Monday, May 28, 2007


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

Numerous Otters were delivered to Norway after being built, and I am sure Norway was a challenge for the Otter. "Rock", "fjords", "ocean", "putrid weather", "wind", you get "my drift". The old Otter "soldiered on" well, though, and built quite an extensive history in Norway. There were "mishaps", though............

First, let me refresh you with the "birth years" of all 466 DHC-3 Otters.........

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

De Havilland Canada


Deliveries of the Otter by
year proceeded as follows:-

1951 2 (test aircraft)
1952 3
1953 17
1954 31
1955 22
1956 113
1957 32
1958 78
1959 44
1960 65
1961 18
1962 7
1963 11
1964 4
1965 5
1966 12
1967 2
Production of the Otter proceeded alongside the Beaver, which also ended its production run in 1967.

Otter 18

Otter number 18 was one of ten DHC-3 delivered by DHC to the Royal Norwegian Air Force (Kongelige Norske Luftforsvaret), the first six of which were delivered in 1954. All six of these were formally handed over on 2nd March 1954 and were then shipped in crates from Downsview to Oslo, arriving in Oslo Harbour on 8th April '54. They were assembled at Kjeller Air Base. With the Royal Norwegian Air Force, the serial number comprised the Fiscal Year in which the aircraft were ordered with the constructor's number and this serial was painted on the fin. Thus aircraft 18, ordered in FY53, became serial 5318.

Following assembly at Kjeller Air Base, the Otter was taken on charge and allocated code O-AB. It was initially assigned in May 1954 to the Air Force Flying School at Vaernes Air Base for the training of pilots and mechanics. In June '54 it was assigned to the Communications Flight at Jarlsberg Air Base and then at Vaernes Air Base. In November '54 it was assigned to the Communications Flight at Orland Air Base where it remained until early 1957, when it went to the Horton Marine Base for installation of straight floats, and on 8th December 1957 it arrived with the Norseman Flight at Skattora Seaplane Base, Tromso in northern Norway.

In February 1959, Otter 5318 transferred to 7193 Stotteving (Support Flight) at Bodo in northern Norway. On 15th August 1959 the floats were damaged in a landing accident on Lake Soikkajavre, a small lake in Finnmark . The floats were temporarily repaired and the aircraft flown off the lake and back to Fornebu Air Base, Oslo for repair before return to Bodo on 29th September '59. On 29th October 1961 on a flight from Kirkenes to Bardufoss, the pilot was forced to make a landing on Lake Mievtajavre, Finnmark (that part of Norway near the Russian border) due to bad weather with heavy snow. During the night, the lake froze and the Otter could not take off again. The Otter was pulled ashore and was guarded for nearly a month before the ice was strong enough for the Otter to take off on wheels. On 25th November '61 it was flown off the frozen lake to Banak Air Base, and then back to its base at Bodo.

During July 1962 the aircraft was at Fornebu, Oslo for depot level maintenance with Wideroe, before returning to Bodo on 20th November '62. The Otter arrived at Bardufoss Air Base on 26th November '63, returning to Bodo on 21st January '64. It arrived at Fornebu again on 19th August '64 for maintenance with Wideroe, returning to 7193 Support Flight at Bodo by 16th December '64. On 1st January 1966 7193 Support Flight at Bodo became 719 Squadron, which the Otter joined, and in November '66 it received its new squadron code of XJ-S. It continued in service with 719 Squadron, Bodo until it arrived at Kjeller Air Base on 15th December 1966 on withdrawal from service, having been replaced by the DHC-6 Twin Otter. 5318 was formally struck off charge on 25th January 1967, having flown, 4,724 hours in the service of the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

The Otter was sold through Halle & Peterson of Oslo, the DHC agents in Norway. The buyer was the Norwegian airline, Wideroes Flyveselskap A/S, to whom it was registered LN-FAE on 7th February 1967. The Otter joined the Wideroe's fleet on scheduled services in northern Norway. On 28th March 1968, LN-FAE on amphibious floats departed from Tromso at 1015 hours for a scheduled flight to Harstad. In addition to the pilot, a company mechanic was on board as an assistant and there were three passengers. The weather was not good, with low cloud, heavy snow showers and reduced visibility. Due to the conditions, the pilot elected to divert from the track laid out in the company's route manual. This change of route however was not reported to air traffic control because of poor radio coverage at low altitude. This is a very rugged coastal area with numerous fjords and inlets amidst mountains rising to four thousand feet.

As the Otter flew in on the west side of Rossfjord, some 45 kilometres south-west of Tromso, visibility dropped and the pilot said to his assistant “We'll cut across here, I know this area” and started a right turn. Eye witness reports put the aircraft at this time at between 100 feet and 25 feet above the ice-covered fjord, although the pilot was later to claim he was flying at 500 feet. Immediately after starting the turn, the right wingtip and float made contact with the ground. The
aircraft was thrown to the left at the first impact and crashed at a 35 degree angle to its direction of travel. It caught fire and was burnt to destruction. All five occupants survived the crash but one passenger and the pilot's assistant suffered severe burns and were flown by helicopter to hospital in Tromso. The Otter was a write-off and the registration was cancelled on 10th June 1968.

The Accident Investigation Board was not able to determine whether the pilot meant to make a 180 degree turn and fly back out of the fjord, or initiate a climb to get across a low mountain ridge and out into the next fjord to the west. The Board concluded that the accident was caused by the pilot's decision to turn towards higher terrain. If the purpose was to exit the fjord, it should have been made to the left over the fjord. If it was to climb across the ridge, it would not have been possible to clear the terrain, given the aircraft's weight and performance.

- by Karl E. Hayes

What an airframe, with all people surviving! Great history as usual, Karl, "Thanks"!


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