55-2355 • TI-SPE • (C-GAOI) • C-GGOR
• 55-2355 United States Army Delivered 12th March 1956. Designated U-1A.
Allocated to the 14th Army Aviation Company, Fort Riley, KS.
Re-designated the 1st Aviation Company and moved to Fort Benning, GA.
57th Aviation Company at Fort Sill, OK., where it served until March 1963.
August '63 it was assigned to the Panama Canal Zone.
In February 1966 it is recorded as serving with the Intelligence & Security Command.
July 1968 when it joined the Inter American Geodetic Survey (IAGS), also based in the Canal Zone but engaged on topographic survey work throughout Central and South America until April 1970.
The following month it joined the 352nd Aviation Company, Southern Command, based at Albrook AFB., Canal Zone until February 1974.
Incident:, Five miles southwest of Albrook AFB, Panama Canal Zone. 21-July-1972. On a VFR maintenance test flight, the pilot experienced severe engine vibrations at all power settings but managed to land safely.
Incident: Near Albrook AFB, Panama Canal Zone. 09-October-1973. Again on a maintenance test flight, on climb out when passing through five hundred feet, the Otter was struck by a large buzzard, damaging the leading edge of the right wing, but the pilot managed to land the aircraft safely.
• TI-SPE Government of Costa Rica under a Military Aid Program, for operation by the Guardia Civil Air Wing, based at Juan Santamaria Airport, San Jose, Costa Rica.
• (C-GAOI) Air Alma Inc., Alma, QC. Reserved 19-Mar-1975 but NTU.
• (C-GAOI) Aviation Labrosse & Fils, Montréal. QC. Reserved in October '78 and received a flight permit for delivery to St.Jean Airport, Montreal, QC. Howerer negotiations fell through and NTU.
• C-GGOR Thomas Johnson, Lac du Bonnet, MB. dba Whiteshell Air Service Ltd., Regd 16-Mar-1981. Initially based at Nutimik Lake. Later based at Lac du Bonnet, MB from 1986. Re regd 02-Aug-1988. Canx 19-Jan-2005.
• C-GGOR 3097448 Manitoba. Canx 17-May-2006 Ltd., (Adventure Air), Lac du Bonnet, MB. Regd 06-Apr-2005. Canx 17-May-2006.
• C-GGOR Jackson Air Services Ltd., Flin Flon, MB. Regd 25-May-2006. Canx -04-Jun-2008.
• C-GGOR Kississing Lake Lodge Ltd., Steinbach, MB. Based Flin Flon, MB. Dba Wings over Kississing, 04-Jun-2008. Re regd 18-Jan-2010. Canx 07-Oct-2010 & 08-Feb-2011.
• C-GVIX Vancouver Island Air, Campbell River, BC Regd 08-Feb-2011.
Otter 97 was delivered to the United States Army on 12th March 1956 with serial 55-2355 (tail number 53255). It was allocated to the 14th Army Aviation Company, Fort Riley, Kansas. In August 1956 the 14th was re-designated the 1st Aviation Company and moved to Fort Benning, Georgia where it continued to fly the Otter until 1961 when it converted to the Caribou, relinquishing its U-1As to other units.
53255 was transferred to the 57th Aviation Company at Fort Sill, Oklahoma where it served until March 1963. After depot level maintenance, in August '63 it was assigned to the Panama Canal Zone. In February 1966 it is recorded as serving with the Intelligence & Security Command, still based in the Canal Zone, until July 1968 when it joined the Inter American Geodetic Survey (IAGS), also based in the Canal Zone but engaged on topographic survey work throughout Central and South America. 53255 flew for the IAGS until April 1970. The following month it joined the 352nd Aviation Company, Southern Command, based at Albrook AFB, Canal Zone.
While flying for the 352nd, it features in a few incident reports. On 21st July '72, five miles southwest of Albrook on a VFR maintenance test flight, the pilot experienced severe engine vibrations at all power settings but managed to land safely. On 9th October '73, again on a maintenance test flight, on climb out when passing through five hundred feet, the Otter was struck by a large buzzard, damaging the leading edge of the right wing, but the pilot managed to land the aircraft safely. It continued to fly for the 352nd Aviation Company until February 1974.
