DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 77

142425 on DHC air-to-air shoot.
Photo: DHC © January 1956
142425 on Davis-Monthan arrivals ramp, from NAF China Lake.
Photo: Ian Macfarlane © October 1978 - Aird Archives
N1037G after forced landing.
Photos: via Nancy DeWitt © June 1989
C-GCQA at Pickle Lake, Ontario, in winter.
Photo: Rich Hulina © Date unknown - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-GCQA of Northstar Air Limited, at Pickle Lake, Ontario.
Photo: Michel Leonard © 17 July 2009
N947RK on delivery flight at Pelican Lake, Sioux Lookout, Ontario.
Photo: Rich Hulina © 15 September 2016
N947RK heads out on Lake Hood, Anchorage.
Photo:Ben Cogger © 01 June 2018

c/n 77

142425 • N1037G • N129JH • C-GCQA

N947AK

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• 142425 United States Navy Delivered 21-Mar-1956 Initially delivered to VX-6 at Patuxent River NAS, MD.

VX-6 Quonset Point NAS, RI, Jun-1956

VX-6 McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Oct-1956 until Jan-1966.

Incident Ross Ice Shelf. 24-Dec 1960. Forced down following engine failure. Repaired and returned to service.

Total time: 888 hours with VX-61960 .at Dec

Naval Aerospace Recovery Facility, which was also based at El Centro, in June 1966 until February 1975.

Total time at Jun-1966 2,438 hours.

Parachute Test Range, based at El Centro. Feb 1975. reported arriving from NAF China Lake.

• 142425 MASDC., Davis-Monthan AFB., Tucson, AZ. Inventory Code 5U001 Arrived 02-Oct-1978 left 01-May-1979.

• N1037G Purchased by Jack Lenhardt, Lenhardt Airpark, Hubbard, OR. Regd to Lenhardt Airpark Inc.,  Apr-1979

• N1037G James J. Harkey,  Auburn, WA. Regd Mar-1981.

• N1037G 40 Mile Air, Tok, AK. May-1981.

Accident: Unknown location. Circa 1989. Force landed due to engine failure in the Alaskan bush and was badly damaged.

• N1037G Warbelows Air Ventures Inc., Fairbanks, AK., Alaska, purchased wreckage Jul-1990.

• N1037G Kodiak Sanitation Inc., Kodiak, AK. Circa 1993. Owned by James J Harkey. Commenced rebuild.

• N1037G Michael L. Cusack, Anchorage, AK. Regd June 1994.

• N129JH James J. Harkey. Auburn, WA. Regd Jan 1995.

Note: Converted to Vazar turbine power by Aeroflite Industries,  Vancouver, BC. Rolled out 05-Mar-1996..

Note: To  AOG Air Support at Kelowna, BC., for the incorporation of BARON / STOL modifications.

• C-GCQA North Star Air Ltd., Pickle Lake, ON. Regd 31-Dec1998. Canx 06-Mar-2012.

Accident: 39 Mile Lake, ON. 26-Apr-1999. The Otter landed to pick up some goose hunters for a flight to the native community of Kasabonika. The company had made a flight to the lake earlier in the day in a Beaver and found the ice to be about two feet thick. After the Otter had stopped next to the hunting camp, the ice gave way. The front of the Otter sank through the ice and the tail remained on the ice. The aircraft was subsequently and with difficulty lifted from the ice by a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter and removed to Kasabonika, 39 miles away. A new engine and propeller were fitted and temporary repairs carried out before the Otter was flown to Geraldton, Ontario for final repair by Recon Air. Remained stored at Nov-2015. Left on delivery to Alaska, after rework on 15-Sep-2016.

• N947AK Rainbow King Lodge Inc., Lemoore, CA • Regd 25-Aug-2016.

Current

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Otter number 77 was delivered to the United States Navy on 21st March 1956 with BuAer serial number 142425. Otters 78 and 79 were delivered to the Navy at the same time (all three were to have been delivered the previous July but were delayed by a strike at DHC) and all three were flown to the Navy's VX-6 Squadron base at Patuxent River NAS, Maryland. Here, training flights were conducted in preparation for the Antarctic deployment, as well as trials to determine how the Otter would perform at altitude, in case it had to be used on the high Antarctic plateau regions. For this purpose 142425 and 142426 departed Patuxent River on 9th May '56 en route to Colorado, where the high altitude trials were to be conducted in the Rocky Mountains. Both Otters landed that day at NAS Columbus, Ohio to refuel. A broken generator shaft on 142426 resulted in loss of electrical power, and since no suitable replacement generator could be obtained, '426 returned to base.

