DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 65

C-GOFF landing at McFarlane Lake, Sudbury, Ontario.
Photo: Neil Ayers © 1979
C-GOFF at Ignace, Ontario.
Photo: Neil Aird © 18 July 1995
C-GOFF with Walter conversion, at Vernon, British Columbia.
Photo: John W. Olafson © 12 December 2002
C-GOFF at Red Lake, Ontario.
Photo: Michael Leonard © 27 July 2003

c/n 65

3698

C-GOFF

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• 3698 Royal Canadian Air Force, delivered 18-Feb-1955.

Cold Lake Station Flight until May-1957.

To DHC, Downsview, for incorporation of All Up Weight modifications.

Into storage by No.6 Repair Depot, Trenton as a reserve aircraft Nov-1957 to Jun-1958.

Goose Bay Station Flight, NL. Summers of 1958, to 1965 for summer deployments returning to Trenton in between.

Assigned to 438 Squadron at  St.Hubert, QC. Oct-1965.

To Saskatoon for disposal through the Crown Assets Disposal  Corporation. Nov-1975 until Apr -1977.

• C-GOFF/74 Province of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources, Sault Ste.Marie, ON. Sep-1978. Canx 09-Aug-1985.

• C-GOFF Thousand Lakes Airways Ltd., Upsala, ON. 17-Jun-1986.

• C-GOFF Ignace Airways Ltd., Ignace, ON. Apr-1990.

Incident Agimak Lake, ON. 05-May-1990. Moments after take-off the Otter descended and struck the water. Damage could not have been much as it was soon flying again.

• C-GOFF Ignace Airways (1996) Ltd., in October 1996.

• C-GOFF Huron Air & Outfitters Inc., Armstrong / McKenzie Lake, ON. November 1998.

Converted to turbine power at the AOG facility at Kelowna, BC with a Walter engine, winter 2002.

Accident: A strip near Jellicoe, ON 16-Dec-2003. The aircraft was parked overnight at Jellicoe and about eight inches of snow had fallen overnight. In the morning the snow was cleared off of the aircraft and it took off at noon that day from the airstrip beside Blackwater Lake near to Jellicoe, when it came down on the frozen lake, penetrating the ice and flipping over. The pilot and one passenger were sadly killed in the crash and one passenger survived. Just after lift off the outer right wing leading edge had struck some small trees at the end of the strip. and crashed through the frozen lake, located some seventy feet below the runway elevation ending up in an inverted position half submerged, having gone through 20 cms of solid ice with the aft section of the fuselage above the ice. After the aircraft came down, the one survivor, even though having broken a leg, managed to extricate himself from the wreckage.

Unfortunately the ELT beacon did not activate, no flight plan had been filed and so the authorities were unaware that the aircraft had crashed, as no one reported it overdue. The crash was not discovered until noon the next day, twenty four hours after it had happened, when it was seen from the air by an overflying aircraft. By that stage the survivor was in a critical condition, suffering from severe hypothermia, having spent the night on the frozen lake in a temperature of -22C.

Three days after the crash, the authorities managed to recover the wreck, using a tow truck and sixty metres of cable to pull the Otter to the shore. Only then could the bodies of the pilot and passenger be recovered, when the aircraft had been stabilized on the ice, as conditions had been too dangerous for diving. (Full narrative below).

Photo: Transport Saftey Board of Canada © December 2003

Stored

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Otter number 65 was delivered to the RCAF on 18 February 1955 with serial 3698. It was first assigned to the Cold Lake Station Flight, where it served until May 1957 when it went to DHC for incorporation of AUW modifications. On completion of this work it was put into storage by No.6 Repair Depot, Trenton as a reserve aircraft in November 1957, until June 1958 when it joined the Goose Bay Station Flight for the summer. The first eight years of its service career would in fact comprise summer deployments to Goose Bay and winter storage. It went back into storage with 6 Repair Depot at the end of September 1958 and went back to Goose Bay for summer 1959, from July to September, again returning to storage with 6 Repair Depot. It yet again served at Goose for the summer of 1960, again returning to storage at Trenton. In April 1961 it went back to Goose and served with the Station Flight there for summer 1961, flying alongside 3681.

