DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX   click on arrows to navigate page by page

c/n 90

CF-ITS at Edmonton, Alberta.
Photo: John Kimberley © December 1975 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-FITS beached, at Sioux Lookout, Ontario.
Photo: Keith Fox © Autumn 1987 - Aird Archives
C-FITS at Pelican Lake base, Sioux Lookout, Ontario.
Photos: Neil Aird © 14 July 1995
C-FITS when with Cochrane Air Services.
Photo: Ruben Husberg © Date unknown
C-FITS of Tofino Air on Tyee Spit.
Photos: Pete Killin © Date unknown
C-FITS languishing at Silver Falls, Manitoba.
Photo: Kurt Ariano © 20 November 2017

c/n 90

CF-ITS

C-FITS

X

• CF-ITS Stanair Ltd., Fort Nelson, BC. Delivered 21-Mar-1956

• CF-ITS & C-FITS Gateway Aviation. Based Uranium City.

Accident: Lake between Uranium City and Great Slave Lake. May 1971. The aircraft went through the ice on landing on the lake with the fuselage resting in the water and the wings flat on the surface of the ice. The full detail of the recovery is contained in Denny McCartneys book “Picking up the pieces.”. With effort the aircraft was recovered to the lake shore and repaired as necessary. A makeshift airstrip was made to allow the aircraft to be flown out.

• C-FITS Slate Falls Airways Ltd., Sioux Lookout, ON.  Regd Sep-1976.

• C-FITS Slate Falls Airways (1987) Ltd., Sioux Lookout, ON.  Regd Nov-1988.

Incident: Lake St.Joseph, Ontario 05-Oct-1988. While cruising, the engine lost all power and the Otter made a safe, forced landing on the lake. It was found that a cylinder had failed.

• C-FITS Cochrane Air Services Ltd., Cochrane-Lillabelle Lake, ON. Regd Jan-1997.

Incident: A lake 41 miles northeast of Cochrane 19th June 2001. On a VFR flight from Kesagami Lake to Lillabelle Lake Waterdrome, at approximately fifty miles northeast of Cochrane, the Otter experienced a partial loss of power which the pilot was unable to rectify. The Otter was not capable of maintaining a constant altitude, so the pilot elected to conduct and completed safely, a forced approach to a lake. Rescue operations were uneventful, with the last passenger extracted from the scene twenty three hours after the Otter had landed. A cylinder failure in the R-1340 engine had caused the power loss.

• C-FITS Tofino Airlines Ltd., Gibsons, BC. Regd 03-Feb-2006. Canx 07-Feb-2013.

• C-FITS Pacific Coastal Airlines Ltd., Richmond, BC. Based Port Hardy, BC. Regd 13-Feb-2013. Canx 15-May-2014.

• C-FITS noted stored at Silver Falls, MB. (Nov-2017). On rebuild at Recon Air, Geraldton, ON., 2018.

On rebuild

x

Otter 90 was delivered to Stanair Ltd., Fort Nelson, BC on 21st March 1956, registered CF-ITS. Stanair was the aviation department of the Stanolind Oil and Gas Company, which since 1948 had been exploring the Yukon, Northwest Territories, northeastern BC., and northwestern Alberta regions. The company's first two aircraft were two DHC-2 Beavers, acquired in 1953. Based at Fort Nelson,BC, they were used to move seismic crews, surveyors and geologists around the swamps and boreal forests of northern Canada. Otter ITS was added to the fleet in March 1956, bringing a welcome increase in capacity to support camp moves, and Otter NFI followed later.

Despite its operation in these remote regions, the Otter was not involved in any accidents. It features twice in the Western SAR Area file, when communications difficulties were encountered. The first occasion was on 7th February 1958 on a flight from its base at Fort Nelson to the Beaver Strip and onwards to Steen River. The second occasion was on 10th June 1958 on a flight from Fort Smith to Fort Simpson. ITS continued in service with Stanair for eight years, before being sold to McMurray Air Services Ltd., of Uranium City, Saskatchewan in April 1964. It continued to fly for this company until taken over by Gateway Aviation Ltd., of Edmonton. The three McMurray Otters ITS, LAP and MES, were registered to Gateway Aviation in October 1969.

ITS joined the Gateway Aviation fleet, painted in their colours, although it remained based at Uranium City. It suffered an accident in May 1971, which is described in Denny McCartney's excellent book “Picking Up The Pieces”. The Otter had gone through the ice on a lake half way between Uranium City and Great Slave Lake. It was the first week in May and the ice had started melting. ITS was quite some distance from the shore, and had sunk through the ice, with the fuselage resting in the water and the wings flat on the surface of the ice, the posture of many an unfortunate Otter over the years. The rescue party flew to the scene on another Gateway Otter. Steel drums had already been placed alongside the fuselage to prevent ITS from sinking if the ice gave way. The pilot explained that he had made a good landing and at the end of the run he had come to a complete stop when suddenly the left wheel broke through the ice. He shut off the engine and scrambled out, in complete disbelief at what had happened. The aircraft had continued to settle into the water as the ice failed, until the wings were flat on the ice surface, preventing the aircraft from sinking to the bottom.