142425 continued on westwards to Peterson Field, Ent Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado arriving on the afternoon of 11th May. The trials were to be conducted at Leadville, a rough gravel strip ten thousand feet up in the Rockies. Weather precluded operations for a few days but on 15th May the Otter departed from Fort Carson's airstrip, elevation 5,800 feet and flew to Leadville. “The condition of the strip and the performance of the Otter at 10,000 feet were of such a nature that after three landings the pilots felt it inadvisable to continue the tests”. On 16th May, '425 departed Peterson Field, arriving back at Patuxent River on 18th May '56. The following month 142425 moved with the Squadron to VX-6's new base at Quonset Point NAS Rhode Island, from where it operated until transported to the Antarctic in October 1956. The Otter was to serve the Navy faithfully for 22 years, including ten years in the harsh Antarctic environment with VX-6.

During Deep Freeze III an Antarctic “first” was made by '425 on 25th October 1957, when it landed on Roosevelt Island, located some thirty miles from Little America. It was on a reconnaissance flight to establish Camp Michigan, a site on the Ross Ice Shelf where the IGY Ice Deformation Study programme was to be conducted. Six days later '425 made an emergency flight to the Ross Ice Shelf traverse party, which was then feeling its way from Little America to McMurdo. A scientist had fallen sixty feet into a crevasse, but had been pulled out by other members of the party. He was in urgent need of medical treatment and the Otter was sent to collect him. Crew of the Otter were Commander James Waldron and Lt. Harvey Gardner. In the Antarctic darkness and with weather only marginal at the accident site, the two took off in '425. Homing in on a low frequency beacon, Waldron was brought right over the campsite. On arrival at the remote location, landing the Otter was very hazardous. Visibility was so bad that Waldron could not see anything smaller than the outline of men, vehicles and dark streaks indicating the dreaded crevasses. Instructing the traverse leader to have his men form a straight line 25 yards apart, beside the tracks made by the party's equipment, he considered this to be the safest landing ground. The hard landing which followed caused some damage to the Otter's skis. After picking up the injured man, he was flown to McMurdo in the Otter and from there airlifted to Christchurch.

142425 very nearly came to grief again on Christmas Eve 1960, and was lucky to survive. The Otter was engaged that day on a re-supply flight to Mount Christmas, 230 miles south of McMurdo, when it suffered engine failure and was forced down on the Ross Ice Shelf, landing between two crevasses in the area of Barne Inlet. The following is a summary of an article written by the pilot, which graphically illustrates the difficulties of dealing with an engine failure, particularly over the inhospitable terrain of Antarctica. The Otter had been cruising along on top of an overcast, as the pilot sought a break in the clouds large enough to go down through. He then heard a definite 'clunk' from the engine, followed by noticeable vibration, a 'dancing' RPM needle and the oil pressure gauge pointing to the lower end of the scale. A glance at the windscreen showed oil creeping up over the glass.

The pilot turned left toward a space between two mountains that loomed above his 8,000 foot altitude. Continual re-trimming of the Otter was necessary as the crewman and passenger hurriedly tossed everything they could out the door. The engine was putting out about 50% power, with a steady loss of altitude. Howls from the husky tied up at the rear of the cabin could be heard above the reduced power noise. The huge beast bared its fangs and snapped at the men as they passed. The windscreen was by this stage covered with thick oil, darkening to black as it congealed in the frigid temperature. Forward visibility was zero. About a ton and half of cargo had been thrown out the door in a matter of minutes, which reduced the rate of descent, but the Otter was still going down. Passing five thousand feet, it entered the overcast, holding a 600 feet per minute rate of descent. The inside of the aircraft went dark as thick clouds closed around. With visibility gone and no navigation aids to fix their position in relation to surrounding mountains, the occupants were in the hands of providence. The pilot carefully maintained the gyro compass heading of a course between the peaks and prayed that the terrain of the glacial range would fall away below faster than the Otter was going down.

