DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 316

N521BK at Boeing Field - KBFI, Washington.
Photo: Kenneth I. Swartz © 01 August 1976
N521BK at San Jose - KSJC, California.
Photo: John Wegg © September 1984 - Karl E. Hayes
C-FSGD with TRANSWEST AIR, at La Ronge - CYVC, Saskatchewan.
Photo: Anthony J. Hickey © May 2002 - Karl E. Hayes
C-FSGD at the La Ronge float base.
Photo: Neil Aird © 16 September 2003
C-FSGD on the ice at Points North Landing, Saskatchewan..
Photo: Peter Wollenberg © 2010 - Aird Archives

c/n 316

58-1704 • N521BK



• 58-1704 .US Army. Delivered 06-Feb-1959. Designated U-1A.

Initially allocated to Transportation Research & Environmental Operations Group (TREOG), Fort Eustis, VA.

Feb-1968. 54th Aviation Company, Vietnam.

May-1968. To 388th Transportation Company, Vung Tau, Vietnam.

Sep-1968. Returned to Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, CA .

Jan-1970. 54th Aviation Company, Vietnam.

Aug- 1970. 56th Transportation Company,

Oct-1970. Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, CA and put into storage.

Feb-1973. Deleted from Army inventory.

• No regn  Laurentian Air Services Ltd., Ottawa, ON. Purchased 08-Jan-1974.

• No regn. Sold on to Ag Air Company, Latah, WA. Jan-1974.

• No regn Wayne H. Baer by Bill of Sale dated 10th February 1974.

• N521BK Bill Kornell, dba Acme Air Taxi , Salmon, ID Regd 21-Feb-1974.

• N521BK West Aircraft Sales of Municipal Airport, Salinas, CA. Purchased on 10-Aug-1975.

• N521BK Henry L. Liners, Fairbanks, AK. Operated by Frontier Flying Service Inc., based at Fairbanks.

Accident: New Minto, AK. 16-Jan-1977. Aircraft lost power on take off and forced landed off airport in rough terrain. Repaired by Sorm Industries at Seattle, WA.

• N521BK Mike Ehredt, dba Arctic Guide, Barrow, AK. Regd 15-Sep-1977.

• N521BK Gittins Construction Inc., Anchorage, AK. Purchased 27-Dec- 1983.

• N521BK Yute Air Alaska, Dillingham, AK. Purchased 18-Dec-1985.

• C-FSGD Athabaska Airways Ltd., La Ronge, SK. Regd Apr-1994, Canx 13-Nov-2001.

Power plant: Converted to PT6A-125A Vazar turbine in 1997.

Accident: 5ml west of Stony Rapids, .26-Apr-2001 The Aircraft lost power on a flight between Fond du Lac and Stony Rapids and forced landed on a river.

• C-FSGD Transwest Air Limited Partnership, By its General Partners 101008427 Sask & 101004597 Sask., Prince Albert. SK.13-Nov-2001. Based La Ronge, SK. Re regd 24-May-2002. Canx 16-Oct-2015.

Accident 22-Aug-2013. 13 km (8.1 mls) SE of Ivanhoe Lake, NT. During approach to landing on the previous flight, the right-wing leading-edge and wing tip were damaged by impact with several trees. The damage to the aircraft was not evaluated or inspected by qualified personnel prior to take-off. Cumulative unmanaged stressors disrupted the pilot's processing of safety-critical information, and likely contributed to an unsafe decision to depart with a damaged, uninspected aircraft. The aircraft was operated in a damaged condition and departed controlled flight likely due to interference between parts of the failing wing tip,

• C-FSGD Removed from register 09-Jan-2016.


Otter 316 was delivered to the United States Army on 6th March 1959 with serial 58-1704 (tail number 81704). It was one of two Otters delivered that day, the other being 81703 (305). Both were painted in an overall orange colour scheme and were delivered from Downsview to Fort Eustis, Virginia where they joined the Transportation Research & Environmental Operations Group (TREOG), an Army unit whose task was to test Army equipment under extreme climate and environmental conditions. The two Otters were used in Greenland and in Panama. 81704's Army career was the same as 81703's, as already described, until April 1964 when it was assigned to Fort Huachuca, Arizona as a test support aircraft.

