Monday, June 04, 2007


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

In the "geographic area" that I fly, there is an aircraft, quicker than most, that we hear quite often. "She" is C-GMPP, the RCMP Air Division Pilatus "PC-12". She is a "fine bird", and replaced venerable Twin Otters CF-MPX and CF-MPK.

Today as I flew around, the legendary name "Sam Steele" appeared in my "pudding-consistency cranial mass", and I received a "mental picture" of the North West Mounted Police "riding west", sitting tall and proud on their "mounts". My mind then wandered to a "nearer" time in history, 1937, to be exact, when the RCMP Air Division was created. Of course, as soon as I thought RCMP and aircraft, I wondered: "Which was the first "Mounted Otter"? I turned to Karl's great CD for the answer....................

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

De Havilland Canada


Otter 42

Otter 42 was delivered to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Air Division on 1st October 1954 with registration CF-MPP. It was the first Otter delivered to the RCMP and was destined to have a long career with the 'Mounties', all of 27 years. The Air Division had been established in 1937, prior experience having shown the need for aircraft to effectively police such a large country as Canada. The RCMP's first equipment came from De Havilland in the shape of four Dragonfly aircraft, which were shipped from England and assembled by DHC. The Department of Transport reserved the “CF-MP-“series of registrations for the RCMP.

A number of different aircraft types were acquired, including Beech Expeditors, Norsemen and a Grumman Goose. In 1949 the Air Division acquired its first Beaver, of an order for ten. CF-MPP was its first Otter and four more Otters were acquired new from DHC as well as three more from the RCAF, to make a total of eight Otters flown by the RCMP over the years. The type remained in the inventory an incredible 38 years, until the last Otter was withdrawn from RCMP service in 1992. The Otter was used by the RCMP for a multitude of tasks, including transfer and movement of personnel on investigations, escort of prisoners, hauling freight to the more isolated areas where personnel were stationed and SAR. Other occasional uses included searching for escaped prisoners and wanted criminals and even to trace stolen livestock and automobiles.

Otter CF-MPP was first assigned to Churchill, Manitoba, a very remote posting, where it remained from 1954 until 1971. From there, it roamed the Arctic wastes of the Northwest Territories, including one flight in 1955 to Arctic Bay at the extreme north-west tip of Baffin Island, almost at latitude 74 North. It was also involved in much SAR work, a notable rescue in February 1955 being for the crew of a USAF B-47 Stratojet which on 12th February had caught fire and exploded over northern Saskatchewan. The crash involved B-47 tail number 17013, assigned to the 22nd Bomb Wing at March AFB, California, which exploded while flying as the number two aircraft in a loose trail stacked formation of eleven B-47s en route from Thule Air Base, Greenland to March AFB. A major SAR operation code-named “Big Sandy Lake” was launched, centered at The Pas, Manitoba as the bomber had crashed north of there. A para-rescue team was dropped in by RCAF Dakota and located two survivors and the body of a third crew member killed in the crash. The two survivors were picked up by the RCMP Otter CF-MPP and flown to The Pas. The pilot of the Otter was subsequently awarded a Certificate of Meritorious Achievement by the USAF for his part in the
rescue. The fourth B-47 crewman landed in a cluster of trees some distance from the crash site and survived 72 hours exposed to the Canadian winter before being rescued by helicopter. RCAF Otter 3662 of 111 Communications & Rescue Flight Winnipeg was also involved in the rescue, and flew in the USAF investigating team to the crash site.

A mere ten days after its participation in the B-47 incident, Otter CF-MPP was itself in need of rescue. On 22nd February '55 the Otter was reported overdue on a flight from Churchill to Ennadai Lake. It had departed Churchill at 1055 hours, with seven persons on board, with an estimated time en route of three hours. The aircraft was heard circling Ennadai Lake at 1500 hours, at which time ceiling and visibility were zero. A major search was launched, involving Otters 3681 (from the RCAF Station Flight at Churchill) and 3662 (from 111 C&R Flight, Winnipeg), a Lancaster from 408 Squadron and no less than 8 RCAF C-47s. The downed Otter was eventually sighted two days later at a position 35 miles south-west of Ennadai Lake. Five persons were seen walking around the Otter, and the only ground-to-air signal stamped out in the snow showed a request for fuel. Otter 3662 of 111 C&R Flight with fuel on board was dispatched from Churchill but failed to reach the scene before dark, and as visibility was reduced by ice fog, it continued on and landed at Ennadai Lake, where it developed an engine fault.

On 25th February, low visibility in ice crystals and fog prevented an RCAF supply drop C-47 from relocating CF-MPP. Otter 3681 from RCAF Unit Churchill diverted to Ennadai Lake, where it was forced to spend the remainder of the day and night, unable to get airborne because of weather. On 26th February, 3681 took off from Ennadai Lake and landed beside Otter MPP. At the same time, a Dakota carrying para-rescue personnel and supplies left Churchill for the scene and provided communications coverage during the evacuation. Four of the occupants of MPP were evacuated to Ennadai Lake by 3681, which then returned to the scene carrying fuel and oil. CF-MPP was then started and flown out safely to Ennadai Lake, in company with 3681. After spending the night on the Lake, Otter MPP and all survivors returned to Churchill. Otter 3662 remained stranded at the Lake until 2nd March, when 3681 flew in a replacement crew and both Otters returned to Churchill, to bring to an end an eventful period.

