Otter 89 was delivered to Maxwell Ward’s Wardair (later Wardair Canada Ltd) on 10 February 1956 registered CF-ITF. It immediately became a hard working member of the Wardair fleet, based out of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NWT), flying alongside the company’s other Otters, GBY and IFP and later JRS. It was painted in the full Wardair blue-red colour scheme. An incident was recorded at Coral Harbour, NWT on 30 July 1957. The Otter had a fuel stop at Coral Harbour on a long flight from Yellowknife to Baffin Island. The take off was on a rough sea. The pilot turned into wind and gained speed into progressively higher waves. The fuselage skin was wrinkled and there was some damage to the bulkhead, although damage was slight and the flight could continue.
This had been a major undertaking for Wardair, a charter all the way to Eastern Canada. The Otter had been chartered by Judge Jack Sissons of the newly established Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories. The judge and his party took off in the Otter from Yellowknife on 29 July on the first territorial court circuit east to Baffin Island. The flight had already been delayed a week due to inclement weather, waiting for favourable reports on weather and ice conditions. First stop was made at Fort Reliance followed by a stop along the Thelon River. Floating ice that drifted in around the settlement on the northwest corner of the lake prevented their landing at Baker Lake. Instead they landed two miles out and walked over the ice. The next day they flew southeast to Eskimo Point on Hudson Bay to try a person charged with theft from a mining camp. They then continued on to Coral Harbour and later to Baffin Island, later returning to Yellowknife when the judge’s business was completed.
ITF features frequently in the Western SAR Area file in the National Archives, with many ‘alerts’ due to weather and communications difficulties in the remote areas where it operated. On 14 September 1957 the Otter became seriously overdue on a flight Coppermine-Reid Island-Holman-Issacks Harbour. Air Traffic Control were requesting definite SAR action, although Wardair were taking a more relaxed attitude, presuming that the pilot had set down somewhere and was holding due weather. At the request of the Winnipeg RCC., the Whitehorse Dakota was dispatched to do a track crawl, which was discontinued when the Otter eventually made a safe arrival at ‘Sacks Harbour.
Other flights noted were Yellowknife-Fort Ray-Fort Resolution (9 September 1957); Yellowknife-Rae Rock-Yellowknife (2 March 1958); Hay River – Mile 60 (Mackenzie Highway)-Yellowknife on 11 March 1958 (the aircraft landed en route due weather. A major search was about to get underway when the pilot managed to make contact. A Wardair Otter had already started searching and 105 C&R Flight was on alert); Yellowknife-Tourcanis (29 May 1958); Yellowknife-Mosquito Lake-Fort Reliance (1 June 1958); Yellowknife-Fort Providence-Fort Simpson (26 June 1958); ‘Sacks Harbour-Sawmill Bay-Yellowknife (14 August 1958); Aklavik-Tuk Tuk (24 September 1958) and Yellowknife-Norman Wells (forced down en route by weather) on 4 October 1958. ITF certainly was operating in the most remote parts of Northern Canada. At some stage in the Spring of 1958 ITF went through the ice on Reliance Channel of Great Slave Lake. It was hoisted out with an A-Frame pulley system and jacks. Only the undercarriage had gone through the ice so it was soon repaired and back in service.
ITF continued flying for Wardair for many years. It met with substantial damage in an accident on 11 July 1969 at Campbell Lake, NWT. During take-off through a channel between the shore of the lake and a large mass of ice covering deeper water, the right float struck a large section of free floating ice. This prematurely forced the aircraft to become airborne, the right wing stalled and struck the water, the Otter veered across a shallow rocky point and ended up on the main ice surface, having sustained substantial damage. This however was repaired. ITF continued in service with Wardair until July 1971 when it and CF-IFP (73) were sold to aircraft brokers Bannock Aerospace Ltd., of Toronto. ITF was sold on almost immediately, registered in August 1971 to its new owners, Kyro’s Albany River Airways of Jellicoe, Ontario. The Otter was based out of Thunder Bay but also flew out of Geraldton, Jellicoe and Nezah Lake in Northwest Ontario. This was a typical bush carrier, also operating Beavers, Norseman and Beech 18s, flying tourists, fishermen and hunters.
The following year the Otter was sold on to La Sarre Air Services Ltd., of La Sarre, Québec registered C-FITF in April 1972 and it was painted into the all-yellow La Sarre colour scheme. It was to serve the bush country of Québec for the next twenty years. In 1981 La Sarre Air Services merged with Air Fecteau Ltée to create Propair Inc, to which ITF was registered in September 1982. It was noted based at Senneterre that month, still in the all yellow colour scheme with blue cheatline, but now with Propair titles. It remained based there for the next few years, serving the bush country of northern Québec.
As Propair disposed of its Otter fleet during the late 1980s, ITF was sold, its registration to Propair being cancelled on 14 March 1988. Its new owner was Gestion RCR (Abitibi) Inc., trading as Aviation Sennet-Air, to whom it was registered in April 1988 and it remained based at Senneterre, flying alongside Beaver C-GUWL. This operation continued until winter 1991 / 1992, when Aviation Sennet-Air ceased trading. The Otter was put into storage for the winter. The registration to Gestion RCR (Abitibi) Inc., was renewed on 12 June 1992, by which stage the Otter had moved base to St.Michel-des-Saints, where it was to fly on lease for Cargair Ltée., for the summer of 1992. ITF was again placed into storage for the winter of 1992 / 1993 and on 8 June 1993 the registration of Gestion RCR (Abitibi) Inc., was cancelled when the Otter was sold and it left Québec after over twenty years service there.