In February 1966 81704 arrived with the 54th Aviation Company in Vietnam, where it served until May 1968. It was taken on charge that month by the 388th Transportation Company, Vung Tau and shipped back to the United States, for depot level overhaul at the Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, California where it arrived in September 1968. After overhaul, in January 1970 it arrived back with the 54th Aviation Company in Vietnam. It is mentioned in the Company's history for January 1970 - “Traded in 53298 for 81704, an aircraft just back from overhaul in the States”. 81704 continued to fly for the 54th Aviation Company until August 1970, when it was taken on charge by the 56th Transportation Company and prepared for return home. It arrived back at the Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, California in October 1970 and was put into storage there. It remained in store until February 1973 when it was deleted from the Army inventory and put up for disposal as military surplus.

81704 was one of four Otters in storage at Stockton purchased on 8th January 1974 by Laurentian Air Services Ltd., of Ottawa, the four being 76108 (226), 81700 (314), 81704 (316) and 92210 (348), the purchase price for 81704 being $6,800. Of the four, Laurentian Air Services flew two of them (226 and 348) to their base at Ottawa, restored them to civilian configuration and put them into service. The other two (314 and 316) were not in flyable condition (as reflected by the purchase price of $6,800 for 316) and they were immediately sold on to Ag Air Company of Latah, Washington who collected the two Otters at Stockton and brought them by truck to their base at Latah.

Otter 314 was rebuilt by Ag Air Company, but 316 was sold on “as is” to a Mr Wayne H. Baer by Bill of Sale dated 10th February 1974 for $13,650, so at least Ag Air realised a quick profit. Later that month, Mr Baer sold the aircraft to Bill Kornell, trading as Acme Air Taxi of Salmon, Idaho, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Mr Kornell applied for a civil registration for the Otter on 21st February 1974 and was allocated N521BK (the 'BK' no doubt standing for Bill Kornell) by the FAA. He then set about rebuilding the aircraft, which took three months, and on 30th May 1974 he applied for a Certificate of Airworthiness. The Otter at that stage of its career had 3,500 hours total time.

On 31st May 1974 the FAA issued a C.of A., but as an “Experimental Aircraft with Operating Limitations”. This it appears was because the Otter was to be used for dropping feed to animals, with the fuselage cargo doors removed. Limitations specified by the C.of A. precluded operations over congested areas, except take offs from the Boise Municipal Airport and Nampa Airport, both in Idaho. After a year and a half of operating the Otter, Mr Kornell sold it by Bill of Sale dated 10th August 1975 to West Aircraft Sales of Municipal Airport, Salinas, California who sold it on the same day to Henry L Liners of Fairbanks, Alaska. N521BK was registered to Mr Liners but was operated by Frontier Flying Service Inc, based at Fairbanks. At the time, the company also operated Otter N90575 (302), which crashed shortly thereafter.

Frontier Flying Service continued to operate the Otter until an accident on 16th January 1977, when N521BK was taking off from New Minto, Alaska on a cargo flight to Fairbanks, with two on board. The engine lost power and the Otter made a forced landing off airport in rough terrain and was substantially damaged. It was trucked south to be repaired by Sorm Industries at Boeing Field, Seattle. It underwent major structural repairs to the fuselage, bulkhead and right wing. The repairs were completed by August 1977. The following month, the Otter was sold to Mike Ehredt, trading as Arctic Guide of Barrow, Alaska and he applied for registration on 15th September 1977. Arctic Guide's fleet included a Twin Otter, Beech C-45, Dornier Do-28, two Turbo Porters and several Cessnas. The Otter flew for Arctic Guide out of Barrow until sold to Gittins Construction Inc., of Anchorage, by Bill of Sale dated 27th December 1983. This company installed a Sorm Industries bulk fuel carrying tank, and it was used to haul fuel to construction sites around Alaska. It continued in use by Gittins Construction until sold to Yute Air Alaska of Dillingham, Alaska by Bill of Sale dated 18th December 1985.