Having recovered from its experience, MPP continued in service based at Churchill. On 3rd November 1956 it is recorded operating a medevac to Bird, Manitoba and on 8th January 1957 the Otter was again involved in a rescue when Avro York CF-HIQ of Transair crashed near Rankin Inlet on a flight to Churchill and sent out a distress call, which was picked up by the Otter en route to Eskimo Point on a medevac flight. On the return trip, MPP landed on the ice near the still-burning wreckage of the York and brought the three crew to Rankin Inlet. A few weeks later, on 19th February '57, MPP went unserviceable at Chesterfield with a broken propeller and RCAF Otter 3694 of the Churchill Station Flight came to its aid.

In May 1958, MPP was being ferried south from Churchill to Ottawa for maintenance. The engine cracked a cylinder and from 3,000 feet the pilot made a 'dead stick' landing on Ontario Highway 11, twenty five miles from North Bay. Neither the aircraft nor its seven passengers were harmed and later that evening a repair party arrived from Rockcliffe with a replacement engine. In spite of cold weather and a snowstorm, the engine change was effected at the side of the road, and two days later MPP rumbled down Highway 11 and took off for Ottawa. On completion of the maintenance, MPP returned to Churchill.

On 18th January 1959, the Otter was involved in another remarkable rescue, involving Norseman CF-OBI with four souls on board, marooned on an ice floe after a forced landing on a flight from Coral Harbour to Nottingham Island in the Northwest Territories. The Norseman was first sighted by RCAF Argus 10712, badly damaged but with the occupants unharmed. An RCAF C-119 transported a Bell 47 of the US Army from Churchill to Coral Harbour to assist with the rescue, if required. However, Otter MPP carrying a collapsible boat, landed on solid ice and the crew dragged the boat
across two miles of snow to the ice edge, from where they paddled to the Norseman, which was located at Dumont Point. RCAF Dakota 256 dropped flares over the rescue scene. The four occupants of the Norseman were rescued by the Otter crew and flown back to Coral Harbour in MPP.

The Otter was damaged while landing at Ferguson Lake, Northwest Territories on 19th January 1963. CF-MPP, on wheel-skis, had flown from Baker Lake with the pilot and five passengers. During the landing, the aircraft struck a snowdrift, bounced into the air and returned to the surface heavily. The surface of the lake had patches of drifted snow to a height of about six inches, with the exception of one large drift about two feet high, which the aircraft unfortunately struck during the landing run. The damage was repaired and the Otter continued to serve at Churchill until 1971, when it moved to Yellowknife, being re-registered C-FMPP in December 1975. It remained based at Yellowknife until moving to Calgary, Alberta in 1978, where it was based until 1981, when it was sold. During its 27 years of police service, MPP flew 15,355 hours. The purchaser of the Otter was Burrard Air Ltd of Port Moody, BC to whom C-FMPP was registered in January 1982. For five years it was to serve the BC Pacific coast, retaining the blue and white colour scheme it had worn in RCMP service. It flew alongside Burrard Air's other Otter C-FBCG, on charter flights.

In May 1987 the Otter was sold to Ketchum Air Service Inc of Anchorage, Alaska to whom it was registered N234KA. It still retained its RCMP colour scheme and for nearly six years flew out of Lake Hood, Anchorage, flying tourists and fishermen and hunters. In February 1993 it was sold to Kenmore Air Harbor Inc of Kenmore, Washington and travelled south to Seattle where it was converted to a turbine Otter. Repainted in Kenmore's yellow and white styling, it retained registration N234KA and entered service with Kenmore on its scheduled and charter services, as part of the company's fleet of turbine Otters. The Otter continued on these services until November 2002, when it was advertised for sale by Kenmore, with an asking price of US$775,000. Total airframe time, as of 2nd May 2002, was given as 22,836 hours. It had a ten place interior and was on EDO 7490 floats. On 26th November 2002 N234KA landed at the seaplane facility at Vancouver International Airport on delivery to Harbour Air. It was taken to their hangar and its PT-6A-135 turbine engine was removed and returned to Kenmore Air Harbor, being replaced by a PT-6A-34. The Otter was registered C-GHAR to Harbour Air on 9th December 2002, and entered service as part of their fleet of turbine Otters.

- by Karl E. Hayes

I read this history, and I am spellbound. Anyone who thinks the Otter did not make the most impact in connecting Canada's "North" is severely misguided. Yes, the "Beaver" is also a "marvel", but it hasn't quite "the achievements" of the "Otter". "Superintendent Sam Steele" would be "proud"!

"Thanks again, Karl!"


Hey Steve! Great post! I never knew the history behind FMPP and it has been right under my nose the whole time. I start my Otter training tomorrow at Harbour Air and I'm sure I'll get to fly HAR a time or two. Cheers!
Hey Neil, thanks for the comment! This wouldn't be "Penney", would it?


Sure is! My PPC on the Otter is scheduled for Monday. The PPC is required since we began flying 14 passengers under the Grand Father rule. Today, on my initial training, I docked up to a bundled boom of gang fur. You would have loved it! I did!

I'll keep you posted!

Neil Penney
Steve, minor correction, the Pilatus stationed in Manitoba is C-GMPP, not CF-MPP. C-FMPP is a helicopter now.
Correction made! Thanks, "Anonymous"!


Really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I flew C-FMPP in the early 70's when she was based out of Yellowknife. In those days everyone including the control tower and aerado knew her by the call sign "Mike Peter Pig".
A grand old machine. The "Steam" Otter has remained one of my favourite aircraft over the years.
Steve Great to hear about MPP. I flew this aircraft out of Churchill from Jan 1958 to June 1961. She was a sturdy air plane indeed. I was flying when the engine failed and we ended up on Hwy 11 just north of North Bay ONT.I was the pilot who went in to pick up the survivers of the crashed Norseman CF-OBI
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