Sunday, February 25, 2007


Steve's "Otter Of The Week"! Karl E. Hayes

This week's "pin-up girl" was born in 1952. She was a true "country girl", living in Northern Alberta and Northern B.C. until she was 15 years old. Then, seeking some independence, she headed "east" to Manitoba, where her "personality" continued to "evolve". In 1972, at the age of 20 years, she headed for Canadian "Fleur-de-lis" country. For 13 years, she was part of the "workforce", but left us sadly at the age of 33 years. Her "obituary" shows her "expiring" in July of 1985. She was "cremated". All information is from Karl Hayes' "masterful" CD entitled:

De Havilland Canada

Before we get into "this week's Otter" in more depth, read a little more about de Havilland Canada's early days, and the aircraft that proceeded the Otter. Also, at the very end of my "Post", find Karl Hayes' "Contact and CD Info"......




With the ending of the second World War, Canada was ready for the greatest northern development boom in her history. Worldwide, there was a shortage of minerals, oil, timber. Canada had all these in her northern hinterland, but lacked adequate transport facilities to get at them. Dog teams in winter and small boats and spur line railroads were the main means of transportation along with modified military aircraft, such as Stinsons and Norsemen. These in most cases were either too large and cumbersome for utilization in many areas or too limited in payload capacity. Aircraft were needed to explore for the hidden mineral resources and to move personnel, equipment and supplies economically and safely to the wilderness mine sites, to patrol and protect the forests, and generally to support the isolated communities throughout northern Canada.

With its first aircraft successfully behind it, DHC's design team turned their attentions to an aircraft which would serve the Canadian northlands, an idea they had long cherished. They saw both the need and the possibilities for an aircraft tailored to meet their country's bush flying requirements. The specifications for the new plane were based on the results of a questionnaire sent to all Canadian bush pilots from coast to coast. The information they provided produced a clear picture of what was required, a picture which was in accordance with DHC's own concept. Work started on the aircraft in September 1946. It was designated the DHC-2 and named the “Beaver” after the most industrious animal of that name whose habitat was the Canadian outback.

Although work progressed rapidly on the Beaver, it was not without difficulty, the problem area being the engine. The powerplant initially selected was De Havilland's own Gipsy engine, rated at 295 hp. An all- De Havilland engine/airframe combination was considered a good selling point although doubts did exist in that the new engine had not been proven in service and it would have left the aircraft underpowered. After considerable agonising over the choice of engine, the Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior was selected, rated at 450 hp, to begin what would be a long association between DHC and P&W.

The prototype Beaver CF-FHB-X first flew on 16th August 1947, piloted by Operations Manager and Chief Test Pilot Russ Bannock. The Beaver went on to become the all-time classic bushplane. Its outstanding characteristics were its ruggedness and dependability, its ease of operations, and its ability to haul a useful load out of small fields and tiny lakes. It was the first true STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft to go into large scale production and was an instant success. In 1949 the Beaver was demonstrated to the United States Search and Rescue Command in Alaska and was selected as the only aircraft that could meet all the exacting requirements of operation in the demanding Alaskan environment. A proposed purchase of 22 Beavers was prevented by the Buy American Act, which prohibited the purchase of peacetime military equipment outside of the United States. The US military however could not really afford not to purchase such an excellent aircraft and following a competition for a liaison aircraft held jointly by the United States Air Force (USAF) and the US Army in 1951, which the Beaver won by a handsome margin over the competition, an order was placed. The Beaver was designated the L-20 in US military service (subsequently re-designated the U-6 in 1962) and an impressive total of 981 Beavers were ultimately delivered to the US military.

DHC built a staggering total of 1,631 Beavers, military sales being 1,077 and civil sales 554, to 62 countries. The surviving military aircraft passed on to the civil market on their withdrawal from military service. The Beaver remained in production from 1947 until 1967. Most of the final deliveries were DHC-2 Mark III Turbo Beavers, which had a re-designed fuselage which could accommodate a pilot and up to ten passengers and was powered by a PT-6A turboprop engine. The prototype Turbo Beaver first flew on 31 December 1963 and sixty in all were built.

Otter 6

Otter number 6 was registered to Imperial Oil Air Transport Ltd on 18th December 1952 and delivered to its new owner the following day. Imperial Oil were Esso's Canadian affiliate. The Otter was based in Dawson Creek, BC and used to support oil exploration work in the Canadian North. It was joined by CF-IOF (24) in September 1954, which was based in Edmonton.

CF-IOD was active in northern BC and Alberta, especially in the Peace River country where hilly sparsely populated farmland soon dissolved into bleak mountain ranges, thick muskeg forests and innumerable lakes and rivers. The Otter supported drilling camps out in the bush. The drilling crew, having trucked in their equipment over hardened ground during the winter, carved a landing strip nearby for the Otter with their bulldozer. The Otter was also used to service small geological and seismic exploration parties, who camped by a lake or river where CF-IOD had a chance of landing.

