Otter 41 was delivered to Widerøes Flyveselskap & Polarfly A/S of Norway on 21st June 1954 registered LN-SUV. It was the second Otter to be allocated this registration, the first having been Otter number 24, which had been shipped to Norway in a crate the previous year, but was damaged in transit and returned to DHC. After repair, it had been sold to another customer. The paint shop records indicate that number 41 entered the paint shop at Downsview on 25th May 1954 and received “two coats of green dulux, made up from blue-green industrial finish dulux mixed with yellow, black and white until it came close to the green lacquer which had been used on number 24”. To make sure that the new Otter was not damaged in transit, Otter 41 was delivered in wheel-plane configuration and flown across the Atlantic by a Wideroe crew. When it arrived at its new base at Bodo in northern Norway, it was put on floats and became the first Otter to enter service with Widerøe.
Widerøes had been formed in February 1934 and pioneered services to the isolated communities of northern Norway. The Otter was ideal for the company's operations. Initially LN-SUV operated alongside a fleet of Norduyn Norsemen, but these were gradually replaced as further Otters were delivered. Three more Otters were acquired new from DHC (LN-BDD, LN-BFD and LN-BIB) as well as two (LN-FAE and LN-LMM) from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, when the military surplussed its Otters. All the Wideroe Otters were painted in an attractive 'spartan green' colour scheme. The company was renamed Widerøes Flyveselskap A/S in 1959.
The Otters operated on the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) scheduled network north of Bodø, which Wider øes flew under charter to SAS, and used SK flight numbers. The 1957 SAS timetable shows flight SK356 between Sorreisa and Tromso seaplane base; SK354 continuing on to Alta and Hammerfest. Flights SK322 and 324 operated between Bodø and Harstad. It was also possible to fly on a series of flights which linked all the other towns on the network. SK340 departed Narvik at 0745 arriving Harstad 0810. The flight continued as SK326 departing Harstad at 0830 hours, arriving Tromso seaplane base 0920. It then continued on as SK352 departing Tromso 0940, transitting Alta 1055.1105, transitting Hammerfest 1135/1215; transitting Kirkenes 1415/1430, to arrive at Vadso on Norway's northern coast, across the fjord from the Soviet Union, at 1450 hours. The reciprocal flight departed Vadso at 0825 and these flights operated each weekday, total flying time 5 hours 20 minutes. Slightly different flights appeared in the 1964 SAS timetable, using
Wideroe's own WI flight designator.
In addition to these scheduled services, the Otters operated charters, freight flights and ambulance services when required. The Otters were float-equipped and all towns served were on the coast, permitting the Otters to land on the fjords. The scheduled routes were flown seven and a half months of the year. As the Otters were only capable of VFR operations, they could not operate during the winter months. As the people in these isolated communities were dependent on this air service to a considerable extent, they became dissatisfied with the lack of a year-round service. As a result, the Norwegian government decided to construct five STOL-ports on the country's west coast, and year-round services commenced with a Twin Otter in 1968. Gradually Twin Otters took over from the Otters. On 1st January 1970, Wideroes were taken over by Fred Olsen Airtransport and SAS, but continued to operate under its own name. By that stage, one of the Otters had been sold and two had crashed, but the remaining three Otters (LN-BDD, 'BIB and 'LMM) continued in service after the take-over, until all three were sold to Laurentian Air Services of Canada in October 1971.
To return to Otter 41, LN-SUV, it continued in service with Wideroes from its delivery in June 1954 until it was damaged in an accident at Gravdal in the Lofoten Islands on 26th May 1967. In the earlyhours of that day, the Otter was dispatched from its base at Bodø on a medevac mission, to fly to Gravdal Harbour some one hundred kilometres to the north-west, to pick up a ten year old boy with a serious medical condition, and with an accompanying nurse, fly him back to Bodø for transfer to ascheduled flight to Oslo, which was to leave Bodo at 0500 hours. Normally this would have been a single-pilot flight, but on this occasion the pilot invited a friend of his, who was an airline pilot, to join him on the flight. At this time of the year, there is almost 24 hours of daylight at this latitude, just
north of the Arctic Circle, with sunrise at 0201 hours. LN-SUV took off from Bodø at 0159 hours for the forty-five minute flight. The weather was fair, but some strong wind gusts were expected on landing. Sea conditions were rough, with waves of a metre high. The following is a summary from the report of the Accident Investigation Board:
“Just after landing, the flying pilot said 'That wasn't too bad' and applied power to taxy to the harbour. The accompanying pilot noticed the flaps were still down and said 'Get the flaps up'. At the same time, the aircraft veered 30 degrees to the right without any reaction from the pilot. Looking across the cockpit, he saw the pilot sitting motionless with one hand at the controls and the other at the throttle. The right float dug into the sea and caused the right wingtip to strike the water. The aircraft tipped over and came to rest half submerged. The accompanying pilot got out of the cockpit on the right side and immediately went around to the main left cabin door to make sure his friend also got out. However, the cabin was rapidly filling with water and he had to evacuate back out through the same door. Shortly after, he saw the pilot floating in the water about ten metres from the aircraft. Despite efforts to resuscitate him at the local hospital, the pilot died. It was later established that the pilot suffered from a heart condition which had caused him to lose consciousness immediately after touch down. This caused the aircraft to veer right and collide with a buoy marking shallow water”. The Otter was later raised and towed to Tromso. Some repairs were carried out, but Wideroes
decided not to return the aircraft to service, but to sell it “as is, where is”. The purchaser was Lambair of The Pas, Manitoba. Douglas Lamb and his father flew to Norway with the intention of flying the Otter back to Canada. They found the aircraft “on floats, in one of Hitler's submarine bunkers on the ocean side in Tromso”. The weather proved too bad for a ferry flight and accordingly the Otter was packed into a crate and shipped to Canada, arriving in Toronto. The Otter was re-assembled on the dock, at Pier 51 in Toronto, and then taxied to Toronto Island Airport to refuel. Marks CF-ANW were allocated and a ferry permit was issued on 16th May 1969 for a flight from Toronto to Calgary. Doug Lamb flew the Otter, first to The Pas, Manitoba although it was weathered-in at Wasaga Beach for three days en route. He then set off from The Pas and after a six hour flight landed on a small lake near Calgary, from where the Otter was taken to Field Aviation at the Calgary Airport for its inspection, rebuild and repaint into Lambair colours.
It was granted its Certificate of Airworthiness on 18th September 1969, having at that stage 11,513 hours on the airframe. It was officially registered to Lambair as CF-ANW on 27th November 1969 and entered service with the company from its base at The Pas, Manitoba. Sadly, its period of service was not all that long, for it met its end on 25th July 1971 at Knight Lake in the Island Lake
area of Northern Central Manitoba. As the accident report summarises: “Climb; collided with trees; crashed and burned; pilot and two passengers killed; exercised poor judgement; aircraft destroyed”. It was Lambair's first fatality since the Lamb family started aircraft operations in 1935, and a sad end to an historic Otter, the first to have entered service in Europe.
History courtesy of Karl E. Hayes from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).