The following month, March 1974, 53255 and the other two Otters which had been operated by the 352nd Aviation Company (tail numbers 53258 and 76107) were transferred to the Government of Costa Rica under a Military Aid Program, for operation by the Guardia Civil Air Wing, based at Juan Santamaria Airport, San Jose, Costa Rica. All three Otters were flown to San Jose, where they were repainted in the Guardia Civil's blue and white colour scheme. All three were registered to the Guardia Civil in March 1975, 53255 as TI-SPE, 53258 as TI-SPF and 76107 as TI-SPG. Word of the arrival of these Otters in Costa Rica had evidently reached Canada, because already offers to purchase the aircraft were being made. Air Alma Inc of Alma, Quebec were so confident of having “clinched a deal” for the aircraft that on 19th March '75 they reserved Canadian registrations for the three Otters, C-GAOG (for TI-SPG), C-GAOI (for TI-SPE) and C-GAOJ (for TI-SPF). The proposed purchase however did not proceed and all three aircraft entered service with the Guardia Civil.
Air Alma lost interest, but Aviation Labrosse & Fils of Montreal then entered negotiations with the Costa Rican government to try and buy the aircraft. On 4th January 1978 they received a letter from attorneys acting on behalf of the Costa Rican government that the government was still interested in selling the aircraft, but had been very busy and could not advance the negotiations at that time. The talking continued and in October '78 Aviation Labrosse & Fils evidently thought they had a deal and they too applied for Canadian registrations. By that stage TI-SPF had been written off (it crashed on 28th October 1977) and Air Alma confirmed they were no longer interested, so on 4th October 1978 C-GAOI was allocated to Aviation Labrosse for TI-SPE and C-GAOJ was allocated to them for TISPG. They also received a Canadian Flight Permit for Importation, for a flight by both aircraft from San Jose, Costa Rica to St.Jean Airport, Montreal. At that stage TI-SPE had 5,549 hours total time and TI-SPG had 4,338 hours. Again, the negotiations collapsed and both Otters remained in service with the Guardia Civil. They continued in service until, finally, in 1980 the Costa Rican government did decide to sell the Otters. The purchaser was Mr Thomas Johnson of Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba. He bought the two Otters, as well as two Cessna 185s, one Cessna 180 and a Piper Apache. He rounded up the required number of pilots, they travelled down to Costa Rica, and all the aircraft set off together for the long delivery flight to Canada. They all used Canadian ferry marks and comprised Otters CGGOR (ex TI-SPE) and C-GGON (ex TI-SPG), Cessna 180 C-GGOJ (ex TI-SPA) and Cessna 185s C-GGOH (ex TI-SPC) and C-GGOP (ex TI-SPD). Mr.Johnson himself was flying one of the Otters. The pilot of the other Otter became ill as they were flying over the jungle, but fortunately they found a jungle strip and landed.
Later they continued on, landing at Managua in Nicaragua. The Apache was left there and the Otters and Cessnas continued on via Mexico-Brownsville, Texas-Wichita, Kansas-Winnipeg. All five aircraft arrived at Winnipeg on 27th April 1980. At Winnipeg, the Otters were overhauled and registered to Mr.Johnson's company, Whiteshell Air Service Ltd in March 1981, TI-SPE becoming CGGOR and TI-SPG becoming C-GGON, the same marks as used for the ferry flight. At first the Otters were based on Nutimik Lake, but in 1984 they moved to the airfield at Lac du Bonnet where Whiteshell Air Service has its hangar and offices.
Whiteshell Air Service flies the two Otters, one Beaver and two Cessna 185s to access the fishing lodges, outpost cabins, tent camps and boat caches which it runs in three of Manitoba's parks - the Whiteshell Provincial Park, Nopiming Provincial Park and the Great Atikaki Wilderness Park. As their website promises :”Whether you are seeking your first fly-in fishing trip, a sightseeing trip or a remote canoeing experience, Whiteshell Air Service can provide the air transportation for all your needs”. The aircraft are on floats during the summer, but are also available on wheel-skis for winter charters. More than 23 years after it had been acquired, C-GGOR continued in service with Whiteshell Air Service during 2004.
Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).