Both Otters were involved in a lengthy SAR effort for Okanagan S-58 CF-LWC which crashed en route from Cartwright to Goose on 3 July 1961. It is also mentioned in dispatches on 26 August 1961 overdue on a flight from Goose to Great Whale. It had set down to await a clearance in the weather, to avoid heavy thunderstorms and was unable to maintain radio contact, eventually landing at Fort Chimo. In October 1961 3698 returned to Trenton storage and was back at Goose for summer 1962. In October 1962 it went back into storage, this time at the Canadian Pacific depot at Calgary. Yet again it went back to Goose for the summer of 1963, back into storage at Trenton August 1963. Its deployment to Goose that year had been to serve the Eagle River camp. It was back at Goose Bay June 1964, flying to Trenton in August and then to Saskatoon in September 1964 where it was stored for the winter. On 6 April 1965 it flew from Saskatoon back to Goose again for the summer. This was to be its last summer deployment to the Goose Bay Station Flight and in October 1965 it was assigned to 438 Squadron at St.Hubert, near Montréal where it was to serve for the next ten years. In November 1975, its military career over, it was flown to Saskatoon and put up for disposal through the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation.

The Otter remained in storage at Saskatoon until March 1977 when it was one of seven former Canadian military Otters transferred to the Province of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources. The Bill of Sale is dated 30 March 1977 and the Otter had 6,934 hours on the airframe at that stage, testifying to an active military career. All seven Otters were flown to the Ministry’s base at Sault Ste.Marie, Ontario where they were completely rebuilt and modernised and painted in the Ministry’s yellow and black colour scheme. Otter 65 was registered to the Ministry in September 1978 as C-GOFF, tail number 74 and entered service. For the next seven years the Otter flew for the Ministry as part of its large Otter fleet, serving the Ontario bush country. As the Ministry disposed of its Otter fleet during the mid 1980s, Otter OFF was put up for sale.

Registration of C-GOFF to the Ministry was cancelled on 9 August 1985. After winter storage and overhaul, the Otter was sold to Thousand Lakes Airways Ltd., of Upsala, Ontario to whom it was registered on 17 June 1986. Upsala is 145 kilometres north-west of Thunder Bay. The Otter was based at Lac des Mille Lacs, Upsala and served the bush country of North-West Ontario. The company was owned by Ron Gibson, who was a pilot and was associated with Gibson’s Thousand Lakes Resort, providing fishing and hunting for its guests. Originally Thousand Lakes Airways had a Norseman C-FGYY and a Cessna 185. The Norseman was damaged in an accident in June 1985 and never flew again. Ron Gibson made do with the Cessna 185 for the rest of the summer 1985 season and then acquired the Otter in June 1986 to replace the Norseman.  The Otter was flown by Thousand Lakes Airways for the summer seasons of 1986, 1987 and 1988, still painted in the yellow and black scheme of the Ontario government. During the winter of 1988/89 the Otter was put up for sale and replaced by a Cessna U206F with Thousand Lakes Airways.

The buyer of the Otter was Ignace Airways Ltd., in April 1990, to whom C-GOFF was registered on 8 May 1990, in time for that year’s summer season. It had already started flying for Ignace Airways as a minor incident was recorded moments after take-off from Agimak Lake, Ontario on 5 May 1990 when the Otter descended and struck the water. Damage was minor and it was soon flying again. OFF was to fly for Ignace Airways for the next eight years, flying alongside its other Otter C-FAPR (31). Ignace Airways was associated with Ignace Outposts Ltd., which operated fishing lodges throughout North-Western Ontario. The Otter was used to service the lodges during the summer months, as well as for general charter work. The company was reconstituted as Ignace Airways (1996) Ltd., in October 1996 and OFF continued to fly for the company until the end of the summer 1998 season, when it was put up for sale. The registration to Ignace Airways was cancelled on 6 November 1998.

The Otter was destined to continue to serve North-Western Ontario, as its next operator was Huron Air & Outfitters Inc of Armstrong-McKenzie Lake to whom C-GOFF was registered on 20 November 1998. It replaced Otter C-FODK (13) which had crashed in May 1998. Huron Air was a family-owned air charter service, supplying air services to the region’s outpost operators, lodge owners and canoe outfitters, as well as general charter work and support of mineral exploration camps. The Otter entered service with Huron Air on these tasks, still sporting its original Ontario government yellow and black colour scheme. In October 2002 the Otter arrived at the AOG facility at Kelowna, BC for conversion to a Walter turbine engine, an M601E engine, this being the third such conversion. It was at Vernon, BC in December 2002 sporting its new Walter engine. It was still in the testing phase at that stage, with airflow sensors on top of the cowling to analyse rain dispersal over the windshield. OFF was back at home base at Armstrong by April 2003, in time for that year’s summer season.