The rescue party concluded that the ice was in too dangerous a condition to lift the aircraft and that it was only a matter of days before the ice would fail completely, sending the Otter to the bottom. Speed was of the essence, and so they created a canal to the shore by blasting through the ice with dynamite. The fuel drums under the wings were replaced with pontoons, to provide greater flotation, and which left the wings free of the ice. The Otter was floated down the channel to the shore, where it was winched up onto solid ground, where repairs began. Next, an airstrip was built from which the Otter could depart. The rescue party cut down a line of stunted northern spruce trees level with the ground and cleared the strip of stones. On 12th May 1971 CF-ITS took off from this makeshift airstrip, flying first to Uranium City and then to Edmonton, where permanent repairs were made. CF-ITS returned to service with Gateway Aviation, and continued in the company's service, being re-registered C-FITS, until it was sold to Slate Falls Airways Ltd., of Sioux Lookout, Ontario to whom it was registered in September 1976. It was to faithfully serve this carrier for more than twenty years. Only one incident is recorded, on 5th October 1988 at Lake St.Joseph, Ontario. While cruising, the engine lost all power and the Otter made a safe, forced landing on the lake. It was found that a cylinder had failed. In November 1988 the registered owner was changed to Slate Falls Airways (1987) Ltd., still based at Sioux Lookout. Having served the Sioux Lookout community for more than twenty years, ITS was sold and in January 1997 was registered to its new owners, Cochrane Air Services Ltd., of Cochrane - Lillabelle Lake, Ontario. For the most part the Otter was used to service fishing lodges during the summer months, on behalf of the Kesagami Fly-In Outposts Company. Before the start of the summer season, the Otter was used on skis during March / April of each year to fly fuel into the fishing lodges, in preparation for the summer season.

One incident was recorded on 19th June 2001. The Otter was on a VFR flight from Kesagami Lake to Lillabelle Lake waterdrome. At approximately fifty miles northeast of Cochrane, the Otter experienced a partial loss of power which the pilot was unable to rectify. The Otter was not capable of maintaining a constant altitude, so the pilot elected to conduct a forced approach to a lake 41 miles northeast of Cochrane. The pilot landed ITS successfully and activated the aircraft's ELT beacon. When the flight became overdue, the manager of Cochrane Air Services notified the Rescue Co-Ordination Centre, who despatched a Canadian Armed Forces Hercules from Trenton. The ELT signal was received by the Hercules and a local helicopter company, Expedition Helicopters Inc, despatched a Jet Ranger to effect rescue of the eight passengers and pilot. Rescue operations were uneventful, with the last passenger extracted from the scene twenty three hours after the Otter had landed. A cylinder failure in the R-1340 engine had caused the power loss. C-FITS was soon repaired and back in service with Cochrane Air Services.

A similar incident was recorded on 4 July 2005 but with drastic consequences. The Otter departed Kesagami Lake that day with a pilot and four passengers on board, en route to its home base at Cochrane. While on final approach a cylinder valve failed, causing the engine to lose power, but a successful forced landing was made in a swampy area one kilometre north-east of Lillabelle Lake. The Otter was not damaged but the area where it had come down was too small for a take-off, and the boggy conditions at the scene ruled out repairs at that location. A decision had to be taken to disassemble the Otter and have it slung out by helicopter.

First the engine was taken off and slung out by a locally based Jet Ranger. A heavier helicopter as required to lift the aircraft itself. For this purpose a Bell 212 was hired from Canadian Helicopters but this had to wait until late September as the Bell was engaged on fire fighting duties until then. It eventually arrived from Ottawa and lifted the Otter out of the swamp the short distance to Cochrane Air Services base. The summer season of 2005 was at an end by then, and the Otter would never again fly for Cochrane Air Services, who decided to sell the aircraft. It was sold in “as is” condition, traded in for a Beaver, and was trucked in its dismantled state from Cochrane, Ontario to Kelowna, BC where it was to be prepared for its new owners by AOG Air Support. The registration of the Otter to Cochrane Air Services was cancelled on 17 November 2005.

C-FITS was noted in early December 2005 at the AOG facility in Kelowna, paint stripped and in the course of conversion to a Walter turbine engine Otter, with a Walter M601E-11 engine. Its new owner was Tofino Airlines of Gibson, BC to whom it was registered on 3 February 2006 and it was painted into their colour scheme of white overall with green cheatline and fuselage titles. It was the very last Otter worked on by AOG Air Support, which encountered financial difficulties as work on the Otter was being completed and closed down. Tofino Air had to negotiate with the receiver of the company to get their Otter released. Work on it was then completed by Kelowna Flightcraft.

