Otter 58 was delivered to the RCAF on 7th December 1954 with serial 3691. It went initially to No.6 Repair Depot, Trenton where it was retained as a reserve aircraft. In January '56 it returned to DHC at Downsview for incorporation of All Up Weight modifications and on completion of this work in August '56 was assigned to 105 Communications & Rescue Flight at Namao Air Base, Edmonton, Alberta where it was flown on amphibious floats and carried the Flight's KT code. This was one of the busier rescue units, with responsibility for a vast area encompassing Alberta, northern BC, the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
3691 is mentioned many times in the Flight's history. Between 29th September and 18th October '56 the Otter and all the unit's other aircraft were engaged in an extensive search for two floatequipped Alaska Air Services Cessna 195s, overdue on a flight from Coppermine to Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories. Despite a huge search over three weeks, nothing was found. Then on 18th October one of the pilots walked to Rae Rock mines and phoned in the location of the lake where the two Cessnas had landed. On 22nd September '57, together with the unit's other Otter 3688 and twoC-47 Dakotas, 3691 was involved in 'SAR Koessler', the search for a missing light aircraft N3151C in the vicinity of Dease Lake, which was eventually found by 3691. During February '58 the Otter came to the attention of the Rescue Co-Ordination Centre, as it experienced communications difficulties on several of its flights, on 8th February from Namao to Dawson Creek and on 24/25th February Norman Wells-Port Radium-Fort Norman. On 6th March 3691 flew Yellowknife to Fort Reliance. That month, Otter 3688 left 105 C&R Flight and was replaced by 3696, which from then on flew alongside 3691 with the unit.
On 25th March 1958 3691 is recorded flying from its Namao base to Fort Chipewyan, continuing on the next day to Fort Reliance. On 27th March it was involved in the search for Taylorcraft CF-EPV, overdue on a flight from Edmonton to Valley View, Alberta. This was a major search involving three of the Flight's Dakotas and five Expeditors as well as Otter 3691 and also four B-25 Mitchells from 418 Squadron, Namao and three Expeditors from 403 Squadron, Calgary. Otter 3691 carried out contour searches of the foothills south of Whitecourt on the south leg of the Grand Prairie Range. The Otter landed at Fox Creek and Sturgeon Lake to question persons who had submitted sighting reports. Nothing was found until the wreckage was spotted on 13th May in the Iosegen Hills by a passing Cessna and a 105 C&R Flight Otter took photographs of the scene.
In June 1958 Otters 3691 and 3696 were together involved in the search for a missing Fleet Canuck in the Buffalo Narrows area. In September '58 both Otters as well as two of the Flight's Dakotas and four Expeditors were engaged in the search for Pacific Western Beaver CF-DJM, missing on a flight from Eureka River to a provincial forestry flight strip. It went missing in a heavily forested area and was never found. The two Otters soldiered on until December 1958 when 105 C&R Flight was disbanded. In the two years before that, the Unit had been involved in searching for 27 missing aircraft. From then on, rescue responsibility for the area was to be divided between Winnipeg and Vancouver.
3691 was flown from Namao back to 6 Repair Depot, Trenton in January 1959 before being reassigned the following month to Air Force Headquarters Piston Training Flight at Rockcliffe, continuing on in February 1960 to 103 Rescue Unit at Greenwood, Nova Scotia. It carried large 'Rescue' titles on the fuselage sides and 'Maritime Air Command' titles as well. It suffered a “C” category crash at Aguanish in a remote part of Quebec on 22nd July 1962 in the course of a crosscountry proficiency flight. While attempting to take-off in soft sand, the nosewheel on the port float of the amphibious Otter cocked and the shaft was bent. As the accident report noted, the pilot had attempted to take off from an area not suitable for operation. The damage was repaired and in October '62 the Otter went back to 6 Repair Depot for storage, being subsequently transferred to the storage depot at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
After three and a half years in storage, in May 1966 3691 was allocated to 402 Squadron, Winnipeg to be used by the squadron to support the radar station at Armstrong, Ontario. It joined the “RCAF Armstrong Otter Flight” and was one of a number of Otters used by the Flight, detached from other units. It continued with this task until the Flight was disbanded on 1st April 1968 and was then re-assigned from 402 Squadron to 4 Operational Training Unit at Trenton, the Otter OCU. 3691 was noted at Trenton in July '68 on amphibious floats. At that stage, 4 OTU had three Otters (3691, 9406 and 9423) and their main purpose was for the conversion of the Reserve Support unit personnel assigned to the Reserve Otter squadrons in Toronto (400 and 411 squadrons), in Montreal (401 and 438 Squadrons), in Edmonton (418 Squadron) and Winnipeg (402 Squadron). This involved eleven courses a year on wheel, float and ski-equipped Otters to qualify the reserve pilots to act as instructors when they returned to their home bases. Other uses of the Otters included special flights (especially ski and float operations where no other aircraft could be utilised), medical evacuations and SAR.