The new owner was Wildcountry Airways Ltd., of Red Lake, Ontario to whom C-FITF was registered in June 1993. It replaced a Norseman and flew alongside a Beech 18, also on floats, from Red Lake, flying the many tourists and fishermen who visit this beautiful part of Ontario each summer. ITF was joined by Otter C-FMEL (222) in the Wildcountry fleet and later by Otter C-GPHD (113), after MEL had been written off. It continued flying for Wildcountry Airways until summer 1999, going into storage for the winter of 1999 / 2000. During that winter it was sold and replaced by a Cessna Grand Caravan. Otter PHD was also sold soon after, and also replaced by a Grand Caravan. The registration of ITF to Wildcountry Airways was cancelled on 27 June 2000, by which stage the Otter had arrived on the Pacific Coast some months previously.
The buyer of the Otter was a company called West Coast Resorts, who had arranged for ITF to be converted to a Vazar turbine with a PT6A-34 engine, the work being carried out in Vancouver over the spring of 2000. West Coast Resorts had arranged to lease the Otter to Pacific Coastal Airlines Ltd and it had been painted into the very attractive Pacific Coastal colours of white upper fuselage, blue lower fuselage with fisherman logo on the tail. On the cancellation of the previous registered owner on 27 June 2000, it was registered to Pacific Coastal Airlines and operated by them on lease. It was based at Bella Bella, BC and flew the airline’s schedules from there to Klemtu, as well as flying guests for West Coast Resorts to their lodge at Whale Channel. It was operated on Wipline 8000 amphibious floats.
Having flown for Pacific Coastal Airlines for the remainder of 2000, the Otter was then leased to Harbour Air Ltd., of Vancouver, to whom it was registered on 26 January 2001. It remained in the Pacific Coastal colour scheme but with Harbour Air titles. It was assigned by Harbour Air to its Prince Rupert base. During the summer months of 2001 and 2002 the Otter was based at Sandspit on the Queen Charlotte Islands on amphibious floats, flying to Langara Island Lodge and other locations with guests of West Coast Resorts. During the other months it flew Harbour Air’s schedules and charters based at Prince Rupert’s Seal Cove seaplane base. During this period, two CADORS incidents are reported:
07 September 2001 at Sandspit, BC. Vehicle ST22 requested and was given permission to proceed onto runway 12/30. Otter C-FITF was on a two mile final to runway 12. FSS immediately determined the position and removed the vehicle from the runway. ITF landed without incident.
08 December 2002 at Seal Cove SPB. At 2107Z RCMP Cessna 208 Caravan C-GMPR called “overhead the cove at Seal Cove, one thousand feet descending, call you on the water”. The FSS specialist at that time noticed a fixed wing aircraft approaching Seal Cove from the north out of Tuck Inlet without any prior call. This traffic was passed to C-GMPR. The traffic was observed to enter a steep climbing turn heading north back into Tuck Inlet, this traffic being identified as Otter C-FITF. At 21:09Z C-FITF called “Head of Tuck Inlet for the Cove”. An advisory was given and the Otter landed without further incident.
One of the many scheduled services ITF flew for Harbour Air was its flight 303/304 routing Prince Rupert-Masset (on Queen Charlotte Island)-Eden Lake (a logging camp)-Dinan (also a logging camp)-Masset-Prince Rupert. In the course of this service on 9 January 2003 ITF came to grief while landing on Eden Lake. Conditions were “glassy water”. The Otter bounced in and then off the water and the left float structure collapsed. The pilot and single passenger crawled out of the aircraft and were rescued by a boat sent from the Husby Forest Products camp. The Otter then sank in 23 metres of water. A salvage mission was mounted and ITF was eventually fished out of its watery resting place, with considerable difficulty. The S-61 helicopter pulled too hard, breaking the cable, and the Otter sank to the bottom again. A second attempt was successful but some further damage was caused when the Otter was dragged across the ground. It was loaded onto a boat and shipped south to Vancouver.
By June 2003 the Otter had arrived at “Modern Wing Warehouse” in Richmond, BC, near to the Vancouver International Airport, where it was under repair, subsequently moving to the Aeroflite Industries facility at the Airport. Harbour Air had by this stage bought the Otter, which they previously had on lease, and it was to become a member of their large Otter fleet. During its rebuild it had panoramic windows installed and was painted into Harbour Air’s yellow and white colour scheme, with fleet number 303. It emerged from the hangar in spring 2004, entering service with Harbour Air as their eleventh Otter in June 2004. Over the years that followed ITF has flown the Harbour Air schedules out of Vancouver. For the winter of 2009 / 2010 it was repainted into a new colour scheme of overall sky blue with white ‘clouds’ and “Fly Carbon Neutral” on the forward fuselage. By June 2010 it was back in the standard white/yellow scheme. By May 2012 it had been repainted into a revised blue and yellow Harbour Air scheme.
A few incidents have been recorded on CADORS:
01 April 2015. On a local flight from Vancouver Harbour the Otter reported a bird strike on departure and returned to land without incident.
03 August 2015. A Compass Airlines Embraer 170 jet N623CZ was operating flight CPZ5765 Salt Lake City to Vancouver. On approach it was instructed to descent to 2,000 feet and cleared for the ILS approach to runway 08 Left. It was then cleared for a visual approach. The Embraer descended to 1,400 feet and reported a traffic alert and TCAS resolution advisory to Otter HR303 from Vancouver Harbour to Victoria Harbour, crossing below. The aircraft passed with the required separation as the Tower controller instructed the Otter to descend when becoming aware of the potential conflict. The Embraer did not advise Air Traffic when descending below the glide path, as required by NOTAM.
06 October 2016. Otter ITF Vancouver Harbour to Nanaimo. Struck bird on departure.
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.