Sunday, April 08, 2007


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

It never ceases to amaze me the number of Otters that have "fallen out of the sky" with minimal injury or "loss of life". It is a "testament" to the skill of the men flying them in most cases. The Otter has always had an "Achilles Heel", and that is the Pratt and Whitney R-1340 engine. I have had 3 R-1340 failures myself, with no injuries, except for the next AM self-induced "head injuries" from the "I Can't Believe We Are Still Alive" party from the previous night! Once engine conversions became available, somebody at Transport Canada should have had the "gumption" to institute a "schedule" for engine conversion for safety reasons. With all the info of failures documented, they still haven't mandated anything, but thankfully "The Industry" is slowly accomplishing the engine conversions themselves.

Anyhow, check this "girl" out, she has been in the Air Force, been to Scandinavia, Canada's Arctic, west of the "Rockies", "fallen out of the sky", been "bruised and beaten", but always returned. She is presently "laid up", but we expect her "dramatic return".........

All information is from Karl Hayes' "masterful" CD entitled:

De Havilland Canada


Otter 397

Otter 397 was delivered to the Royal Norwegian Air Force on 16th November 1960, with serial 60-397, taken from its year of delivery and constructor's number. It was crated and shipped to Norway, along with 395, arriving in Oslo. It was taken to Fornebu Airport, Oslo on 19th December 1960 where it was re-assembled by Wideroes Flyverksted and was then accepted by the Royal Norwegian Air Force. It was assigned to Rygge Air Base in February 1961. It was then assigned to 7193 Stotteving (7193 Support Flight) code 0-AI at Bodo Air Base in northern Norway with effect from 6th April 1961, where it joined 395. In September 1962 it returned to Wideroes at Oslo for depot maintenance and returned to Bodo on 11th December 1962.

397 again flew south to Wideroes in Oslo for maintenance on 5th June 1964, returning to Bodo 21st August '64. On 1st January 1966, 719 Squadron was officially established at Bodo, taking over from the Support Flight. On 9th August 1966 it went to Kjeller Air Base for maintenance, returning to 719 Squadron at Bodo on 30th September '66. On 6th December 1966 it made its first flight with its new squadron code of XJ-W. It continued flying for 719 Squadron until arriving at Kjeller Air Base on 3rd October 1967 at the end of its service career. It was formally struck off charge on 15th November 1967, having flown 2,766 hours in military service. It was taken over by Halle & Peterson, Oslo who were DHC's representatives in Norway for disposal.

On 24th August 1968 the Otter was registered LN-TSC to Ocean Products A/S, Bergen and put on straight floats. It was operated by Westwing A/S of Bergen. It continued in service until February 1970, when it was cancelled from the Norwegian register on sale to Canada. The purchaser was Bradley Air Services Ltd of Carp, Ontario to whom the Otter was provisionally registered CF-QEI. It arrived in Shannon, Ireland on 16th February 1970 on its ferry flight from Norway to Canada. It was on wheels, still in its Royal Norwegian Air Force colours. After the transatlantic crossing, on arrival at Carp, it was repainted in Bradley Air Services colours and entered service with Bradley, officially registered to them 9th July 1970. During 1972 it was leased by Bradley to Austin Airways Ltd and flew in remote parts of northern Ontario, in the region around Attawapiskat. September '72 saw goose hunt charters to camps at Hannah Bay and Cabbage Willows, before it re-joined the Bradley fleet.

QEI flew in support of the Polar Continental Shelf Project which Bradley Air Services had the contract to support, which brought the Otter to the High Arctic during the mid 1970s. A few incidents are recorded. On 27th April 1974 at Norfolk Inlet, Northwest Territories it was damaged on take-off due to improper compensation for wind conditions. It had no sooner been repaired and put back into service when, some two months later, on 7th July '74 at Fort Conger, Northwest Territories, it repeated the performance, colliding with an earth bank on take-off. Repaired yet again, it suffered further damage on 16th July 1976 at Cornwallis Island, NWT in the course of an overshoot from an aborted landing. The engine momentarily sputtered and backfired (probably as a result of opening the throttle too rapidly) reducing the aircraft's climb performance. The right gear struck a ridge and was damaged. The pilot decided to fly back to base, where the right gear collapsed on landing. The damage was repaired.