As the needle on the altimeter dipped past 300 feet, the light coming through the smeared-over windows began to increase and suddenly they broke out of the underside of the overcast to find themselves over a glacier, with ice blocks and crevasses all over the place. Even with the increased light, the windshield was still an opaque layer of congealed black oil. The Otter touched down firmly on all three skis and then lurched sickeningly to the right as the ski on that side crashed into something. They bounced and became airborne again, hit again and stayed on the surface. They had just made a totally blind landing on the glacier. A careful inspection of the area showed just how lucky they had been. Behind the Otter was a long ridge of mounded white, like a sand dune, at a right angle to the landing track. The top of this ridge was some fifteen feet above the area where the Otter had come to rest. Along the base of the ridge was an aqua-colour bottomless void running off in both directions, this icy blue strip clearly indicating the opening of a major crevasse. They had touched down at first on the higher side of the chasm and then floated across it to the low side.

They dipped the seat cushions in engine oil and gas and set them alight, the black smoke indicating their position. Soon the sleek form of a Navy P2V Neptune appeared overhead and relayed their position to the rescue helicopter, a Navy H-34 Choctaw, which arrived and took the crew home. A repair party arrived. They changed the cylinder (the engine had not seized despite the lack of lubricant), flushed out all metallic residue from the rest of the engine six times until no filings could be found, changed the right ski because it was bent and a guy wire had snapped, dropped the fuel barrels the Otter had been carrying down a crevasse that the skis were bridging, muscled the aircraft around 90 degrees so it was facing a reasonably flat area with a thousand feet or so to the next big block of ice. The pilot (Thomas E. Morrow) then flew it out with one crewman back to McMurdo. Here it was carefully checked and was back in service three days later. It continued to fly for the Squadron until January 1966, when the Otter was finally withdrawn from the Antarctic.

Although the Otter had been acquired by the Navy for the specific purpose of supporting Antarctic operations, such was the versatility of the aircraft that the Navy retained its five remaining Otters, transported them back to the United States and put them to use on a variety of tasks. 142425 went to the Naval Air Rework Facility at El Centro, California. It had flown 888 hours with VX-6. After overhaul, it joined the Naval Aerospace Recovery Facility, which was also based at El Centro, in June 1966. This Facility had as its mission the development, test and evaluation of parachutes, human escape methods and systems, and rescue, survival and personnel safety equipment. With this unit the Otter was used as a 'jumper' - a platform from which the parachutists jumped in testing the equipment.

When the US Geological Survey acquired an Army surplus Otter (N2750, serial 261) its controls were only on the pilot's side, so during March 1974 its pilot arranged for transition training at El Centro using 142425, which used the radio call-sign “Shadetree 425”. As the pilot, Tony England, explained “We launched each mission with me in the co-pilot's seat until the jumpers exited. Then the pilot and I would exchange seats and I would get a lesson for an hour or so. We did this a couple of times a day for a week, at which point I felt comfortable with the aircraft”. 142425 remained with the Facility until February 1975, by which time its airframe hours had increased to 2,438. It was then transferred to the National Parachute Test Range, still based at El Centro. The Otter continued in use as a jumping platform, and performed other tasks such as aerial photography and was used as a spotter aircraft. It carried the name “Horribles Super Critter”. In October 1978, after 3,070 hours flying in Naval service over a 22 year career, it made its final flight in military service, across the Rockies to a well-earned retirement at the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center, Davis-Monthan AFB., Tucson, Arizona.

Having been placed into storage in “the boneyard”, as the storage compounds at Davis-Monthan are known, it was allocated the Product Control Number, or inventory code, 5U-001. It was to be the only Naval Otter in the boneyard and its storage was short, only six months, before it was acquired by Jack Lenhardt. He was the owner of Lenhardt Airpark Inc, a privately owned airfield at Hubbard in the Williamette Valley to the south of Portland, Oregon. He dabbled in ‘warbirds’ and the story of how he acquired the Otter starts some time previous, when on 10 January 1978 Jack Lenhardt wrote to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida with a proposal.