A number of incidents were recorded, as it operated from short, rugged airstrips out in the bush. On 22 June 1953 at one of these strips, the tail wheel dropped into a hole, damaging the rear fuselage. The Otter was flown to Calgary for repair. On 1st August '53 on a flight from Peace River there was damage to the rear bulkhead on landing 30 miles north-west of Beatton River. On 18th April '55, flying from Imperial Oil's Rainbow Airstrip carrying a load of 1,800 lbs of diamond core barrel parts, the Otter was caught by a downdraft landing at Kahntah airstrip and struck a ridge at the end of the short strip, damaging the undercarriage and propeller. This was put down as one of the “hazards of bush flying”. The damage was repaired by Northwest Industries in Edmonton.

As well as carrying personnel and supplies into these camps, the Otter also brought in bags of specially formulated mud used on drilling sites to cool drilling bits and carry rock cuttings to the surface, and the aircraft also brought out core samples for analysis. It was also used for medevac flights whenever the need arose. Occasionally the Otter came to the attention of the SAR authorities, as it suffered communications difficulties in the course of its travels, giving rise to some concern until it managed to establish contact and report all was well. One such incident occurred on 8th November 1957 when it became overdue at Fort St.John on a round robin flight via Sikanni Chief. Another such incident was on 24th June '58, en route from Fort Providence to Hay River in the Northwest Territories.

There followed years of incident free operation until 2nd April 1965, when CF-IOD was flying from Edmonton to the company's Rainbow Lake airstrip with six passengers. During the landing roll, the aircraft encountered a ridge, became airborne and dropped heavily, sustaining substantial damage. The Otter was sold to DHC on 2nd September 1966, although it remained at Edmonton, where it had been taken for repair. It was sold on by DHC to Thomas Lamb Airways Ltd, and a ferry permit issued on 14th March 1967 for its delivery flight from Edmonton to its new base at The Pas, Manitoba.

IOD was one of thirteen Otters to be registered to this well known Manitoba carrier over the years. The company changed its name to Lambair in December 1968. IOD served the communities of Manitoba for five years, until February 1972, when it was one of three Otters (the others being CFXIL and CF-CDL) sold by Lambair to A. Fecteau Transport Aerien. IOD and CDL were delivered on 16th February 1972 and XIL followed on 1st March '72. With its new owner, IOD proceeded to operate in the bush country of Quebec, just as it had in Manitoba and Alberta before that. It was not long in service before its first scrape, on 6th April '72. Operating in the James Bay area, it was enroute from Fort George to Cape Jones airstrip with five barrels of aviation fuel. Landing on rough terrain and snowdrifts, damage was caused to the rear fuselage, which was repaired.

On 14th April 1977, on take-off from the hydro-electric power station site GB-1 en route to Great Whale, during the take-off run from the rough snow surface, the bolt holding the right gear strut to the fuselage failed, causing the right ski to fold under the fuselage on the subsequent landing. Damage was caused to the right wing, the strut and the centre tank. Repairs were carried out to C-FIOD, as it was then registered, by St.Louis Aviation at St.Jean airfield, Montreal. Another incident occurred two years later on 5th April 1979, landing at Lac Bolem, Quebec on a flight from Lac Mollet. The Otter was flying in material and personnel to repair a company aircraft (Beaver CF-DJO) whose landing gear had collapsed while landing on the rough surface three days earlier. During the landing roll, the left ski of IOD collapsed when it struck a snow-covered rock which the pilot had failed to see. Again, the damage was repaired.

In March 1982 Air Fecteau was amalgamated into Propair Inc, to whom C-FIOD was registered, and with whom it continued to serve the outback of Quebec. It was here, at Lac Helene, that it came to grief on 14th July 1985. The float-equipped Otter with the pilot, a passenger, an electric generator and construction materials on board took off from the lake, which was 10,000 feet long and located at an elevation of 500 feet. The aircraft left the water about half way along the lake and began to climb. At about one hundred feet the pilot retracted the flaps and re-set the engine from take-off to climb power. The aircraft then began to lose altitude. The pilot increased the power again but the Otter continued to descend until it struck the ground and cart-wheeled to the left and slid tail first before coming to rest. Fire broke out which completely destroyed the fuselage and its contents.

The take-off distance exceeded that specified by the manufacturer, probably a consequence of an overload caused either by excessive weight or by water in the floats. As a result, it was at a very low altitude close to the shoreline. The pilot had reduced the power and retracted the flaps at an altitude below that recommended, and was unable because of the low altitude to let the aircraft accelerate to the speed of the optimum rate of climb. The aircraft therefore progressed at low speed and a steep angle of attack. As a result of strong drag forces, it remained behind the power curve. The registration was cancelled on 19th June 1986 as “Detruit par le feu” (destroyed by fire).

- by Karl E. Hayes

A Billy Joell song starts to play in my head, "Only The Good Die Young"! Sometimes "painfully true".

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Otter # 6, CF-IOD, a young "filly", as operated by famous Manitoba company "Lambair", wearing her "winter attire", and "scoffing" at "the elements"............."R.I.P."....

CONTACT and CD INFO - De Havilland DHC-3 OTTER - A HISTORY by Karl E. Hayes

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