The following year, registered C-FQEI, the Otter was sold to Island Airlines Ltd of Campbell River, BC on Vancouver Island. While operated by Island Airlines, it flew a daily scheduled service from Campbell River to Vancouver Harbour and return. Island Airlines merged into Air BC, to whom QEI was registered in December 1980. In 1982 the Otter was acquired by CoVal Air Ltd, who took over the facilities and aircraft of Air BC at Campbell River. On 4th November 1982, while flying for CoVal Air, while in the cruise, the engine began to run rough and lose power. A successful forced landing was carried out at Elk Bay, BC. On 6th November 1988 the pilot landed the Otter on the river at Kingcome Inlet and shut the engine down as he approached the ramp. The current carried the Otter into a collision with the ramp. The Otter was brought back to Campbell River, but it was not put back into service at that time, and lay unused at Campbell River for some years, until restored to flying condition.

In September 1994, QEI was registered to Island Commuter Ltd, Campbell River, until reverting to CoVal Air in May 1996. By that stage however, business was not going well for CoVal Air and the company suspended operations in early 1997. Its three Otters, APQ (201), QEI (397) and LCP (422), were parked at Cambell River awaiting disposal. QEI was sold to La Ronge Aviation Services of La Ronge, Saskatchewan, to whom it was registered in June 1997. After twenty years serving the residents of Vancouver Island, it headed inland to its new home at La Ronge. An incident was
recorded on 1st August 1998 when the Otter was en route to a local fishing lodge with a cargo of propane. The pilot reported an engine power loss and force landed on Anson Lake, Manitoba, which he was overflying at the time. Inspection revealed that the number five cylinder valve had failed.

QEI continued in service with La Ronge Aviation Services until it was purchased by Air Nootka Ltd of Gold River, BC to whom it was registered on 2nd August 2000. Gold River is on Vancouver Island, not all that far from Campbell River, so it was back serving the Pacific Coast again. Air Nootka uses the Otter for charter work, particularly during the summer months. It is often used to move groups of nature tourists to the isolated Nootka Island Nature Park, forty five minutes flying time from Gold River. The Otter has been converted with an additional passenger window in the rear fuselage. It flew in basic CoVal Air colour scheme with Air Nootka titles until summer 2003, when it was repainted into Air Nootka's own colours.

*Latest Update!*

Otter 397


The Otter was damaged in an accident at Louie Lagoon on Vancouver Island on Thursday 4 August 2005. As the company’s website explains: “Air Nootka transports hikers, campers and surfers from its base at Gold River to the outside waters of Nootka Island, to Louie Lagoon and the kick off point to hiking the Nootka Trail. A short thirty minute hike along a flagged path through the high timbers and low fern growth of the rain forest brings those with an adventurous spirit to the sandy beaches of the open Pacific Ocean”.

The Otter, with one pilot and eight hikers on board, suffered engine failure and was attempting an emergency landing on the lagoon when it hit a sandbar and overturned. The hikers were uninjured while the pilot sustained a gash to his forehead which required a few stitches. Campers and staff from Esperanza, a Christian ministry/bible camp near Zeballos, who were camping near Ferrer Point, watched the Otter go down while they were canoeing in the bay and raised the alarm. 442 Squadron at CFB Comox launched a Buffalo aircraft and a Cormorant helicopter but the rescue was called off when the Rescue Co-Ordination Centre was advised that everyone was safely ashore and that Air Nootka was sending its own aircraft to return them to Gold River.

On Saturday 6 August, the Otter was airlifted from the crash site by Hayes Heli Logging Sikorsky S-61N helicopter C-FHHM and flown to Zeballos. From there it was trucked to Sealand Aviation at Campbell River to await a decision on its fate. Photographs showed considerable damage to the floats and underside of the Otter. It became the property of the insurance company, who offered it for sale. It was then trucked to Victoria, BC where it remained for a time with Victoria Air Maintenance. On 17 January 2006 the Canadian registration was cancelled and the damaged Otter was sold to a Mr Urs Wamister of Switzerland. It was loaded into a container at Victoria, brought to Vancouver and then right across the country by rail to Montreal. From here it was shipped to Europe, and taken by truck to Hereg in Hungary for rebuild.

Located at Hereg is the aircraft restoration shop of Karl Birczak. Currently the shop was working on the restoration of a Junkers Ju-88 of the Luftwaffe for the Norwegian Aviation Museum, the bomber having crashed in Norway during the war. Clearly this shop has experience of dealing with unusual aircraft types. Otter 397 certainly had returned to Europe in unusual circumstances.

- by Karl E. Hayes

Individual history and achievement seem to be a "trait" of de Havilland Canada's famous "Bush Plane", the DHC-3 "Otter"!


QEI inverted at Louie Lagoon!


QEI after a "chopper ride" out of the bush......... Talk about "unusual attitudes"......


I am sure "she will be back".............

"Thanks, Karl"!


Isn't it suppose to be shiny side down, painted side up?
You are absolutely correct! "OUCH"!

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