DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX   click on arrows to navigate page by page

c/n 39

3681 stationed at Goose Bay, Labrador.
Photo: Richard Martin © c1961-62
C-GOFB at Wawa, Ontario base.
Photos: Neil Aird © 12 September 2003
C-GOFB of WATSON'S SKYWAYS, at Wawa, Ontario base.
Photo: David Perston © 23 July 2021

c/n 39




• 3681 Royal Canadian Air Force. Delivered 26-May-1954. Initially attached to Fort Churchill, MB., Station Flight.

Note: To AMDU Saskatoon, SK., Dec-1975 and handed over to the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation for disposal.

30-Mar-1977 Crown Assets Disposal Corporation, acceptance of offer, Otters 3677 (35), 3681 (39), 3683 (44) 3691 (58), 3694 (61), 3698 (65) & 3745 (188) by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Toronto, as-is, where-is, Saskatoon SK, $280,000.

• C-GOFB Province of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources, Sault St.Marie, ON. Regd Apr-1978. (Completely stripped and rebuilt to better-than-new standard, including modern instrumentation). Canx 05-May-1985.

• C-GOFB Expressair R.L. Inc., Gatineau, QC. Regd July 1985. Canx 26-Jun-1986.

• C-GOFB Roger Lachapelle Pontiac Buick Ltee., Hull, QC. Based at Danford Lake, QC.

Note: Roger Lachapelle was President of Expressair.

• C-GOFB Watson's Algoma Vacations Ltd., dba Watson's Skyways, Wawa, ON. Regd 03-Jun-1992. Canx 21-Sep-1992 & 06-Mar-2000.

• C-GOFB Watson’s Skyways Ltd., Wawa. ON. Regd 06-Mar-2000. Canx 28-Dec-2006.

• C-GOFB Provincial Airlines Ltd., St. Johns, NL. Based Goose Bay NL. Regd 12-Feb-2007. Canx 15-May-2007.

• C-GOFB Watson’s Skyways Ltd., Wawa. ON. Regd 20-Jun-2007. Canx 14-Nov-2007. Regd 13 & 14-May-2008. Canx 22-Oct-2008. Regd 23-Oct-2008.

• C-GOFB Provincial Airlines Ltd., St. Johns. NL. Based Goose Bay NL. Regd 23-Oct-2008. Canx 27-May-2009.

• C-GOFB Watson’s Skyways Ltd., Wawa. ON. Regd 27-May-2009. Canx 09-Sep-2009.

• C-GOFB Provincial Airlines Ltd., St. Johns. NL. Based Goose Bay NL. Regd 10-Sep-2009. Canx 01-Jun-2010.

• C-GOFB Watson’s Skyways Ltd., Wawa. ON. Regd 14-Jul-2010. Canx 24-Sep-2010.

• C-GOFB Provincial Airlines Ltd., St. Johns. NL. Based Goose Bay NL. Regd 06-Apr-2011.



Otter 39 was delivered to the RCAF on 26th May 1954 with serial 3681. Its first posting was to the Fort Churchill, Manitoba Station Flight, to replace 3672 which had crashed on 26th April 1954. 3681 is recorded as making a test flight at Churchill on 10th June '54 and then entering service with the Station Flight. An attempt on 25th June to move the Otter from the airfield to Landing Lake for float operations during the summer months was hampered by high winds, but the move was successfully made three days later.

