Otter number 8 was delivered to the RCAF with serial 3662 on 28th March 1953, the same day as 3661, the Force's first Otter. Like 3661, it also carried an ABcode for DHC publicity purposes prior to delivery. Its first assignment was to 408 Squadron, Rockcliffe, carrying the unit's MN code, the squadron history recording that by 2nd April '53 3662 was engaged on local pilot familiarisation flights. It remained with 408 Squadron over the summer, being transferred to 102 Communications Unit, Trenton in September 1953.
Subsequently, date unknown, it joined 111 Communications & Rescue Flight at Winnipeg, taking that unit's PW code. It was involved in the rescue activity for USAF B-47 tail number 17013 which crashed in the Big Sandy Lake, Saskatchewan area on 12th February 1955, and also in the rescue of the RCMP Otter CF-MPP, overdue on a flight from Fort Churchill to Ennadai Lake on 22nd February 1955, as described in relation to Otter 42. The history of 111 Communications & Rescue Flight records that as at 1st December 1955 it had on strength three C-47 Dakotas, three Beech Expeditors, one Harvard, two T-33s and two Otters, 3673 (which they had borrowed from 103 Rescue Unit at Greenwood) and 3662, then on overhaul at Calgary. 3662 re-joined the Flight after its overhaul later that month, and on 19th December '55 it was on a training flight to Big Trout Lake when it experienced engine trouble and had to overnight on the frozen lake. Parts were dropped to the downed Otter the following day, enabling repairs to be carried out.
The Otters operated out of Winnipeg on wheel-skis during the winter, and on floats from Lac du Bonnet during the summer. In August 1956, 3662 made a facility check tour of northern aerodromes, leaving the Flight's other Otter, which was then 3696, at Lac du Bonnet. On 28th October '56 a private Cessna made a forced landing on a lake in the Berens River area. 3662 flew in oil and heaters to service the Cessna, which then flew back to Winnipeg. The Unit's history records that on 8th November '56, both 3662 and 3696 were ferried from the Lac du Bonnet summer base back to Winnipeg, where they were fitted with wheel-skis for the winter.
3662 continued in service with 111 Communications & Rescue Flight at Winnipeg until September 1957, when it went to No.6 Repair Depot at Trenton for storage as a reserve aircraft. In October 1964 it was transferred to Saskatoon and continued in storage awaiting disposal. It was sold to DHC in June 1965, who converted it to civilian configuration. The Otter was then sold to Coast Range Airways Ltd of Atlin, BC, to whom it was registered on 7th February 1966 as CF-SUB. Atlin is in the northern part of the Province, near to the Yukon border, so the Otter was ideally placed to serve the charter needs of that region, hauling fuel, diamond drills and supplies for mining and exploration camps.
In the spring of 1967 Coast Range Airways was purchased by Trans North Turbo Air Ltd of Whitehorse, Yukon principally for its helicopter charter licence and its one Bell 47G helicopter. Otter SUB continued to serve the mining industry, remaining registered to Coast Range Airways, then a subsidiary of Trans North Turbo Air. At that time, it was the only Otter in the vicinity of the Yukon and was much in demand. Besides supplying the exploration camps, it was also used during the summers of 1966 and 1967 for water-bombing forest fires with a “torpedo-type” tank hung under the fuselage. On 16th November 1967, the Otter received some damage at its Atlin base. An approach was made to land toward the southwest. At about ten feet above the ground a gust of wind caused the Otter to balloon slightly. Power was added and altitude and direction maintained. During touch down, a gust of wind lifted the left wing and the right wing tip contacted the ground and dragged for about 100 feet. The Otter went off the right side of the runway before coming to rest. The damage was repaired.
In the fall of 1967, Trans North Turbo Air sold the fixed-wing portion of their fleet, a Super Cub, Beaver and the Otter SUB to Great Northern Airways Ltd of Calgary, so that Trans North could concentrate on its helicopter operations. The Otter was registered to Great Northern Airways on 17th July 1968 and painted in a blue colour scheme with red cheat line. During the summer of that year, a blown jug caused a forced landing onto Margaret Lake, a small lake north of Mayo in the Yukon.
After the necessary repairs were made to the engine, the take-off was not so successful and the Otter went careening into the bush at the end of the lake, tearing the floats off and doing much damage to the fuselage. The aircraft had to be slung out in pieces to a nearby strip and bush-repaired, using parts from a steel bed frame to re-enforce it for the ferry flight out. It headed south to Field Aviation, Calgary for repair and was then temporarily fitted with a set of borrowed amphibious floats, so that it could finish the season based out of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.
