Otter number 9 was delivered to the RCAF on 31 March 1953 as serial 3663, and was first assigned to 408 Squadron at Rockcliffe, code MN-663. On the day of its delivery it flew directly from Downsview to Rockcliffe and is recorded in the Squadron history as the first Otter to be delivered to the unit. During the first few months of its military service it was engaged in pilot training out of Rockcliffe and water training at Golden Lake, which was 70 miles west of Ottawa. This was an ideal site for training as it was near the Algonquin district with its numerous small lakes, typical of the regions where the Otters would be operating. One of 3663’s first operational missions was a flight on 30 May ’53 from Rockcliffe to Lac La Tortue, Quebec supporting Canso 11042 which was engaged on SHORAN installation, the beacons used by the Squadron’s Lancasters on their survey flights.
Over the years that followed, 3663 continued to serve with 408 Squadron. In March 1955 it was again involved in training, including night and cross-country flying, destinations including Centralia, Golden Lake, Lac La Tuque, Mont Laurier and Trenton. Next during 1955 it was heavily involved in support of the Mid Canada Line (MCL) construction in the Eastern Sector. On 1 April 1955 three ski-equipped RCAF Dakotas (KN200, KN256 and KN261) departed from Rockcliffe as did Otter 3663, also ski-equipped and all four aircraft flew north to Knob Lake, Schefferville, Quebec on “Operation Rocktop 2”. The job of the Dakotas was to support the civilian companies working on the MCL-East. The primary purpose of the Otter was to test ice and snow conditions just prior to the time the Dakotas landed at the sites, and also to transport men and supplies. Pat Donaghy arrived at Knob Lake on 8 April via 408 Squadron Dakota to fly the Otter and his first trip on 3663 was to MCL site 209 with a repair crew and spare parts for a Dakota which had burned out an engine trying to take off from a slush covered lake. Using Knob Lake as a base, all radar sites east of Knob Lake and all sites within 300 miles to the west were supplied with necessary equipment. Otter 3663 then returned to Rockcliffe and was back at base on 28 April.
On 8 June 1955 3663 (in company with 3687) departed again from Rockcliffe and returned to Knob Lake, to provide support for the helicopters of 108 Communications Flight on construction work on the radar sites. During June the Otter flew to the sites to the east of Knob Lake, including Hopedale, Labrador. During July it worked to the west, flying to such sites as Whale River, Moosonee, Winisk and Spruce Lake. 3663 spent twelve days unserviceable at Site 209 with damaged floats. At the end of July ’55 the Otter returned to base at Rockcliffe. It then deployed to Cochrane for fire fighting duties before again returning to base where it remained for the rest of the year.
In January 1956 3663 returned to DHC for the incorporation of the All Up Weight (AUW) modification, returning to 408 Squadron in March ’56. That summer it again worked out of Knob Lake, supporting 108 Communications Flight on the Mid Canada Line. It again spent the winter of 1956/57 at its Rockcliffe base and in June 1957, as 408 Squadron retired its Otters, 3663 was flown first to DHC at Downsview and then into storage with 6 Repair Depot in August 1957. In June 1958 it was returned to active service with Air Material Command at Rockcliffe, moving on in May 1959 to 102 Communications Unit at Trenton. Here it served in both the communications and rescue roles, one of the searches it was involved with being for Beech 18 CF-ALL, which crashed on a flight Val d’Or-Opemisca-Rouyn on 4 December 1959. In July 1963 it flew north, joining the Goose Bay Station Flight for the summer, before again being handed over to 6 Repair Depot at Dunnville storage depot, located near Lake Erie in south-west Ontario.
On 1 November 1963 the Otter was assigned to the CEPE at Rockcliffe and was deployed to Churchill, Manitoba. It is recorded as departing Churchill on 20 January ’64 to investigate the sighting by Cessna N2823A of two men and a dog team with an ‘SOS’ tramped out in the snow near Knife Lake. The Otter returned to Churchill carrying the two trappers and their dogs. It was then involved in a minor incident at Churchill on 24 February ’64 when a bracket was fractured. It was returned to the care of 6 RD on 3 April before being posted back to Goose Bay on 21 April ‘64. On 3 November 1965 the Otter joined 400 Squadron at Downsview but returned to Goose Bay on 20 June 1966, having been fitted with floats, to serve there with the Station Flight for the summer. It thus had the honour of being the last Otter to serve with the Station Flight, although Otters from other units continued to deploy to Goose Bay each summer until the type was withdrawn from the inventory. Finally, on 25 January 1967, Otter 3663 made the last move of its military career, from Goose Bay to join 438 Squadron at St.Hubert, Montreal, which was a Reserve unit.
Having moved around between units considerably during the 1957 to 1967 period, 3663 was to remain based at St.Hubert with 438 Squadron for the next 15 years. During 1981, six Otters (including 3663) were withdrawn from service at St.Hubert and flown to the Mountain View Storage Depot, Ontario where they were turned over to the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation (CADC) for sale. Another six Otters had been withdrawn from the Reserve squadrons at Downsview and all 12 were advertised for sale in February 1982 by the CADC, “as is” at the Mountain View depot. 3663 at that stage had total airframe time of 9,231 hours.
3663 was one of seven ex Canadian military Otters purchased by Newcal Aviation Inc of Little Ferry, New Jersey, a company which specialised in the supply of parts for DHC aircraft. The Bill of Sale is dated 25 May ’82 at a price of $50,000 Canadian. It was registered to Newcal Aviation Inc on 14 June 1982 as N3125G and along with the other Otters purchased in the auction, was flown from Mountain View to a small strip at Decatur, Texas where the seven Otters were put into storage pending sale, being tied down in the open on the airfield. It would appear that the market for Otters was somewhat slow during the 1980s as N3125G was to languish under the Texas sun for six years, until sold to Air Saguenay (1980) Inc of Chicoutimi, Quebec to whom it was registered as C-FBSF on 20 June 1988. It moved to its new base, was painted into Air Saguenay colours, and flew alongside Otters C-GLFL, C-GUTQ and C-GQDU as well as Beavers and Cessnas. For the next four years the Otter served the bush country of Quebec, mostly flying fishermen and hunters during the summer months, until it came to grief on 21 August 1992.
The pilot departed the Air Saguenay base at Squaw Lake, Schefferville in northern Quebec around 07:00 local on a VFR flight to Desbergeres Lake, about 210 miles to the northwest. The float-equipped C-FBSF was carrying six passengers and equipment for hunting caribou. Weather conditions deteriorated 30 minutes into the flight. The pilot entered a narrow valley some 50 miles northwest of Schefferville, then realised he could not clear the mountain peaks because of the lower ceiling in that area. When he tried to turn around to the left he flew into a fog bank. On emerging from the fog he saw the aircraft was going to strike the mountain. He raised the nose to minimize the force of the impact and tried to set the Otter down on the mountain side. The floats slid about 150 feet along the rocky surface, then broke off. The engine struck the ground and was torn off. The engine then rolled under the aircraft and came to rest on the right side of the fuselage. The Otter came to rest on the mountainside at an altitude of 2,650 feet.
All passengers had been sitting on the right side of the aircraft and the baggage and equipment was stowed on the left side. The pilot and passengers were able to evacuate the Otter and there were no injuries. As they did so the Otter caught fire and burned for 45 minutes, consuming the fuselage. The wings fell to the ground after the wing supports melted. The fire died out after all flammable material was consumed. When radio contact with the Otter was lost, search aircraft were launched and located the crash site. The occupants were spotted at 11:30 and a rescue helicopter arrived at the site at 14:00 and all were rescued. There was however no rescue for the Otter which had been completely destroyed.