Otter number 6 was registered to Imperial Oil Air Transport Ltd., on 18 December 1952 as CF-IOD and delivered to its new owner the following day. Imperial Oil were Esso’s Canadian affiliate, the Otter being based in Dawson Creek, BC and used to support oil exploration in the Canadian north. It was joined by Otter CF-IOF (24) in September 1954, which was based in Edmonton, Alberta. Colour scheme of the Imperial Oil Otters was grey overall fuselage with a red cheatline.
CF-IOD was active in northern BC and Alberta, especially in the Peace River country where hilly, sparsely populated farmland dissolved into bleak mountain ranges, thick muskeg forests and innumerable lakes and rivers. The Otter supported drilling camps out in the bush. The drilling crew, having trucked in their equipment over hardened ground during the winter, carved a landing strip nearby for the Otter with their bulldozer. The Otter was also used to service small geological and seismic exploration parties who camped by a lake or river, where IOD could land.
A number of incidents were recorded as IOD operated in the bush. On 22 June 1953 at Zama Lake, Alberta the tail wheel dropped into a hole, damaging the rear fuselage. The Otter was flown to Calgary for repair. On 1 August ’53 on a flight from Peace River, there was damage to the rear bulkhead on landing 30 miles northwest of Beatton River. On 18 April 1955 flying from Imperial Oil’s Rainbow Airstrip carrying a load of 1,800 pounds of diamond core barrel parts, the Otter was caught by a down-draft landing at Kahntah airstrip and struck a ridge at the end of the short strip, damaging the undercarriage and propeller. This was put down as one of the “hazards of bush flying”. The damage was repaired by Northwest Industries in Edmonton.
As well as carrying personnel and supplies into these bush camps, the Otter also brought in bags of specially formulated mud used on drilling sites to cool drilling bits and carry rock cuttings to the surface, and brought out core samples for analysis. It was also used for medevac flights whenever the need arose. Occasionally the Otter came to the attention of the SAR authorities as it experienced communications difficulties in the course of its travels, giving rise to concern until it managed to establish contact and report all was well. One such incident occurred on 8 November 1957 when it became overdue at Fort St.John on a round robin flight via Sikanni Chief. Another such incident was on 24 June 1958 en route from Fort Providence to Hay River.
There followed years of incident free operation until 2 April 1965 when IOD was flying from Edmonton to the company’s Rainbow Lake airstrip with six passengers. During the landing roll the Otter encountered a ridge, became airborne and dropped heavily, sustaining substantial damage. It was taken to Edmonton for repair, after which it was traded in to DHC against DHC-4 Caribou CF-LAN (2), which was registered to Imperial Oil on 8 May 1966 and replaced the Otter, flying into the bush strips as the Otter had done. Title to IOD was formally passed on to DHC on 2 September 1966 and it remained parked at Edmonton.
CF-IOD was sold on by DHC to Thomas Lamb Airways Ltd and a ferry permit issued on 14 March 1967 for its delivery flight from Edmonton to its new base at The Pas, Manitoba. IOD was one of 13 Otters to be registered to this well-known Manitoba carrier over the years, which changed its name to Lambair in December 1968. With Lambair IOD was flown in the basic Imperial Oil colours, as they never got around to painting it in their own scheme. It served the communities of Manitoba for five years, until February 1972 when it was one of three Otters (the others being CF-XIL serial 423 and CF-CDL serial 441) sold by Lambair to A.Fecteau Transport Aerien (later Air Fecteau) of Québec. IOD and CDL were delivered on 16 February 1972, with XIL following on 1 March ’72.
With its new owner, IOD was repainted into the Fecteau colour scheme of white with a blue cheatline and company titles. It proceeded to operate in the bush in Québec, just as it had in Manitoba before that. It was not long in service before its first scrape, on 6 April 1972. Operating in the James Bay area it was en route from Fort George to Cape Jones airstrip with five barrels of aviation fuel. Landing on wheels on rough terrain and snowdrifts, damage was caused to the rear fuselage, visible as metal wrinkles to the fuselage behind the cargo door. The damage was repaired.
On 14 April 1977, on take off from the hydro-electric power station site GB-1 en route to Great Whale, during the take-off run from the rough snow surface the bolt holding the right gear strut to the fuselage failed, causing the right ski to fold under the fuselage on the subsequent landing. Damage was caused to the right wing, the strut and the centre tank. Repairs were carried out to C-FIOD (as it was by then registered) by St.Louis Aviation at St.Jean airfield, near Montréal. Another incident occurred two years later, on 5 April 1979 some 500 miles north of Chibougamau. The Otter was landing at Lac Bolem on a flight from Lac Mollet. The Otter was flying in material and personnel to repair a company aircraft (Beaver CF-DJO) whose landing gear had collapsed while landing on the rough surface three days earlier. During the landing roll the left ski of IOD collapsed when it struck a snow-covered rock, which the pilot had failed to see. Company Otter CF-JUH flew in a repair team.
In March 1982 Air Fecteau was amalgamated into Propair Inc., to whom C-FIOD was registered and with whom it continued to serve the outback of Quebec. It was here, at Lac Helene, to the west of Noranda-Rouyn, in very remote country, where it came to grief on 14 July 1985. The float-equipped Otter with the pilot, a passenger, an electric generator and construction materials on board took off from the lake, which was 10,000 feet long and located at an elevation of 500 feet. The Otter left the water about half way along the lake and began to climb. At about 100 feet the pilot retracted the flaps and reset the engine power from take-off to climb power. The aircraft then began to lose altitude. The pilot increased the power again but the Otter continued to descend until it struck the ground and cart-wheeled to the left and slid tail first before coming to rest. Fire broke out, which completely destroyed the fuselage and its contents.
The take-off distance exceeded that specified by the manufacturer, probably a consequence of an overload caused either by excessive weight or by water in the floats. As a result it was at a very low altitude close to the shoreline. The pilot had reduced the power and retracted the flaps at an altitude below that recommended and was unable because of the low altitude to let the aircraft accelerate to the speed of the optimum rate of climb. The aircraft therefore progressed at low speed and a steep angle of attack. As a result of strong drag forces, it remained behind the power curve. The registration was cancelled on 19 June 1986 as “Detruit par le feu” (destroyed by fire).
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.