CF-SUB continued to fly for Great Northern Airways until that carrier went bankrupt in December 1970. Its assets and licences were bought by International Jet Air Ltd of Calgary. Their main interest was the “E” category licence which Great Northern had held, which enabled International Jet Air to establish a scheduled and charter service over the routes Great Northern had operated, using a fleet of Lockheed L188 Electras. On 5th April 1971 Otter CF-SUB was registered to International Jet Air, but it was not operated by them and was kept in storage at Calgary. They sold on the “D” licence (for DC-3 operations) to Northward Airlines of Edmonton, and the “A”, “B” and “C” licences which Great Northern Airways had held (for operation of aircraft in the Cessna 185 up to Otter category) to Trans North Turbo Air, and included in the sale were four Beavers, two Aztecs and Otter SUB, which was ferried from Calgary up to Whitehorse, Trans North Turbo Air's base, in the fall of 1971. The Otter was registered C-FSUB to Trans North Turbo Air (1971) Ltd on 4th May 1972 and painted in an all yellow colour scheme with red trim.
The Otter was operated by Trans North Turbo Air alongside a fleet of Beavers and Turbo Beavers for the next seven years. For winter 1972 it was based out of Inuvik on wheel-skis, for reindeer management, seismic and oil exploration support. From time to time during its period with Trans North Turbo Air it flew from Inuvik and Ross River, but mostly out of Mayo and Whitehorse. During the summers it flew from Schwatka Lake, Whitehorse on floats. During the winters it was equipped with wheel skis and hauled hundreds of tons of lumber, drill equipment, camp gear and groceries as well as thousands of drums fuel (five or six full, 17 empty) onto the ice of frozen lakes north of Mayo.
During the summers it continued to haul the same type of cargo to the same camps on floats. Also, from August until the end of the float season, the Otter carried hundreds of big game hunters to and from the many hunting camps throughout the Yukon. Reindeer herders and their snow machines were carried in winter.
During this period of operation with Trans North Turbo Air, there were a few incidents recorded. To quote here from Robert Cameron, one of the pilots who flew SUB during this time:”In 1972 another pilot and I were climbing out from Inuvik in SUB on floats, with six drums on board for Fort McPherson. All of a sudden the decibel level of our geared R-1340 about doubled as the nose reduction ring-gear disintegrated and the 600 hp Pratt was instantly unloaded of the heavy 3-bladed prop. Our immediate forced landing into a side channel of the MacKenzie River was without incident, but the extra noise of that over-speeding engine sure got the adrenalin pumping. We were subsequently picked up by Northward Airlines Otter CF-NFI”.
“Another pilot who was a little hard on the old girl decided one overcast winter day to demonstrate how difficult it is to judge height above the flat snow-white surface of a lake. Shooting his approach out in the middle of the lake (to maximise his challenge!) his demonstration proved to be very authentic indeed as he struck the ice heavily and drove the main landing gear through the sides of the fuselage. Another wilderness bush repair was undertaken, followed by a ferry flight to Calgary for permanent repairs. This same pilot on another occasion experienced the joy of spotting a downed aircraft, with its chilled but uninjured occupants waving excitedly from a frozen lake. He decided to celebrate with a low pass over their heads. As he approached the shoreline of the lake, a tree struck the wing and slashed it right through to the spar. SUB stayed in the air but it was not a pretty sight to bring home to the boss. Another blown jug and forced landing on a gravel bar on the Porcupine River below Old Crow left SUB heavily bogged down in mud. A few sheets of plywood placed in front, to help get the take-off roll started, got sucked up into the roaring propeller, resulting in much splintering of wood and gnashing of metal, and cursing. The subsequent repairs were completed just in time to make a hasty escape from the gravel bar as flood waters moved in”.
Another incident occurred on 28th March 1974 at Reptile Lake on a glacier high in the MacKenzie Mountains, when the Otter on wheel-skis collided with a snowbank resulting in the main landing gear being punched through the side of the fuselage. Because the site was so inhospitable, bush repairs were not possible, so the Otter was slung out using a Sikorsky S-58 helicopter. This had to be done in short stages, with an S-55 helicopter setting out fuel caches every few miles, all the way to Mayo.