From Kelowna C-FITS flew to Campbell River on Vancouver Island where it was fitted with a ‘glass cockpit’ by ASAP Avionics Service. A company called Sagem Avionics Inc., hold the STC for this modification, for which ASAP Avionics Service was a licensed installer. As its website explains: “One or two Sagem multi-function displays (MFDs) can be used to present engine data. The MFDs can be further enhanced with a moving map display to improve situational awareness. The upgraded installation reduces the clutter of conventional instruments, increases operational efficiency and improves flight safety”.

The Otter then continued to Tofino, its new base, on the west coast of Vancouver Island and entered service with Tofino Air in early June 2006. It joined a fleet of four Beavers serving the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Vancouver Island and Canada’s Gulf Islands. The company offered a scheduled seaplane service from Vancouver South Terminal to Sechelt, Nanaimo, Victoria, Tofino and Gabriola Island, plus scenic charter tours from its Tofino base, using the Otter or a Beaver depending on the load on the day.

An incident was recorded on CADORS on 29 June 2006. The Otter and C-GHEH, a Cessna 182, were on approach from the North and North-east for a landing at Tofino. Each was issued an advisory about the other and each reported the other in sight. A third aircraft, Cessna 172 C-FJHG, entered the zone and landed on runway 15 without contacting the FSS or broadcasting its intentions. The Otter and the Cessna 182 were required to alter course to avoid conflicting with the Cessna 172. Otter C-FITS continued in service with Tofino Airlines until the end of August 2012.

Located at the northern end of Vancouver Island is Port Hardy, home base of the long established Pacific Coastal Airlines. For many years Pacific Coastal had operated a fleet of venerable Grumman Goose aircraft on scheduled services to the many small coastal communities on the Island and on the mainland, as well as charters. Due to the increasing difficulty in getting spare parts, and thus satisfying Transport Canada’s airworthiness requirements, the decision was taken to withdraw the Goose aircraft and by early September 2012 they had all been parked. Operations continued with Pacific Coastal’s Beaver aircraft but to replace the Goose, the company opted for the turbine Otter and contracted with Tofino Airlines to take a lease of Otter C-FITS, which was to be based at Port Hardy to fly Pacific Coastal’s scheduled and charter floatplane services. The Otter was given Pacific Coastal decals and was registered to Pacific Coastal Airlines on 13 February 2013 and commenced operations from Port Hardy as part of Pacific Coastal’s fleet.

An announcement from the company in November stated that Pacific Coastal would be starting scheduled services on 2 December 2013 between Campbell River and Bella Bella, BC with a Beech 1900. The announcement continued that Pacific Coastal would also base its Otter seaplane in Bella Bella to support the new service, providing connections to Klemtu, Ocean Falls and other points. Another CADORS incident was reported on 23 December 2013 when the Otter’s ELT was activated at Port Hardy.

It appears however that the Otter was not proving to be an adequate replacement for the Grumman Goose – they are after all very different aircraft. Efforts were made to restore service with the Goose, which were successful, and by May 2014 Pacific Coastal had two Goose (C-FUAZ and C-GDDJ) flying from Port Hardy. The Otter was withdrawn from service that month, and its registration to Pacific Coastal cancelled on 15 May 2014. It was parked in a remote part of the Vancouver International Airport, where Pacific Coastal had a storage yard. Its engine, which was time-expired, was taken off and it was destined to remain in storage there, in an increasingly forlorn state, for nearly two years. That was the end of Otter operations for Pacific Coastal. Their bushplane operation out of Port Hardy with the Grumman Goose was re-branded as Wilderness Seaplanes.

On 7 March 2016 Otter ITS was registered back to Tofino Air Lines Ltd., and was trucked from Vancouver to Silver Falls, Manitoba, home base of Blue Water Aviation, specialists in the Walter-engined Otter. It was to have been rebuilt at Silver Falls and re-engined with the updated General Electric (Walter) H75-200 engine but in the event that did not happen and it lay there in Silver Falls, in outside storage,  with wings detached from the fuselage, for nearly another two years. In December 2017 it was sold to a private individual in Alaska, who arranged for it to be rebuilt by Recon Air of Geraldton, Ontario. In mid January 2018 it was trucked from Silver Falls to Geraldton where it arrived on 23 January 2018, when it was put inside the Recon Air hangar, ready to be worked on. In April 2018 it underwent repairs to the wing, which had suffered hail damage.  As at October 2018 it was still in the hangar at Geraldton being rebuilt.

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.