DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 64

CF-SME
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c/n 64

3697

CF-SME

• 3697 Royal Canadian Air Force. Taken on charge 11-Jan-1955. Delivered 27-Jan-1955.

No.6 Repair Depot, Trenton, ON., and retained there as a reserve aircraft until July 1955.

102 Communications & Rescue Flight, Trenton, ON. Jul-1955.

Deployed to Great Whale, QC. Feb-1956.

DHC in February 1957 for incorporation of All Up Weight modifications.

Assigned to the Fort Churchill Station Flight, MB. April 1957 until Jul-1963.

Incident: 12th August 1958. The pilot was attempting to beach the Otter with an on- shore wind. He decided to taxi in close, then let the wind drift the aircraft to the shore. However, it started to drift towards the rocks instead. The pilot tried to move out by using rudder and engine but his action was too late. 3697 ran aground one hundred yards from the beaching area and  struck trees. Minor damage suffered and repaired.

Incident: En route from Churchill to Eskimo Point, 10-Dec-1958. The Otter suffered engine failure after it  had been airborne for 45 minutes, and made a forced landing in tundra terrain, which was rough and boulder strewn, although the Otter was not damaged. An overland repair party changed the engine under the most adverse conditions, the Otter was then towed to a suitable take-off strip and flown back to base at Churchill on 16-Dec-1958.

Into storage at Lincoln Park, Calgary, AB., Jul-1963. Feb-1964 it was roaded to Saskatoon, SK., and put up for disposal.

• 3697 Struck off charge 08-Feb-1965.

• CF-SME Saskatchewan Government (Sask Air) Airways, Prince Albert, SK. Purchased Feb-1965

Entries preceded by dates are extracts from Canadian Department of Transport archives.

03-Mar-1965 North Canada Air Ltd., incorporated (Norcanair).

20-Mar-1965 This aircraft was among the assets included in an agreement for sale by Saskair (Saskatchewan Government Airways) to North Canada Air Ltd., on dissolution of Saskair and pending Air Transport Board licence approval of sale.

21-Apr-1965 CF-SME allotted to DHC-3 msn 64, North Canada Air Ltd., Prince Albert, SK.

20-May-1965 Application for Certificate of Registration by North Canada Air Ltd., Prince Albert, SK.

27-May-1965 Temporary Certificate of Registration & Certificate of Airworthiness issued to Saskair, Prince Albert, SK.

Date unknown. Transported by road Saskatoon-Prince Albert, Crown Assets Disposal Corporation shipping slip dated 19-Jun-1965.

24-Jun-1965 Certificate of Airworthiness #11046 issued.

25-Jun-1965 Temporary Certificate of Airworthiness and Certificate of Registration re-issued to Saskair.

23-Jul-1965 Temporary Certificate of Airworthiness and Certificate of Registration re-issued to Saskair.

12-Aug-1965 Transfer of registrations from Saskair to North Canada Air requested.

23-Aug-1965 Temporary C of A and C of R re-issued to Saskair.

03-Sep-1965 Temporary C of and C of R issued to Norcanair (North Canada Air).

03-Sep-1965 Certificate of Registration #35120 issued to North Canada Air Ltd., Prince Albert ,SK.

• CF-SME North Canada Air Ltd., (Norcanair). Purchased 20-Mar-1965.

• CF-SME Leased to Sherritt Gordon Air Transport Ltd., Lynn Lake, MB. Jan-1966

Undated. Leased to Sherritt Gordon Air Transport Ltd., duration unknown.

• CF-SME Returned to Norcanair. Date unknown.

Incident: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. 11-Dec-1969. Shortly after take-off on a test flight following an engine change, there was a strong smell of fuel, and the fuel pressure dropped. The pilot returned to the airport and following touchdown he saw flames at his feet. The fire was extinguished. An unsecured drain plug had fallen from the carburettor during flight, allowing fuel to escape.

Accident: McKenzie Lake, 8 ml north of Fond du Lac, near Uranium City, SK. 02-Jul-1975. destroyed when it collided with trees, crashed and burned while water bombing a forest fire. Pilot Dave Baker escaped uninjured.

Total time since new as recorded in Department of Transport archives.

26-May-1965 - 3,557 hours

19-May-1966 - 4,184 hours

22-Nov-1966 - 4,685 hours

27-Apr-1967 - 4,900 hours

02-May-1968 - 5,784 hours

12-May-1969 - 6,532 hours

04-May-1970 - 7,214 hours

25-Nov-1970 - 7,822 hours

29-Apr-1971 - 8,098 hours

22-Mar-1972 - 8,709 hours

08-Mar-1973 - 9,432 hours

14-Mar-1974 - 9,988 hours

27-Apr-1975 - 10,787 hours

• CF-SME Cancelled from Canadian Civil Aircraft Register. 25-Jul-1975.

