Otter number 45 was delivered to the RCAF on 18 November 1954 with serial 3684. It was originally retained by 6 Repair Depot, Trenton as a reserve aircraft, before going back to DHC in January 1956 where modifications were incorporated by the RCAF’s 12 TSU at Downsview. When these were completed, the Otter was assigned to 408 Squadron at Rockcliffe on 9 April 1956. On 29 July 1956 it deployed from Rockcliffe via Roberval and Sept Îles to Knob Lake (Schefferville) in northern Québec on floats, flying time of eleven hours and it was operating out of Knob Lake during July and August 1956.
Pat Donaghy flew the Otter during this period and recalls an incident on 6 August 1956: “I was at Knob Lake with 3684 on floats. Two Indians paddled in and contacted the local Indian agent. They reported that a band of Indians were stranded on Wakuach Lake about fifty miles north of Knob. They were out of food and several were sick. I flew one of the Indians, the Indian agent, a nurse and my crewman and some supplies to Wakuach. On the return flight there were four of us plus nineteen Indians, mostly children, on board, a total of 23 souls. Might set some sort of record for a rescue mission”.
In September 1956 the Otter joined the Goose Bay Station Flight, replacing 3661 (7) which left Goose. For the next few months 3684 flew out of Goose Bay, until it came to grief on 15 December 1956. The Otter, on skis, was on a Christmas supply run to a number of points along the Labrador coast, with parcels and supplies. It touched down on the ice at Postville after which the port ski broke through the ice as the pilot was taxying to the shore. The port wing came to rest on the ice. The load was removed to lessen the danger of further break-through but despite this precaution the Otter sank into the salt water and had to be abandoned by its crew. It was some days before personnel from Goose Bay arrived to try and retrieve the Otter, by which stage it was thoroughly frozen into the ice, and their salvage attempts came to nothing. The Otter was left there over the Christmas.
After Christmas salvage specialists from 6 Repair Depot at Trenton arrived. They found that the Otter had by that stage settled into the ice so that only the tail section and the upper rear part of the fuselage was showing. Tripods were set up in the front and rear to support the aircraft while the ice was cut away from the wings and engine. Serious trouble developed when the chain hoist was tightened at the front end, resulting in the breaking away of the whole engine assembly! The crew eventually managed to remove the engine from the water but by that stage the cylinders were badly water damaged.
A heavy tripod was erected over the fuselage and ice again cut away from the wings. The aircraft was then lifted so that the fuselage cleared the ice by six inches. The wings were removed and the ice which had accumulated in the cabin was removed to lighten the load. The ice on the roof of the cabin was 18 inches thick by this stage. The fuselage was further raised and the under-carriage removed. A cradle was formed from boom logs and the Otter towed to the beach. The salvage operation had taken a month, in temperatures of 10 to 30 below zero.
Despite all this effort it was found that sadly 3684 had been too badly damaged to be a repairable proposition. The accessible components were removed and the remainder was destroyed on site as being “valueless for salvage”. The Otter was officially stricken from the inventory on 11 March 1957. In the meantime, 3681 (39) had arrived at Goose Bay on 30 January 1957 as a replacement for the ill-fated 3684.
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.