The Otter was heavily tasked, with many medevacs and searches at this remote location (“Polar Bear Capital of the World”). On 8th July 1954 it flew to Ennadai Lake in company with RCMP Otter CF-MPP, which was also based at Churchill, to search for missing Eskimos. On 13th July it flew to York Factory to pick up an Indian patient, and then to the location where 405 Squadron Lancaster 999 had crashed the previous August, to check the lake and the condition of the Lancaster, which was to be broken up. There were many more medevacs around this time, including one to Winnipeg on 26th October and one to The Pas on 19th November 1954. During February 1955 3681 was involved in the rescue of the RCMP Otter near Ennadai lake, as described in relation to CF-MPP. On 11th March '55 an RAF Shackleton arrived at Churchill for cold weather testing. On 13th March 3681 airlifted supplies to Napier Lake in connection with the test. The following month, the Otter recorded flights to Baker Lake, Brochet and South Knife. On 10th May 1955 US Overseas Airlines DC-4 N90407 crash landed thirty miles short of the airfield at Churchill on the Hudson Bay ice, Otter 3681 being involved in the rescue.

A few days later, on 17th May 1955, Dakota 913 of 111 Communications & Rescue Flight, Winnipeg crash landed on the Hudson Bay coast 100 miles north of Churchill. The Otter proceeded to the scene and homed in on a USAF C-124 Globemaster which was orbiting the area, and descended using a beacon let-down on the emergency Gibson Girl. The crew of the downed Dakota were evacuated to Eskimo Point by the Otter, where they spent the night. On 25th May there was another medevac by 3681 to The Pas. Starting on 6th June '55 the Otter was used on an extensive search for a fishing party of military personnel who were missing on their return to Churchill. The Otter flew out to investigate the camp site the party had set up at the mouth of Goose Creek. Several passes were made to arouse anyone who might have been asleep in the tents but on-one appeared.

Extensive searches were made over the following days of the Churchill River and Hudson Bay by the Otter, as well as by USAF Globemaster 20994, Lancaster 958 and Canso CF-GBG but no sign of the missing persons was found. 7th December 1955 saw 3681 flying alongside Otter 3671 of 408 Squadron airlifting Army personnel on an exercise. On 4th July 1956 3681 was put on floats and was flown by a 408 Squadron crew to Upper Back to install a SHORAN set (a type of radio beacon). On 14th September 1956 3681 departed Churchill at the end of its assignment there, flying to Downsview where All Up Weight modifications were incorporated by DHC. At the conclusion of this work in December 1956, the Otter was re-assigned to the Goose Bay Station Flight, to replace 3684 which had been damaged beyond repair on a flight from Goose Bay to Postville, Labrador on 17th December 1956. 3681 arrived at Goose Bay on 30th January 1957 and became an active member of the Station Flight, which it was to serve for nearly nine years.

In March '57 it deployed to Knob Lake, Quebec on temporary duty, before returning to Goose. The Otter is mentioned in the unit history undertaking a long-range rescue during November/December 1958. On 29th November, having flown from Goose Bay, the Otter picked up a sick Eskimo child at Povungnituk in northern Quebec on the Hudson Bay coast and flew the patient to Great Whale, where the child was transferred to RCAF Dakota KP224 which had come up from Trenton, and which flew the child to hospital in Ottawa. The Otter then flew to Nottingham Island, where the Hudson Strait meets Foxe Channel, to pick up another ill person, escorted by RCAF C-47 994 flying from Coral Harbour, and flew the patient to Coral Harbour where he was transferred to the C-47 and flown to Churchill, Manitoba. The C-47 then returned to Goose Bay where it arrived on 4th December. Otter 3681 also returned home via Churchill, where it was weathered-in for some days, and then continued on via Winisk,Ontario-Bagotville-Sept Îles back to base at Goose where it arrived on 9th December 1958, after two marathon medevacs.

In May 1960 Otter 3681 flew south to Downsview for work by DHC, being replaced at Goose Bay by 3692, until it returned to Goose in December 1960. On 20th January 1961 3681 flew from Goose via Saglek to Resolution Island, to fly out the crew of a USAF C-47 tail number 77291, which had force landed on the sea ice near the DEW Line radar site, a rescue in which Wheeler Airlines Otter CF-IUZ (135) was also involved. IUZ flew the C-47 crew from the scene of the crash to Resolution Island, while 3681 then flew them to Frobisher Bay, escorted by USAF SC-54 tail number 72703 of the 48th Air Rescue Squadron at Goose Bay. During July 1961, 3681 together with the Goose Station Flight's other Otter 3698, was involved in the large scale search for Okanagan Helicopters Sikorsky S-58 CF-LWC, missing on a flight from Cartwright to Goose Bay.