Jack Lenhardt had completed the restoration to flying condition of General Motors FM-2 Wildcat BuAer 86690, which he had registered N20HA and which was then parked at his Lenhardt Airpark. He proposed that he would transfer this Wildcat to the Museum in exchange for

(a)    Goodyear FG-1D Corsair 92013, then at the Museum in Pensacola and in need of restoration

(b)    NU-1B Otter 144672 (160) then on display at the Museum and

(c)     Douglas C-117D 17165 then in storage in the boneyard at Davis-Monthan.

Lengthy negotiations took place with the Museum and eventually a deal was struck, but instead of the exchange aircraft he had originally requested, Mr Lenhardt was to receive

(a)    Douglas C-118 131585, then in storage at Davis-Monthan (instead of the Corsair)

(b)    Otter 142425, which by that stage had arrived into storage at Davis-Monthan (Otter 144672 would remain on display at the Museum in Pensacola, where it still is today)

(c)     Douglas C-117D 17165 then in storage at Davis-Monthan

The agreement was signed on 2 April 1979 and by Bill of Sale of that date, the Wildcat became the property of the Navy and the Navy transferred ownership of the three exchange aircraft to Lenhardt Airpark Inc as follows

(a)    Douglas C-118 131585, which was registered to Lenhardt Airpark Inc in June 1979 as N1037F and sold on

(b)    Otter 142425 which was registered to Lenhardt Airpark Inc on 13 April 1979 as N1037G and

(c)     Douglas C-117D 17165 which was registered to Lenhardt Airpark Inc in June 1979 as N1037A and sold on.

Jack Lenhardt collected Otter 142425, then registered N1037G, at Davis-Monthan and flew it to his Lenhardt Airpark. It was still in the all white colour scheme in which the Navy had flown it and still carried Navy titles and the star-and-bars. Here he converted the Otter to civilian configuration including, as he says, “changing all of the firewall rivets to stainless steel instead of aluminium, which was not easy”. As the work neared completion, he applied for a Certificate of Airworthiness on 21 November 1979, the Otter having total airframe time at that stage of 3,104 hours. The C. of A. was granted on 18 December 1979. Mr Lenhardt flew the Otter for some hours around the local area during 1980, before selling it on to James J. Harkey of Auburn, Washington, who over the years has owned a number of Otters. The Bill of Sale from Lenhardt Airpark Inc to James Harkey is dated 3 April 1981, on which date the Otter was registered to Mr Harkey and flown on delivery from Lenhardt Airpark to Renton Airfield, Seattle.

James Harkey had bought the Otter to sell on, and he achieved a quick sale, with Otter N1037G being sold to 40 Mile Air of Tok, Alaska by Bill of Sale dated 15 May 1981. The buyers arranged for Sorm Industries to install a bulk fuel tank into the Otter, which was done on 18 May 1981 at Seattle, before the Otter set off on delivery to its new home at Tok. N1037G was 40 Mile Air’s first Otter and it joined a fleet of Cessna 185/206/207s and Hughes and Hiller helicopters. The following year it was joined by Otter N2899J (425) and 40 Mile Air would go on to operate other Otters in the future, the type proving ideal to service the Alaskan bush country from the base at Tok, which lies in remote eastern Alaska near its border with the Yukon. The Otters were used to support mineral exploration, with hunters and tourists flown in the summer months as well and also general charter work. 40 Mile Air also had a base at Fairbanks.

Initially Otter N1037G was flown in its all white colour scheme, and even retained ‘Navy’ under the wing although it did have a small 40 Mile Air logo on the fuselage. It was subsequently painted into the company colours of black under-fuselage with a cheatline two shades of blue. As 40 Mile Air described it: “The Otter was used mainly for short field work, supporting mining camps in the summer. In the winter it lived in Prudhoe Bay supporting the cat trains that searched for oil way up on the North Slope. The Otter would fly out to where ever the cat train was, bringing food and mail. It was based out of the British Petroleum hangar at Prudhoe. One time it taxied into a 55 gallon drum, pitched the drum into the air over the top of a Cessna 206 and the drum was embedded into the side of a Beaver”.