Following a general Canadian Armed Forces move to rename composite units as squadrons, 102 Communications Unit at Trenton was re-designated 424 (Communications & Rescue) Squadron on 8th July 1968 and in November 1968 took over as the Otter Operational Conversion Unit from 4 OTU. 3691 (as well as 9406 and 9423) was transferred to 424 Squadron and continued its training tasks until April 1969, when it was assigned to 400 Squadron at Downsview. It was to fly for this squadron for the rest of its military career. The Otter sustained “B” category damage on 15th August1971 in the course of a cross-country flight from Downsview. The pilot was flying along the shoreline of a lake when he experienced an abrupt drop in engine RPM and a complete loss of power and the cockpit filled with smoke. The pilot selected a field for landing and achieved a good touchdown but the aircraft rolled through a fence which tore off the port horizontal stabiliser and damaged the tailwheel area. Witnesses reported that the Otter was trailing dense black smoke during the descent into the forced landing area. The accident report found that an out-of-balance condition in the supercharger impeller caused excessive wear on the impeller bearing, with subsequent contact between the impeller and the supercharger case, which resulted in the damage which caused the power loss. The damage was repaired and 3691 continued in service with 400 Squadron.
The Otters at Downsview were also used by 411 Squadron, and it was a crew from this unit which took 3691 and one other Otter on the 'Flight of the Ancient Bird' during July 1972, an epic flight north by the two Otters and a Dakota routing via Churchill, Manitoba to Baker Lake-Shepherd Bay- Resolute Bay to Eureka in the High Arctic. The entire trip was filmed for a documentary by CBC television. 3691 was still in service with 400 Squadron at Downsview when it sustained “C” category damage on 30th July 1974. During the final approach to a lake, the aircraft suddenly started to sink. Power was applied and the nose gradually raised but the Otter contacted the water in a nose-high attitude. There was no bounce, and since no damage was suspected the aircraft was flown back to base. Damage was however found later, in the fracture and deformation of the airframe reinforcement plates. The pilot had commenced his airspeed reduction and roundout too early for the wind conditions and power he was using for the approach. The damage was repaired.
Between 31st March and 7th April 1975, 3691 went on a flight Downsview-Kapuskasing-Sioux Lookout-The Pas-Winnipeg-Thunder Bay-Sault Ste.Marie-Downsview. Later in April '75, the Otter experienced engine failure and was successfully landed just north of the city limits of Metropolitan Toronto. The aircraft sustained no damage. 3691 continued in service with 400 Squadron until it was placed in storage at the Aerospace Maintenance & Development Unit (AMDU) Saskatoon in November 1975 and was entrusted to the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation for disposal. It was one of seven former Canadian military Otters which were transferred in April 1977 to the Province of Ontario, flown to Sault Ste. Marie and rebuilt. Otter 58 was allocated marks C-GOFD with its new owners, painted in their attractive yellow and black colour scheme. For the next eight years the Otter served the Province of Ontario, one of the large fleet operated by the Ministry of Natural Resources. In 1985 it was one of three Ministry Otters (the other two were numbers 35 and 61) sold to a company in the United States called Boundary Water Aire Inc., of Eveleth, Minnesota, to whom it was registered N100BW in January 1985. Eveleth is in the north-east of Minnesota, well placed to serve the Superior National Forest and its many tourist attractions. The waterways forming the Minnesota/Ontario border running through the Forest are known as the Boundary Waters. A short time later, in May '85, the Otter was registered to Rainbow King Lodge Inc., of Iliamna, Alaska as was Otter 61, which was registered to them as N61FE.
As its website proclaims: “Rainbow King Lodge rests gracefully on the shore of Alaska's Lake Iliamna, surrounded by thousands of miles of protected and pristine wilderness. It just might be Alaska's finest fishing resort. Here among this untamed majesty you'll find wild strains of trophy Rainbow Trout; magnificent Silver, King, Pink, Sockeye and Chum Salmon; monster Halibut, Grayling and Char as big and plentiful as the promise of Alaska”. The two Otters, both painted in the house white, red and blue colours, are used to fly guests from the Lodge out to remote wilderness locations where the best of the fishing is to be found. Again, as the website explains :”Fly out each morning to exquisite waters where you, your fellow guides and companions, are the only rods on the stream for miles. By midday your guide will have anticipated the growing gnaw of hunger and will prepare an elaborate streamside meal. Then the next several hours you'll spend chasing trophy Rainbows or marvelling at the vast panorama until it is time to return to the Lodge”. Nineteen years later, during 2004, N100BW was still in service with Rainbow King Lodge. Now a Turbine serving with Talkeetna Air Taxi.
Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).