On 26th February 1962, 3681 returned to Downsview for a repaint, no doubt much needed after its long service in arduous northern conditions, returning to Goose on 20th March. On 22nd December 1963 one of two French-registered Nord 1002s en route from Martlesham, Suffolk in England to the United States, force landed on Cut Throat Island, 130 miles from Goose, while on the sector from Narssarsuaq, Greenland to Goose Bay. Cut Throat Island was once the site of a Pinetree Line radar site. The two Nords, F-BFYX and F-BGVU, had been in England, masquerading as Messerschmitts for the film '633 Squadron'. They had already experienced difficulty and become lost, having to be found and escorted by a USAF Rescue C-54 from Goose Bay. F-BGVU lost oil pressure and had to force land on the island. The Otter located the downed aircraft but due to darkness and slush was unable to land. The pilot was picked up by helicopter the next day. The aircraft was abandoned on the island. The other Nord F-BFYX continued on to the United States here it became N108U. 3681 continued flying from Goose throughout 1964, on general utility tasks, SAR, medevacs and forest fire support. Between 4th and 22nd December 1964 it flew on the annual Christmas Drop - 4,600 pounds of toys and clothing were flown to children in Postville, Nain, Makkovik, Davis Inlet and Hopedale. 3681 soldiered on at Goose until September 1965 when, after nearly nine years of service there, it left Goose and flew south to No.6 Repair Depot at Trenton, continuing on to Camp Borden, Ontario where it arrived on 1st October 1965.

3681 remained at Camp Borden from October 1965 until 14th March 1966, used for the ground training of Tanzanian Air Force personnel, who were about to take delivery of eight Otters from the Canadian Government. 3681 then went back to No.6 Repair Depot, Trenton for an overhaul and repaint, and the installation of floats. It then flew back to Goose Bay, where it was again stationed, on floats for the summer of 1966, from May to October. It then left Goose for the last time, on assignment to 401 Squadron at St.Hubert, Montreal, which it joined in January 1967. A minor “C” category incident was recorded on 5th August '67 at St.Hubert. The tailwheel struck an unmarked hazard while moving rapidly over uneven ground during a short radius starboard turn while taxying for take off. The exterior skin was wrinkled on the starboard side of the fuselage. The Otter went to Downsview for repair and then back to 401 Squadron, St.Hubert in February 1968.

3681 spent from February to May 1969 undergoing work at the AMDU, Trenton, again returning to 401 Squadron St.Hubert with whom it continued to serve until December 1975 when it was flown to the AMDU Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and handed over to the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation for disposal, its military career over. The Otter remained in storage at Saskatoon until April 1977 when, as explained in relation to Otter number 35, it was one of seven ex Canadian military Otters transferred to the Province of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources. All seven were flown to the Ministry's base at Sault St.Marie, Ontario where they were completely rebuilt and modernised, and repainted in the Ministry's yellow and black colour scheme. Otter 39 was registered to the Ministry in April 1978 as C-GOFB and entered service.

For the next eight years, OFB flew the length and breadth of Ontario on the many diverse tasks of a hard-working Provincial Government bush aircraft. During the mid eighties, the Ministry sold off its Otter fleet, and C-GOFB was sold to Expressair R.L. Inc., of Gatineau, Québec in July 1985. The president of this company was Roger Lachapelle, and in July 1986 the Otter was registered to Roger Lachapelle Pontiac Buick Ltee, based at Danford Lake, Quebec. This company and Expressair R.L. Inc., acted as sales agents for aircraft and automobiles.