N1037G continued in service with 40 Mile Air for eight years, until an accident on 20 June 1989. It suffered engine failure while flying north of Fairbanks and hit a ridge in the ensuing forced landing in the bush, sustaining severe damage.  Nancy de Witt, who was a passenger in the Otter that day, takes up the story:

“My date with N1037G was on 20 June 1989. I had flown to Alaska from Boise, Idaho to volunteer for the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) Endangered Species Office out of Fairbanks. The plan was for me to fly from Fairbanks to Umiat to meet a USFWS biologist and conduct raptor surveys along the Colville River. I was to wait in Umiat while the plane flew downriver to Ocean Point to pick up the biologist (Ted Swem) and another volunteer (Tom Cade). Upon their return to Umiat, Tom would be dropped off and Ted and I would fly as far upriver as we could to launch a raft for a three-week trip. The plane would then return to Umiat for Tom and fly back to Fairbanks”.

“Skip Ambrose, the supervisor for the Fairbanks Endangered Species Office, took me to the airport that day. He mistakenly thought that the charter company was located on the east ramp of the Fairbanks International Airport so we stopped there first. I clearly remember that the Otter there was orange in colour and was referred to as a “Pumpkin Otter” by some. (This was Otter N17689 msn 431 of Wright Air Service). After the guys on the ramp told us we were at the wrong charter service, we drove to the other side of the airport and checked in at the 40 Mile Air office on the west ramp”.

“Besides my gear and our food for the float trip, the plane was carrying a full load of cargo to Umiat, mostly frozen meat and canned food for the “Umiat Hilton” motel there. Skip joked that if we crashed at least we’d have plenty to eat. I was the only passenger on the flight and rode in the right seat up front. After taking off from Fairbanks we began a slow climb north towards the White Mountains and Yukon River. About 30 minutes out the plane’s loud engine suddenly went quiet, and the most intense rush of adrenaline I have ever experienced flooded through me”.

“I asked the pilot what was wrong and he said he didn’t know. I was surprised the plane was still horizontal, rather than spinning down nose first like you see in the movies. The propeller was still spinning some and the pilot later told me that he had about 30% engine power on our ride down. He spent about 15 seconds fiddling with controls and then radioed that we were going down, saying “it doesn’t look good”. We were above tree-covered mountains and not that far above the ground. I’d heard that crashing into trees rarely ends well and I briefly wondered how fast one’s world goes black in a plane crash. Then I started praying”.

“The pilot said something about looking for a clear spot to land and I pointed out a patch of treeless ground to the right. He had already spotted a clear ridge to his left, which I couldn’t see and banked the plane hard into a 180+ degree turn. At that point I became determined to walk away from the crash and grabbed tightly onto my chest harness, trying to brace my head so I didn’t get whiplash. The pilot had set the flaps and it felt like we weren’t going any faster than 40 mph before impact. The plane was shuddering hard and the stall alarm was screaming right before we hit. I don’t think it was more than a minute from when the engine failed before we were on the ground”.

“We clipped a small spruce tree before smacking down on the tundra. The landing gear immediately collapsed and the plane spun on its belly to the left. My door flew open when we hit and I remember being grateful that my harness and seat held and I wasn’t flung out the door. The propeller dug into the tundra and sprayed dirt all over us through the broken windshield. I think we only skidded about 25 metres before coming to a stop. The pilot immediately radioed that we were on the ground and okay. Neither the pilot nor I had any obvious injuries. That night I developed a sore, bruised jaw and wonder if the yoke on my side had shot out when we hit and I smacked my chin on it. I didn’t remember that happening”.

“We were lucky to have radio contact because there apparently were sections along our flight path that didn’t. For some reason our ELT was not activated on impact. It was a huge relief to know that people were aware that we had crashed, rather than having to wait to be reported as missing and then wait for a search plane to find us. It wasn’t long before a small plane flew over and dipped its wing at us. The location of the crash was on a ridge south of the Yukon River, in the White Mountains and east of the Dalton Highway.  It took several hours to get a helicopter out to pick us up because it was wildfire season in Interior Alaska and all the choppers were on fire duty. After a few hours a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bell 212 helicopter came for us, much to my relief because I didn’t want to spend the night in bear country with a plane full of thawing fish and hordes of mosquitos. We loaded up my gear and as much of the perishable food as we could into the helicopter and flew back to Fairbanks, landing at Fort Wainright to a mix of sympathy and congratulations from Skip and a few other people gathered there”.