OFF continued to fly for Huron Air as a turbine Otter until sadly coming to grief on 16 December 2003. The Otter was on a charter and had flown to Jellicoe, Ontario where it was parked overnight. The purpose of the charter was to carry two prospectors to a remote location out in the bush with enough supplies for an extended period of time, including a snowmobile and camping gear. When all of this had been loaded, and with a heavy fuel load, the Otter was near its maximum gross weight. The Otter had been due to take off early that morning, but the departure had to be delayed due to the weather. Snow fell at Jellicoe for most of the morning. The pilot swept the snow off the aircraft and once the sun broke through the cloud, visibility improved and the temperature was sufficiently mild to melt any snow on the aircraft’s wings. Just after noon the Otter taxied out for departure but at that stage the airstrip was covered with some eighteen inches of snow, over a snow crust layer.

The Otter took off towards the east en route to McFaud’s Lake but did not gain altitude and just after lift off the outer right wing leading edge struck small trees at the end of the airstrip. The Otter then crashed through the frozen lake surface of Blackwater Lake, some seventy feet below the runway elevation, penetrated the ice and flipped over, coming to rest in an inverted position, with the aft section of the fuselage above the ice, the front portion of the aircraft submerged. The pilot and one passenger were killed in the impact, with the other passenger surviving although injured with a broken leg. The subsequent accident report determined that on take off, as the snow on the airstrip was quite deep, the skis ploughed through the snow, impeding the acceleration of the aircraft. Near the end of the strip, the pilot forced the Otter into the air with insufficient airspeed to climb out of ground effect. The aircraft was at or near the stall when it struck the trees. It then departed controlled flight and crashed into the frozen surface of the lake.

After the Otter came down the one survivor managed to extricate himself from the wreckage. Unfortunately the ELT beacon did not activate and no flight plan had been filed, so the authorities were not aware that the Otter had crashed. No one reported the Otter as overdue, so that there was no awareness of the crash until 24 hours later when it was seen from the air by an overflying aircraft of Nakina Air Service. By that stage the operator Huron Air had realised the Otter was overdue at its destination and had contacted the Rescue Co-Ordination Centre at Trenton. Rescue Hercules 130341 was tasked to assist and had departed from its base at Winnipeg and was en route to the search area when word was received that the downed Otter had been located. The Hercules returned to base. The survivor was by then in a critical condition, suffering from severe hypothermia, having spent the night on the frozen lake in a temperature of -22C. He was taken to hospital.

The Otter remained half submerged, having gone through 20 cms of solid ice on Blackwater Lake. On Friday 19 December 2003, three days after the crash, authorities managed to recover the wreck, using a tow truck and 60 metres of cable to pull the Otter to the shore. Only then could the bodies of the pilot and passenger be recovered, when the Otter had been stabilised on frozen ice. Conditions had been too dangerous for diving. The registration of the Otter as C-GOFF was subsequently cancelled on 7 June 2005 as “aircraft destroyed”.

The wreck of the Otter was acquired from the insurers by Recon Air and transported by truck to its base at Geraldton, Ontario where it was noted dumped outside the hangar during 2007. It was still in the yellow and black colour scheme, but had been severely damaged in the accident and subsequent recovery from the frozen lake. The cockpit section and much of the forward fuselage was completely destroyed. Recon Air sold the wreck to Atlantic Aircraft Salvage Ltd., and it was trucked eastwards to the buyer’s facility at near Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Atlantic Aircraft Salvage applied for new marks for the aircraft and were allocated C-FLOK on 17 October 2008. The company had also acquired the wreck of former Canadian military Otter 9419 (serial 399), which they had registered C-GTNN and which also lay at their Halifax facility. In October 2008 both Otters were advertised for sale by Atlantic Aircraft Salvage for $350,000, advertised as “Two Otter rebuilders for sale. Very rare find, good books and clean titles”.

The aircraft did not sell at that time, and were advertised again in August 2011 by brokers C&S Enterprises Ltd., at a much reduced price: “Two de Havilland DHC-3 Otter projects, serials 65 and 399, package price $185,000 Canadian”. The advert read: “Walter turbine conversion badly damaged (beyond economic repair). Cockpit section badly damaged. Right hand cabin section badly damaged. Forward roof section badly damaged. Rear carry-through spar aft in fair condition. Wings destroyed, flight controls damaged. We have a total of 3 wings, right hand in fair condition (hangar rash), two left hand wings in poor condition, to be used to build one good wing. Most flight controls come with the package, some are new, some are damaged”.

The package of the two wrecked Otters was purchased by Neil Carl Walsten of Kenora and trucked from Halifax to Reddit, Ontario, arriving 20 March 2013. They were again advertised for sale on 4 August 2013 by Walsten Aircraft of Kenora: “Available for sale or trade, two damaged Otters and many spares. $275,000. Will sell or trade for flying Beaver”.  By January 2017 both Otter rebuild projects were noted at the facility of Vancouver Island Air at Campbell River, BC.

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.