Yute Air Alaska removed the bulk fuel tank and converted the Otter back to a passenger aircraft, and used it as part of their commuter fleet. They had previously flown Otter N433GR (291). The Otter continued to fly for Yute Air Alaska out of Dillingham until sold to Athabaska Airways Ltd., of La Ronge, Saskatchewan in April 1994, to whom it was registered C-FSGD. The Otter flew as a piston until it was converted to a Vazar turbine Otter in 1997 and joined Athabaska Airways other turbine Otter C- FHPE (273) in service out of their La Ronge base. When Athabaska Airways merged with La Ronge Aviation Services to form Transwest Air, with effect from 1st September 2000, both Otters joined the Transwest Air fleet, although they remained based at La Ronge. An incident involving C-FSGD was recorded on 26th April 2001. The turbo Otter on amphibious floats was en route from Fond du Lac to Stony Rapids when the fuel pressure dropped and the engine lost power. The pilot completed a forced landing on a river five miles west of Stony Rapids. The fuel gauge indicated 50 gallons of fuel on board. The aircraft was examined and departed again en route to Stony Rapids. On final approach at Stony Rapids, the engine lost power again. The pilot completed a landing at the airport and the Otter was towed off the runway. Examination revealed a problem with the fuel transmitter, which was dealt with, and SGD returned to service. It was registered to Transwest Air Ltd., Partnership, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan on 13th November 2001, but remained based at La Ronge.

During the Otter’s service with Transwest Air, a number of incidents are recorded on Cadors:

18 June 2003.  SGD was at the company dock at La Ronge with its engine running, preparing to taxi for a flight to Teller Lake. As the pilot was preparing to release the propeller start locks, the engine was heard to surge twice. The surging engine produced enough power to pull the aircraft away from the dock, where it was being held by the dock crew. It moved ahead and struck a company DHC-6    C-FCCE. The Turbo Otter sustained damage to its propeller and wing. The Twin Otter sustained damage to its tail and fuselage.

6 April 2005.  After landing on runway 18 at La Ronge the Otter developed a brake problem and was towed off the runway.

30 March 2006.  SGD was en route to La Ronge when the pilot reported a possible tail wheel/ski problem. The pilot did a low pass at the airport and was directed by the company to land on the ice at the La Ronge water base. The Otter landed safely.

14 January 2007.  SGD was disabled with a flat tire on runway 18/36 at La Ronge. The Otter was removed 30 minutes later, resulting in three other flights being delayed.

By 2006 SGD had been painted in a new colour scheme with a white fuselage featuring a “wavy” orange line, two intersecting blue lines, blue wingtips, a goose logo on the tail and Transwest Air titles. Although La Ronge was the main base for Transwest Air’s two Otters, SGD and HPE, they were often based up north at Stony Rapids, particularly during summer months. There was much work for the Otters out of Stony Rapids, including flying guests to fishing lodges and fly-out fishing to remote lakes; opening and closing lodges; support of trappers, flying them into and out of the bush; flying caribou hunters and native peoples.

Transwest Air continued flying SGD until it was destroyed in a tragic accident on Thursday 22 August 2013. The Otter was again based at Stony Rapids during that summer and on the day of the accident it had an itinerary of 15 flights, including a series of fly-out trips to various outpost camps for a fishing lodge on Scott Lake, just over the Saskatchewan border in the Northwest Territories. At 06:45 that morning SGD took off from its Stony Rapids base and its routings during the day were to Scott Lake Lodge-Desmarais Lake-Sandy Lake-Scott Lake Lodge-Ivanhoe Lake-Gardiner’s Lake-Stony Rapids-Pinkham Lake-Stony Rapids-Desmarais Lake-Sandy Lake-Scott Lake Lodge. The Otter took off from Scott Lake Lodge at 18:51 that evening en route back to Ivanhoe Lake but crashed 17 minutes into the flight. It was supposed to pick up a group of fishermen at Ivanhoe Lake and return them to Scott Lake Lodge after which it was intended to fly back to Stony Rapids to end the day’s flying.

The pilot, who had been feeling unwell in any event, had been encountering operational problems throughout the day. The wind was making it difficult to manoeuvre the Otter to the various docks and unloading points. On one of the flights a water rudder was damaged. This was repaired at Stony Rapids prior to a flight to Pinkham Lake. On arrival at the Lake the pilot made eight attempts to manoeuvre to the unloading spot. Later in the day, while trying to depart Desmarais Lake, the aircraft became stuck near the beach and the pilot had to use substantial power several times to free the Otter from sandbars.