“The next morning Skip took me back to the 40 Mile Air office to attempt another flight north. Ted and Tom were still waiting at Ocean Point, unaware of the reason they hadn’t been picked up and running low on food. Before we could leave, though, the pilot and I had to be interviewed by an investigator from the Office of Aviation Services who had flown in from Boise. I eventually made it to Umiat on June 21 (in a Cessna I think) and three weeks later Ted and I were flown off the river in 40 Mile Air’s other Otter which I admit was unnerving for me as it looked identical to the one that had crashed”.  (We must express grateful thanks to Nancy de Witt for this unique and fascinating first-hand account of this incident).

The Otter was pulled out of the crash site to the Dalton Highway by a snowcat the following November, and brought back to Fairbanks.  That crash was to end its service with 40 Mile Air. By Bill of Sale dated 1 December 1989 title was transferred to Warbelows Air Ventures Inc of Fairbanks, an associated company of 40 Mile Air. It was registered to this company on 6 February 1990, the first of a number of ownership changes while the Otter would remain grounded and awaiting rebuild. 40 Mile Air was owned by brothers Charles and Arthur Warbelow, but they decided to go their separate ways. Charles kept the 40 Mile Air operation at Tok, and Arthur kept the base at Fairbanks, this operation being re-named Warbelows Air Ventures Inc and all this occurring during 1989. Charles kept Otter N3125N (394) and Arthur kept the wreck of N1037G (77).

By Bill of Sale 26 October 1992 Warbelows Air Ventures sold the Otter to Kodiak Sanitation Inc., of Kodiak, Alaska and N1037G was registered to this company on 15 December 1992. The company started to rebuild the Otter but gave up on the project. By Bill of Sale 29 April 1994 the aircraft was sold to Mike Cusack of Anchorage, the owner of King Salmon Lodge, which flew a Beaver. He had the Otter transported to Victoria, BC., for rebuild but then sold it by Bill of Sale 10 January 1995 to James J. Harkey of Auburn, Washington, its previous owner. By letter dated 24 January 1995 to the FAA, Mr Harkey requested a change of registration from N1037G to N129JH, which was granted.

Structural repairs to the Otter had been completed by Victoria Air Maintenance at Victoria, BC., by May 1995, in the course of which the BARON STOL modifications were incorporated and the Otter put on Wipaire 8000 amphibious floats. The project was then moved to Aeroflite Industries at the Vancouver International Airport, arriving 20 December 1995, who converted the Otter to a Vazar DHC-3T with the installation of a PT-6A engine. N129JH was rolled out of the hangar after the conversion on 5 March 1996, looking pristine, painted all white with a red cheatline and the leading edges of the wing also in red.  After more than seven years on the ground the Otter flew again, to the Auburn, Washington airfield not far from Seattle, which was to be its base for the next two years. It was flown by James Harkey for his personal use.

By Bill of Sale 20 February 1998 James Harkey sold the Otter to newly formed North Star Air Ltd., of Pickle Lake, Ontario. The Otter was flown across the country to its new base, being de-registered on 3 March 1998 and registered in Canada to its new owners as C-GCQA. It retained its red and white colour scheme, acquiring North Star Air titles. It was to be the flagship of the fleet, flying alongside a pair of Beavers, later replaced by a Cessna Caravan, and single Cessnas. Over the years Pickle Lake had been the base of many Otters, serving the bush country of Northwest Ontario, a role continued by C-GCQA. All went well until a mishap the following year.

On 26 April 1999 the two pilots were landing the turbo Otter at 39 Mile Lake, Ontario to pick up some goose hunters for a flight to the native community of Kasabonika. The company had made a flight to the lake earlier in the day in a Beaver and had found the ice to be about two feet thick. After the Otter had stopped next to the hunting camp, the ice gave way. The front of the Otter sank through the ice in about five feet of water and the tail remained on the ice. A helicopter was dispatched the next morning to retrieve the crew and the hunters. A larger helicopter, a Sikorsky S-61, was then chartered to airlift the Otter to Kasabonika for repair.