Destroyed by fire

Otter number 64 was delivered to the RCAF on 27 January 1955 with serial 3697. It was retained as a reserve aircraft by No.6 Repair Depot at Downsview until July 1955, when it was assigned to 102 Communications & Rescue Flight, Trenton.  Pat Donaghy flew the Otter and recalls:  “I picked up new Otter 3697 on wheels at the factory at Downsview and flew it to the RCAF base at Trenton, Ontario. The base was divided by a major highway, land on one side and the marine and water base on the other. This entailed an interesting operation. The Otter was stripped of all non-essential equipment and with about ten gallons of fuel on board I flew it from one side to the other and landed on a one hundred yard football field. The Otter was then towed to the marine hangar, converted to a floatplane and launched into Lake Ontario”.

“Summer of 1955 was exceptionally dry and forest fires were raging across northern Ontario. The provincial government called the RCAF for support aircraft to help with fire suppression. Accompanied by two other Otters I flew 3697 to Cochrane, Ontario where we were to be based on a very small, shallow, weed-filled Lilabelle Lake. It was a dawn to dark operation moving men, equipment, groceries and all manner of fire fighting supplies to and from camps that were temporarily set up on navigable waters near the fire lines. Several sites were supplied by para-dropping the loads to sites too far from suitable lakes or rivers. Ten gallon drums of gas, pumps, hoses, groceries including 30-dozen crates of eggs were successfully delivered”.

After the fires had been controlled, the Otter remained with 102 C&R at Trenton. During February 1956 it is recorded as deploying to Great Whale, before returning to Trenton. On 14 June 1956 a Cessna Crane aircraft CF-EWC ditched on Lac Declare, seventeen miles north-east of the RCAF Radar Station at Parent, Québec. As the Station’s history records “Three hours and fifty minutes later Otter VC3697 from Trenton landed on the lake, picked up the survivors and flew them to hospital at RCAF Station Parent”. It returned to DHC in February 1957 for incorporation of AUW modifications and then in April 1957 was assigned to the Fort Churchill, Manitoba Station Flight.

It is first mentioned in the Churchill diary on 24 June 1957 when it performed an air test. It then became a most active member of the Flight, which it was to serve faithfully for the next six years. On 15 August 1957 it flew a medevac to Winnipeg and on 25 October ’57 it is recorded that DHC personnel arrived at Churchill to install SARAH equipment (a type of homing beacon) on 3697. At this stage it flew alongside 3694 which was also attached to the Churchill Station Flight. 3697 was involved in an incident on 12 August 1958. The pilot was attempting to beach the Otter with an on-shore wind. He decided to taxi in close, then let the wind drift the aircraft to the shore. However, it started to drift towards rocks instead. The pilot tried to move out by using rudder and engine but this action was too late. 3697 ran aground 100 yards from the beaching area and struck trees. As the report concluded: “Pilot was inexperienced in float-equipped aircraft”. Damage was minor however and soon repaired, as on 1 September 1958 3697 flew a medevac from Churchill to Rankin Inlet, one of a number around that period.

Another incident was recorded on 8 December 1958. 3697 was en route from Churchill to Eskimo Point, flown by S/L Bartley, the Flight’s commanding officer. The Otter suffered engine failure after it had been airborne for 45 minutes and made a forced landing in tundra terrain, which was rough and boulder strewn, although the Otter was not damaged. A helicopter from the US Army’s First Arctic Test Centre at Churchill left immediately for the scene and S/L Bartley was quickly returned home. An overland repair party changed the engine under most adverse conditions and the Otter was towed to a suitable take-off strip and flown back to base on 16 December 1958. On 30 January 1959 it was the turn of 3694 to force land in the barrens and 3697 flew to its rescue. It again went to the rescue of 3694 on 27 May ’59. On 24 February 1959 3697 was being pulled into the hangar at Churchill by a mule, when the right aileron hit a US Army helicopter. The damage was repaired.

On 8 March 1960 3697 was involved in another minor incident. On take-off from a semi-prepared strip in the Manitoba barrens, the take-off run was noticed to be unduly long but this was attributed to the drifts and the all up weight. The subsequent climb was slow and rudder vibration was noticed during the flight. On the next landing the tailwheel ski broke off and the rear fuselage was damaged. On the last take-off the tail wheel had dug in and broke the chock cords which held it parallel in flight. It then hung down causing excessive drag and broke off on landing. The damage was soon repaired. On 3 June 1960 the Otter flew a medevac to Station Bird, Manitoba. A January 1961 photo of 3697 at Fort Churchill showed it to be on wheel-skis, all silver with a day-glo rear fuselage band and day-glo wingtips, with ‘Rescue’ fuselage titles.