During the Otter’s last arrival at Scott Lake the aircraft made a low altitude turn to the right around the south end of an island onto the final approach towards the Lodge. While in a right bank, the right wing tip struck a stand of trees on the point of an island. There was a loud bang and the aircraft swung to the right. The pilot maintained control and touched down on the water. After taxying to the Lodge, he made two attempts to dock. Damage to the right wing leading edge and wing tip was evident. Despite this, when the unloading was complete, the pilot immediately called for the lines to be cast off and taxied away from the dock. He took off at 18:51 en route to Ivanhoe Lake, to collect the fishermen there. The take-off was normal and the Otter was observed climbing to the north for the 33 mile flight to Ivanhoe Lake. Seventeen minutes into the flight however the Otter crashed into an un-named lake seven miles south of Ivanhoe Lake. The pilot, the only occupant, was killed in the crash.

The Otter should have collected the fishing party at Ivanhoe Lake and been back at Scott Lake by 20:30 hours. When the flight was 30 minutes overdue, it was reported as overdue by Transwest Air and the Joint Rescue Co-Ordination Centre at Trenton was informed.  The JRCC tasked 435 Squadron at Winnipeg with the search at 23:45 that night and CC-130H serial 130338 was soon airborne and heading north to commence the operation. At 03:05 (Friday morning 23 August), there being some light in the sky even at that early hour, the crew of the Hercules spotted what appeared to be a partially submerged aircraft in a small lake some seven miles southeast of Ivanhoe Lake. The Hercules dropped illumination flares, confirming they had located the wreckage of a partially submerged aircraft that had broken in two. The Hercules remained on scene and searching the surrounding area until 06:00 when a Transwest Air helicopter arrived, along with two company Beavers. They confirmed that the wreckage was that of the Otter, at which stage the Hercules returned to Winnipeg.

The RCMP at Yellowknife took over responsibility for the rescue and that morning sent a team of divers to the scene, as there was no sign of the Otter’s pilot. The Transportation Safety Board also sent a team of investigators. The dive team flew in an RCMP Pilatus PC-12 from Regina to Stony Rapids and from there to the accident site by Transwest Air floatplane Twin Otter, as did the Safety Board personnel. Over the coming days the Twin Otter was used to ferry all persons dealing with the crash from Stony Rapids to the scene and back.

The rescuers were confronted with a very difficult situation. The wreckage of the Otter was located in the shallow un-named lake, submerged in approximately six feet of water. The lake’s bottom consisted of deep mud and silt. Depressions in the mud indicated that the aircraft had impacted almost vertically and that the floats and left wing impacted first. All major components were located within an area not much larger than the aircraft itself. The left and right wings were separated from the fuselage. The fuselage itself was broken into several major pieces. The engine and cockpit were located to the right of the fuselage and submerged in mud up to the first row of cabin windows. Because the cockpit was stuck in the mud, the RCMP dive team were unable to make any observations. So difficult were the conditions that it took a week of effort before the body of the pilot was retrieved. Barges had to be brought in and winches used to gradually get the wreckage out of the mud. On Friday 30 August the RCMP announced that its divers, with the assistance of Saskatchewan Environment personnel and Transwest Air employees had managed to free the pilot’s body which was flown back to Stony Rapids. The Transwest Air Bell 205 helicopter was also used in the recovery, slinging the remains of the Otter back to Stony Rapids. It was examined here by the investigation team before being taken to Prince Albert for further analysis, thus concluding a very difficult rescue effort.

The report into the crash by the Transportation Safety Board was published in January 2015. The report concluded that during the flight prior to the accident flight that the Otter’s right wing leading edge and wing tip were damaged by impact with the trees; that the aircraft was not evaluated or inspected by qualified personnel before it took off again; that the cumulative unmanaged stresses that the pilot had suffered during the day disrupted the pilot’s processing of safety-critical information and likely contributed to an unsafe decision to depart with a damaged, uninspected aircraft; that the Otter was flown in a damaged condition and departed controlled flight likely due to interference between parts of the failing wingtip acting under air loads and the right aileron.

On the accident flight the aircraft flew for 17 minutes after take-off, indicating that the factors which led to the apparent loss of control took a period of time to develop. The broken edges of the fibreglass wing tip would have been exposed to the airstream. The wing tip was also subjected to a rise in internal pressure due to ram air entering through the breaks in the fibreglass. The wing tip was likely breaking apart under the combination of these forces. It was likely that parts of the failing wing tip interfered with the right hand aileron, leading to a loss of control and the Otter diving into the lake.  The registration was formally cancelled on 16 October 2015.

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.