This incident well illustrates the difficulty and expense of retrieving an aircraft such as an Otter from the bush. The S-61 was chartered from Helicopter Transport Services and had to be ferried from its base at Carp, Ontario all the way to the lake, which was 155 miles north of Pickle Lake. In all, there was 15 hours of flying involved, there and back, for the helicopter, which came with a price tag of $4,400 per hour! Arriving overhead the sunken Otter, ropes were attached but the first attempt to lift the aircraft was unsuccessful. It was too heavy and firmly embedded in the ice. The S-61 hovered nearby for 45 minutes to burn off fuel and reduce its weight and then tried again. This time the lift was successful and the helicopter along with the underslung Otter proceeded to Kasabonika, 39 miles away, where C-GCQA was deposited before the S-61 refuelled and headed for home. At Kasabonika a new engine and propeller were fitted and temporary repairs carried out before the Otter was flown to Geraldton, Ontario for final repair by Recon Air. In all the recovery had cost $85,000.

CQA resumed operations with North Star Air from Pickle Lake. The Otter was flown year round to earn its keep, as an amphibian in the summer months and on wheel-skis in winter. Hunters, fishermen and tourists made up the bulk of the summer trade. The more adventurist tourists were flown up the River Winisk for canoeing and to Hudson Bay for polar bear and whale viewing. Although nearly all the flying was done within Ontario, occasionally the Otter flew down to International Falls, Minnesota to collect tourists and bring them to Pickle Lake. Mineral exploration was another activity which took place year round, flying survey and drilling teams out into the bush. This activity covered the vast frontier area between Pickle Lake all the way north to Hudson Bay. The Otter was also used to fly freight to native communities at such places as Big Trout Lake, Summer Beaver, Wunnumin Lake, Webequie, Anglin Lake and Wawakapewin. CQA was a very busy Otter. Most of the winter work was to Long Dog, the only native reserve in the area not to have a runway. It was approximately one hour’s flight north of Pickle Lake and a standard load was six drums of diesel fuel for their generators. There was also a small amount of work for the Otter during the winter months flying trappers around the bush.

A few incidents were recorded on CADORS:

18 August 2000.   CQA on amphibious floats was on a VFR flight to Pickle Lake. It executed a missed approach due to a landing gear unsafe indication. Company Cessna T210 C-GHEG flew alongside the Otter to check that the gear was in fact down and the Otter landed safely.

27 May 2001.  CQA on amphibious floats was on final approach to runway 27 at Pickle Lake when the pilot noticed an unsafe gear warning light. The gear was recycled but the unsafe indication remained. The Otter performed a fly-by and it was confirmed that all four gear were down. It landed without further incident. The left gear micro switch was replaced.

6 July 2002.  CQA reported on final approach to runway 27 at Pickle Lake. After landing, the left brake locked, with the aircraft on Taxiway Alpha and the tail sticking halfway out onto the runway. It took 15 minutes to tow the Otter clear of the runway.

5 August 2002.   CQA departed Pickle Lake but was unable to retract the nose gear. It returned and landed safely.

17 July 2003.     Wasaya Airways Cessna 208 operating flight WSG126 from Pickle Lake to Norway House taxied onto runway 27 at Pickle Lake but became disabled on the runway. Two aircraft, WSG125 and Otter C-GCQA, inbound to Pickle Lake were delayed in landing.

12 September 2004.   After taxying into position for departure from Pickle Lake, CQA operating as BF701 (Blackfly 701, the Otter’s normal callsign) had to shut down the engine and be towed off the runway. The propeller was removed and sent to an overhaul facility for repair.

13 June 2005.  Otter CQA operating as BF701 was inbound to Pickle Lake VFR. The pilot landed VFR below VFR weather conditions for flight in uncontrolled airspace.

For summer 2007 C-GCQA deployed north to Baker Lake, Nunavut to fly for Ookpik Aviation. This company at the time did not have its own AOC and for the period August 2007 to April 2008 Ookpik Aviation operated under North Star Aviation’s AOC and Ookpik’s own turbine Otter C-FPEN (439) was registered to North Star Aviation. During this period both Otters moved fuel, food and personnel in and out of seven different exploration camps around Baker Lake, landing on eskers and spots of level ground. There were two CADORS incidents while Otter CQA was based at Baker Lake:

4 October 2007.  Otter CQA as BF701 was taxying for departure from runway 16 at Baker Lake. There was a blower on the runway that was in the process of proceeding off the runway and the pilot of the Otter asked the CARS operator to ask the blower driver to pull over. The CARS operator was occupied with another call and did not pass the request to the driver. The Otter departed with the vehicle still on the runway.