On 20 June 1961 Mooney 20A CF-LRV went overdue on a flight from Churchill to Coral Harbour, NWT giving rise to “SAR LUBEN” (all SARs are named after the pilot of the missing aircraft). Otter 3697 was heavily involved in the rescue, as were Transair DC-3 CF-LJS, Dakota 278 of 111 Rescue Unit Winnipeg, 435 Squadron Hercules 10304 and USAF SC-54 72536 from Goose Bay. The Otter departed Churchill on a coast crawl via Rankin, Chesterfield Inlet and the northern route to Coral Harbour. The scene of the Mooney’s forced landing was found the next day by the USAF SC-54 and the Otter landed beside the Mooney and rendered assistance and fuel. As the report puts it: “Mr Luben was offered evacuation to Coral Harbour in Otter 3697 but decided to fly his own aircraft. At approximately 200 feet Mooney CF-LRV had a complete loss of power, re-started momentarily and then force landed. On the landing roll the aircraft suffered damage to the propeller and nose wheel. Mr Luben was then flown to Coral Harbour in the Otter”. Otter 3697 had flown twenty hours on this mission and covered 5,722 square miles.

In October 1961 the Otter headed south to 6 Repair Depot Trenton for overhaul, returning in March 1962. On 5 June 1962 the Otter was involved in another aircraft rescue for Stinson CF-GBJ en route Maguse River VFR via the coastline to Churchill. Also involved were Lancaster 224 of 111 Rescue Unit Winnipeg and H-21 64344 of the US Army, which was also based at Churchill. Otter 3697 eventually sighted CF-GBJ in a crashed condition three miles from the shore, 300 yards from the edge of the ice pack. There was no evidence of a survivor and the pilot had in fact been killed in the crash. His body was retrieved by the Army H-21. In June 1963 3697’s wheel assembly was replaced by floats, so that it could undertake a Northern Saskatchewan GObC tour of inspection of facilities. On 22 June it was towed from the airfield to Landing Lake and put on the water, departing to Flin Flon to collect personnel for the tour. The routing brought it from Flin Flon-La Ronge-Stanley Mission-Patuanak-Pinehouse Lake-Ile a La Crosse-Buffalo Narrows-Dillon-La Loche-Cree Lake-Foster Lake and back to Churchill, where it arrived 27 June. The next day it flew a medevac to Southern Indian Lake.

Sadly however the days of Churchill as a military establishment were coming to a close. It had been a US military base, as well as an RCAF facility. As the Station Diary records: “The first two KC-97s of the 3949 Air Base Squadron, Strategic Air Command departed on 1 July 1963, with two more of the tankers leaving on 2 July and the final two on 3 July. It is a strange sight to see Fort Churchill devoid of KC-97s”. On 5 July Otter 3697 was again put on wheels in preparation for its departure, and a ferry crew from 129 Aircraft Ferry Flight arrived to take away the Otter, which was the only RCAF aircraft then based at Churchill. As the Diary for 18 July 1963 records: “RCAF personnel watched with heavy hearts as 3697 took off today and made its last fly-past over the RCAF hangar on its way to Calgary. Without even an aircraft around any more it will be difficult to feel like an active member of Air Transport Command”. The RCAF unit at Fort Churchill remained for a time as a facility for transient aircraft, until it was disbanded on 31 March 1964 and the airfield became purely a civilian one.

On arrival in Calgary Otter 3697 went into storage in the Canadian Pacific depot at Lincoln Park. In February 1964 it was roaded to Saskatoon and put up for disposal. In February 1965 it was sold to Saskatchewan Government Airways and taken by truck to their base at Prince Albert, Sask where during April 1965 it was converted to a civilian aircraft and registered CF-SME.  Saskatchewan Government Airways had been founded in 1947 to operate services in remote northern Saskatchewan and to support the services of the Provincial government in the air ambulance, forest fire control and protection of natural resources roles. Over the years since then the company had operated a variety of bush planes, including Otter CF-JFJ (147) which it had acquired new from DHC in August 1956. In 1962 the company was re-named Saskair. In May 1964 Saskair had acquired a second Otter CF-IKT (81), giving it three Otters when CF-SME joined the fleet. Around then however a free-enterprise Liberal party took over government in the Province. It had no use for government “interfering” in business and sold Saskair to a private company, North Canada Air Ltd., (Norcanair).

Norcanair acquired the Saskair fleet, including Otters JFJ, IKT and SME under an Agreement for Sale made on 20 March 1965. Business continued as before, with services in northern Saskatchewan and support of government operations. In November 1966 Norcanair leased CF-SME to Sherritt Gordon Air Transport of Lynn Lake, Manitoba, who operated it until the Otter returned to Norcanair in May 1968. An incident was recorded on 11 December 1969 at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Shortly after take off on a test flight following an engine change, there was a strong smell of fuel and the fuel pressure dropped. The pilot returned to the airport and following touchdown he saw flames at his feet. The fire was extinguished. An unsecured drain plug had fallen from the carburettor during flight, allowing fuel to escape. It was repaired and returned to service. The Otter was based at Uranium City, Sask from time to time.

While still operated by Norcanair, CF-SME was destroyed on 2 July 1975 when it collided with trees, crashed and burned while water bombing a forest fire at McKenzie Lake, eight miles north of Fond du Lac, near Uranium City, Saskatchewan.

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.