and subject to the elements. N3125U was in fact blown over and badly damaged in a wind storm. By November 1985 it was noted at Plano Air Park, Texas with the wings and tail detached, and showing signs of bad damage to the upper fuselage, where it had been blown over. Whereas the other Otters in store in Texas were ultimately sold on, N3125U was trucked to Newcal Aviation's warehouse at Little Ferry, New Jersey where it was put into store there. It was to remain there for many years, and in 1994 was joined by four former Ethiopian Army Otters (numbers 132, 347, 349 and 350), which Newcal had purchased. In August 1995, all five of these Otters were registered to Pen Turbo Aviation Inc of Rio Grande, New Jersey, a Newcal company which was formed to develop and market a turbine version of the DHC-4 Caribou. The following year, all five of these Otters were sold to Mr Randy D'Aoust / Quality Aircraft Sales Ltd., and were trucked to his facility at St. Albert near Edmonton, Alberta. N3125U was registered to Quality Aircraft Sales Ltd., in September 1996 as C-FLDD.
The Otter's next journey was again an overland one, when it was sold and was trucked from St. Albert, Edmonton to Vancouver where it was converted to a Vazar turbine Otter by Aeroflite Industries for its new owners, Pantechnicon Aviation Ltd., of Minden, Nevada, a leasing company. The Otter was registered to Pantechnicon Aviation in December 1998 as N409PA and went on lease to Pro Mech Air of Ketchikan, Alaska. It was one of three Otters leased by Pro Mech Air from Pantechnicon Aviation, the others being N270PA (270) and N959PA (159). The Otters are used on Pro Mech's scheduled and chartered services from Ketchikan. It continued in service with Pro Mech Air until an accident on 19th August 2002.
To quote from the accident report: “At about 07:45 hours Alaska daylight time, a float-equipped DHC-2 Beaver N64393 and a float-equipped DHC-3 turbine Otter N409PA collided in mid air. The collision occurred about 12 miles north of Ketchikan. Both airplanes were operated by Pro Mech Inc. The pilot and four passengers aboard the Beaver were not injured. The pilot of the Otter and the ten passengers aboard were not injured. Both aircraft were being operated under 14 CFR Part 135 as on-demand air taxi flights in visual meteorological conditions. Both airplanes departed the Ketchikan Harbor Seaplane Base about 07:30 en route to Neets Bay. Both airplanes were carrying cruise ship passengers en route to a bear viewing area located within Neets Bay.”
“The pilot of the Beaver stated his airplane was the first of three company airplanes to depart from Ketchikan SPB en route to Neets Bay. He said that once he was airborne and clear of the Class E airspace to the north, he changed radio frequencies to monitor a common traffic advisory frequency on 122.9. He added that the second company airplane, the turbine Otter, departed about three minutes after his departure. The pilot reported that as the flight progressed northbound, about 15 minutes after departure, while in level, cruise flight, about 2,000 feet above the water of Behm Channel, he felt a sudden thump, followed by a pronounced airframe shudder. He said that he originally thought this was just the airplane flying through turbulence, but immediately observed the top of the left wing of the turbine Otter to his left side, just under the floats of his airplane. He said that just after the two airplanes collided, the turbine Otter made a left descending turn away from his airplane. The pilot said that after determining that he still had full flight control, he elected to return to Ketchikan. He tried to contact the pilot of the Otter but did not receive a response. A post-accident inspection of the Beaver disclosed minor damage to the underside of both floats.
The pilot of the turbine Otter said that his airplane was the second of three airplanes en route to Neets Bay. After an uneventful take-off from Ketchikan Harbor Seaplane Base, he proceeded on a northerly heading, about 2,200 feet above the waters of Behm Channel. Just before the impact, he heard one of the passengers seated in the rear of the Otter yell “airplane”. About two seconds later, the pilot heard a loud scrape on the top portion of the airplane. He then started a descending left turn while attempting to transmit a 'mayday' radio call on the common traffic advisory frequency 122.9.
The pilot said that just after the impact, he experienced some difficulty in controlling the airplane, but was soon able to regain partial control and subsequently made an emergency landing in the ocean waters of Behm Channel. After assessing the damage to the airplane, the pilot elected to step-taxi the aircraft back to Ketchikan. A post accident inspection revealed substantial damage to the top portions of both wings, fuselage and vertical stabilizer. All of the airplane's communications antennas that were mounted on top of the wings and fuselage were destroyed in the collision. The pilot of the turbine Otter reported that his aircraft was ten knots faster than the Beaver.”
Fortunately, this accident occurred towards the end of the busy summer season. N409PA was taken to Pro Mech's hangar at the Peninsula Point near Ketchikan, the wings taken off and repairs carried out over the winter. By the spring of 2003 the Otter had rejoined the active Pro Mech fleet.
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)