26 October 2007.  The driver of an airport maintenance vehicle at Baker Lake was not on the correct ground frequency, which resulted in the vehicle being still on the runway while Blackfly 701, DHC-3T Otter C-GCQA, was taxying onto the runway for departure.

By April 2008 Otter CQA had returned to Pickle Lake. That summer it operated many supply flights to mining camps, flying out of Pickle Lake and Webequie to camps some 50 to 75 miles away. Further CADORS incidents:

5 August 2009.    CQA on amphibious floats was on a round-robin itinerary flight from Big Trout Lake Airport, Ontario to a lake 15 miles to the south. On returning to land on the gravel runway at the airport, an unsafe landing gear indication occurred when the wheels were lowered. The wheels were retracted and the landing was made on floats on Big Trout Lake. The crew found that a rope had fouled the extension system. The rope was removed and the crew took off to land on the gravel strip. The flight was less than two minutes and the wheels were unintentionally left retracted. The Otter landed on the floats and slid to a stop on the gravel, which was wet. Maintenance inspection of the floats revealed no damage. The Otter was flown to Fort Frances, Ontario and was noted at the facility of Fort Frances Sportsmen at Rainy Lake undergoing overhaul during September 2009, prior to return to service with North Star Air out of Pickle Lake.

18 March 2010.   Otter CQA operating as flight BF701 VFR from Pickle Lake to Lansdowne House. Departed from runway 09 but first radio call was when reporting airborne (controlled airspace violation).

25 September 2010.  CQA as flight BF701 was concluding a VFR flight from Fort Hope Airport to Pickle Lake Airport.  Wasaya Airways HS748 C-FFFS operating as WSG806 was concluding a VFR flight from Wunnumin Lake Airport to Pickle Lake Airport. The Otter arrived at Pickle Lake at 1734Z and the flight crew reported that the aircraft was disabled on the runway. The HS748 reported inbound to Pickle Lake at 1752Z and circled until the Otter was towed off the runway at 1759Z. The HS748 then landed without incident at 1803Z.

28 July 2011.   CQA on a VFR flight, carrying a load of lumber, from its base at Pickle Lake Airport to Kabania Lake, Ontario, a remote lake some 115 miles north-west of Sioux Lookout, part of a First Nations reserve. The Otter, on amphibious floats, landed with the gear down. On touchdown the Otter nosed over and over-turned. The two on board were uninjured and were picked up by boat from a nearby outpost camp. The Otter had received substantial damage.

That incident on 28 July 2011 was to bring an end to CQA’s thirteen year career with North Star Air. It lay at the accident site for two months while arrangements were made to retrieve it. It was then dismantled and flown in pieces as a number of underslung loads by helicopter sixty miles from Kabania Lake to the nearest road. It was then trucked back to Pickle Lake, arriving late September 2011. The cost of repair was estimated in the region of $600,000 and as this was not an economic proposition for North Star Air, the Otter was transferred to the insurance company for disposal. The damaged fuselage, with wings detached, was noted in outside storage at Springer Aerospace, Bar River, Ontario in October 2011, continuing on the following month to Geraldton, Ontario after its purchase by noted Otter rebuilders, Recon Air. The registration of C-GCQA to North Star Air was cancelled on 6 March 2012.

Recon Air arranged to rebuild the Otter and to sell it to Rainbow King Lodge, a fishing lodge located at Iliamna, Alaska.   The Lodge had earlier operated turbine Otter N928RK (61), which had crashed in September 2015 and was a write-off.  They were to acquire Otter 77 as a replacement.  Work on the rebuild started at Geraldton, in the course of which it was re-engined with the Garrett TPE-331 engine, becoming a Texas Turbine conversion.  It was registered as N947RK to Rainbow King Lodge Inc., on 25 August 2016, with a corporate address at Lemoore, California, but the Otter was to be based at the Lodge in Iliamna.

N947RK departed on delivery from Geraldton on 18 September 2016 on delivery to Alaska. Its full routing is not known but it did pass through Sioux Lookout, Fort McMurray and Whitehorse. It was delivered on straight floats, painted in the Lodge’s colour scheme of white upper fuselage, red cheatline, blue lower fuselage and white tail with red tip.  On arrival the Otter entered service with Rainbow King Lodge, flying its fishing guests.

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.x