At Mayo the standard bush-fix was carried out before SUB was flown via Whitehorse to Field Aviation in Calgary for permanent repairs. There was one further incident, in the fall of 1976. To again quote from pilot Cameron: “I was taking off with some hunters and their meat out of a short, high mountain lake in a gusty crosswind when I decided to abort. It turned out that the small amount of lake left in front of me to get stopped was full of rocks, and I tore the bottoms out of the floats. Under very difficult conditions our engineers managed to patch them up good enough for me to get SUB into the air before sinking (with the engineer pumping steadily during taxying) and back home to base”.
In 1978 Trans North Turbo Air decided to get out of single-engined fixed wing bush flying to consolidate on helicopter and IFR twin-engined fixed wing types. Otter C-FSUB was sold in the fall of 1978 to a Vancouver man named Walter Davidson, who was in the logging business, but its next operator was Tyee Airways Ltd of Sechelt, BC to whom it was registered on 23rd April 1979. The Otter flew down to Sechelt, which is just north of Vancouver, where it joined the Tyee fleet of Beavers and Cessna 185s. “Sechelt” is a native word for “place of shelter from the sea”. Appropriately, it describes the sheltered head of Sechelt Inlet, where Tyee Airways docked its float planes. The Tyee fleet linked Vancouver harbour with communities north of Howe Sound, as well as providing services to Vancouver Island. Tyee Airways was taken over by West Coast Air Services (operators of Otter CF-UJM) who in turn were taken over by the Pattison Group, intending to merge both carriers into Air BC. However, the founder and former owner of Tyee Airways, which at that stage was still operating as a separate company, commenced court action to get out of the whole deal and to continue as an independent.
In any event, the Otter did not stay long with Tyee Airways, and its next posting was in fact back to Whitehorse in the Yukon, where it joined the fleet of Air North Charter & Training Ltd., to whom it was registered on 12th June 1980, named “Bert”. Air North is one of the major operators in the Yukon and C-FSUB resumed its charter operations throughout the Territory, flying alongside Air North's other Otter C-FQOQ. Only one incident is recorded while SUB was flying for Air North, exact date unknown, but it was not long after the Otter entered service with them. The accident site was about 250 miles from Dawson City and approximately 15 winding road miles from the Arctic Circle, near the Eagle Plains Hotel. The Otter landed on a section of the Dempster Highway, which also served as an airstrip, but had run off the strip, causing considerable damage to the propeller, engine mount, cabin roof and a bent right wing. The repairs were carried out by Denny McCartney, the whole episode being well described in his excellent book “Picking Up The Pieces”.
After four years of service in the Yukon with Air North, SUB returned to the Vancouver area when it was purchased by Harbour Air Ltd. It arrived in Vancouver on 4th October 1984 on delivery to Harbour Air, still in the Air North colour scheme. It was overhauled and repainted over the winter and emerged from the hangar on 21st March 1985 in full Harbour Air colours, on floats. It was registered to Harbour Air on 30th April 1985. It flew with them for that summer, before heading north up the BC coast to Prince Rupert, where it was registered to North Coast Air Services Ltd on 1st November 1985. It joined their fleet of four Beavers, a Fairchild Husky and a Grumman Mallard and flew for North Coast for nearly two years.
Having served all of its commercial existence thus far in Western Canada, it then moved eastwards, where its next operator was V.Kelner Airways of Pickle Lake, Ontario to whom it was registered on 3rd June 1987. It flew that summer out of Pickle Lake and then moved further east, when it was acquired by Cargair Ltee of Quebec, to whom it was registered on 1st October 1987.
Since then, SUB has served with Cargair, based at St.Michel-des-Saints during the summer months on floats, being put into storage each winter. The Otter is used to fly tourists, hunters and fishermen into the beautiful wilderness areas of Québec. It also supports exploration camps in the James Bay area. During the caribou hunting season of August/September each year, the Otter flies out of the LG-4 base on the La Grande river, flying the hunters to the James Bay region in search of their prey, before returning to St.Michel-des-Saints for winter storage. As of May 2001, the Otter had accumulated 21,000 airframe hours. SUB was noted in the hangar at St.Michel-des-Saintes on 4th May 2004 having just had a new R-1340 engine installed. It entered the water the following day for the first flight of the 2004 summer season.
This Otter has been operated by Cargair Ltée from its base at St.Michel-des- Saints, Québec for twenty years, since 1987. In 2007 the bush aircraft division of Cargair, including the Otter, was purchased by Air Mont Laurier (1985) Inc of Ste.Véronique, Québec to whom C-FSUB was registered on 5th April 2007. Air Mont Laurier also operate Otter C-GGSC (366), both Otters still with R-1340 engines.
Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).