C-GOFB was eventually sold to Watson's Algoma Vacations Ltd., trading as Watson's Skyways of Wawa, Ontario to whom it was registered in May 1992. It suffered a minor incident at Kabinakagami Lake, Ontario on 28th August 1994. While commencing a crosswind take-off from the lake in gusty wind conditions, the Otter encountered a strong gust which lifted the right wing. The pilot aborted the take-off and during his attempt to regain control, the left wing contacted the water. The aircraft was taxied to the shore with its left aileron torn from the outboard hinge and folded back over the wing. The damage was repaired.

The following year, C-GOFB was joined by Otter C-GPPL (7) in Watson's Skyways service, and the activities of this company have already been described in relation to number 7. C-GOFB continued in service until the end of the 1999 summer season, when it was decided to convert the aircraft to a Vazar DHC-3T with a PT-6 turbine engine. The conversion was undertaken over the winter of 1999/2000 by Skyservice at its Echo Bay, Ontario facility and following completion of the work, the Otter was registered to Watson's Skyways Ltd., on 6th March 2000. In April 2000 C-GOFB undertook a lengthy training detail to familiarise the crew with the new turbine, routing Echo Bay- Sault St.Marie-Harlan, Kentucky-Lakeland, Florida where it partook in the air show at Lakeland, before returning to service with Watson's Skyways, based out of Wawa. By October 2000, OFB had some 13,000 hours on the airframe and was placed into winter storage at Bar River, Ontario, resuming flying the following May. The Watson's Skyways operation is summer only, their aircraft being put into storage each winter.

C-GOFB continued in service with Watsons Skyways in the years that followed. In some years it flew during the winter, as well as during the summer. For example, on 14 February 2004 the Otter on wheel-skis was taxying on the Attawapiskat River when a gust of wind lifted the aircraft’s tail and the propeller struck a snowdrift, damaging one blade. The propeller and engine power section were removed at the incident location and the Otter was down for a week before it could fly again. Mostly however the Otter was flown during the summer months in Ontario on floats, but for winter 2006 / 2007 and subsequent winters, an arrangement was negotiated with Provincial Airlines Ltd., which would see the Otter registered to Provincial Airlines each winter, flying out of Goose Bay, Labrador on wheel-skis. Winter operations would include supporting prospecting camps and providing access for First Nations groups in Labrador and northern Quebec and general charter work. Winter 2006 / 2007 was the first winter of this new operation but was quite successful and would be repeated in subsequent winters, up to and including winter 2011 / 2012.

Use of the Otter that winter included transport of soldiers of the Bundeswehr (German Army) to Minipi Lake so that they could complete a winter survival march into the Primary Training Area sixty miles south of Goose Bay. The Otter was also used to re-supply the community at Border Beacon. An incident was recorded on 8 May 2011. The Otter landed on Muskrat Lake, southwest of Goose Bay. It landed on the frozen lake with the skis up. The ice was softer than expected which caused the Otter to tip forward and hit the propeller on the ice. The pilot, the only occupant, was uninjured and preparations were made to repair the Otter at the site. A repair team and new propeller were flown in by helicopter and OFB was soon airworthy again. It was again registered to Watsons Skyways on 3 June 2011 for operation in Ontario that summer.

At the end of the summer 2011 season OFB went for overhaul to Springer Aerospace at the Bar River Airport. It was noted there in the paint shop on 24 November 2011 in bare metal, being subsequently repainted into a striking new scheme of black upper fuselage, white lower fuselage and stylised red speed stripe, with a red stripe also on the floats. On completion of the repaint and overhaul it flew to Goose Bay and was again operational with Provincial Airlines out of Goose Bay for the remainder of winter 2011 / 2012. It had returned to Wawa by 13 May 2012 and was registered again to Watsons Skyways on 7 June 2012.

The arrangement with Provincial Airlines was not repeated after that and in the years that followed C-GOFB has flown just for Watsons Skyways based out of Wawa, Ontario including during summer 2021.

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.