Monday, October 29, 2007


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

Now here is an Otter that has a "varied resume"! The military, Minnesota, wheels, floats, scrapes and bruises, Alaska, a crash, airlifted by "chopper", ferried by a "Herc", rehabilitated, turbine conversion, in service today, and named “Capt.Greg Munro”. Check it out.

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

De Havilland Canada


Otter 106

Otter 106 was delivered to the United States Army on 11th May 1956 with serial 55-3262 (tail number 53262). It was delivered from Downsview to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to “CONARC Board #5”, this being an evaluation board attached to the Continental Army Command. By January 1962 it had been transferred to Fort Eustis, Virginia, to the Army Transportation School, where it was in use as a “Category A Maintenance Trainer” (defined as an aircraft used for ground instructional technical training). It served as such alongside Otter 53260 (104) whose military career it would parallel. Like 53260, in September 1968 it was designated a “Category B Maintenance Trainer” (defined as an aircraft permanently grounded but with systems functioning). It continued under this designation until May 1973 when it was put up for disposal as military surplus. It was however to languish at Fort Eustis for another five years before it was sold.

It was advertised for sale as Lot 34 in the Defense Property Disposal Service sealed bid tender dated 23rd August 1978 as “Aircraft model U-1A serial 55-3262, located at Fort Eustis, Norfolk, Virginia. Aircraft has been subject to extensive reclamation. Instrumentation, communication and navigation equipment either missing, dismantled or incomplete. Parts detached but included - portion of wings and doors. Parts damaged including holes in the fuselage. Parts missing including flaps, one seat and all glass. Airframe and engine hours unknown. Data plate and historical records not
available. Poor condition. Estimated acquisition cost by Army was $122,740”. An accompanying photograph of the aircraft in the sales brochure showed it indeed to be in poor shape.

The purchaser of the Otter was William H. Magie, whose company was Wilderness Wings Airways of Ely, Minnesota to whom the Otter was registered as N90627. Despite its evidently poor condition, the Otter was rebuilt and entered service with Wilderness Wings Airways alongside its other Otter N432GR (179), serving the bush country of northeast Minnesota. The Superior National Forest extends north of Ely, up to the Canadian border with Ontario. The company also flew a Beaver (N11015), a Queen Air and Beech 18. However, it ceased operations in 1983. In March 1984 the Otter was registered to Richard T.Riley of Allston, Massachussets. In May 1987 N90627 was sold to Red Baron Leasing Inc of Anchorage, Alaska a leasing company which owned a number of Otters.

That month, the float equipped Otter was being ferried from Owen Sound, Ontario to Anchorage. In the course of the long ferry flight, N90627 stopped at Selkirk, Manitoba to refuel and for crew rest. As the Otter taxied away from the dock on 11th May 1987 to resume its delivery flight, the engine stopped and the pilot attempted a re-start. During the re-start the engine caught fire and the crew abandoned the aircraft, which then drifted to the shoreline of an island. The fire subsequently subsided, after causing extensive damage. The engine had been replaced in Owen Sound, and the aircraft had flown ten hours since then without any problems. After the initial start on the day of the accident, the engine ran for some time at a low speed and with a rich mixture and then stopped. During the attempt to restart the engine, the boost pump switch was selected on and the throttle was pumped in an effort to get the engine to respond. This technique, which is not correct, resulted in the engine becoming flooded with fuel. The pilot then noticed a smell of burning and the second pilot saw flames coming from the engine compartment and the exhaust augmentor tubes. The pilot then closed the mixture lever and opened the throttle in an unsuccessful attempt to clear the engine. When it became apparent that the fire was spreading, the crew pulled the emergency fuel shut-off handle and abandoned the aircraft. They were rescued by a nearby fishing boat.

During the inspection of the engine after the fire, it was found that the magneto boost coil was not connected. The aircraft was not equipped with an engine compartment fire extinguishing system, as this was not required by FAA regulations. The combination of a low engine speed and rich mixture provided the right conditions to foul the spark plugs. The fouled plugs caused the engine to run rough and stop. The booster coil is used to provide a more powerful spark to the plugs during the starting sequence. With the coil not connected only a weak spark was available, which was not sufficient to enable the fouled plugs to make the engine catch during the re-start sequence. The incorrect throttle technique flooded the engine and caused a vigorous fire when the fuel ignited.

The damage was repaired and the Otter eventually completed its delivery flight to Anchorage, where it was re-registered N666XX. It flew for Sound Adventures Air Service Inc on lease from Red Baron Leasing for nearly two years, based at Lake Hood. In April 1989 it was re-registered N888XX to Red Baron Leasing Inc. In June 1989 it was sold to Ketchum Air Service, also based at Lake Hood beside the Anchorage International Airport. It was flown down to Vancouver where it arrived on 12th December 1989 and it was converted to a Vazar turbine Otter at the Aero Flite Industries facility in Vancouver during the early months of 1990. It was complete by 6th April 1990 and re-registered N888KA on 29th April '90 and entered service with Ketchum Air, looking pristine after its complete overhaul and re-engining. It was used for the for the most part to fly hunters, fishermen and tourists during the summer months. It flew for Ketchum Air without incident until 20th August 1999 when a mishap occurred.

The Otter, with one pilot and three passengers on board, was taking off from an un-named lake about 30 miles west of Port Alsworth, Alaska. The lake was approximately two thousand feet long. The Otter was transporting the three hunters and their equipment to Tutna Lake, where more passengers were to be loaded to be brought to Anchorage. VMC conditions prevailed and a company VFR flight plan was filed. The pilot, in preparing for take-off, had intended to pump the flaps to the take-off position but because he had not switched the selector valve to the 'down' position, he inadvertently retracted the flaps. He used the 15 knot wind to sail the aircraft to the downwind end of the dog-leg shaped lake and commenced the take-off into the wind. He later described the airplane as “getting on step” normally and the headwind becoming a crosswind at the dog-leg in the take-off run. The Otter did not get airborne, the pilot retarded the power lever to idle and N888KA struck the four feet high bank at the end of the lake. The floats separated from the fuselage, which remained upright and slid about one hundred feet across rough tundra. Substantial damage was sustained to both wings and horizontal stabilizers and the underside of the fuselage. The four on board were uninjured.

This accident ended the Otter's career with Ketchum Air. The insurers offered the wreck to Kenmore Air Harbor, who decided to purchase it for rebuild. Retrieving the aircraft from the remote crash site proved quite a task. It first had to be airlifted by helicopter from the crash site to the small airstrip at Nondalton on Lake Clark. It was then shipped by barge twenty miles or so to the airfield at Port Alsworth and flown from there to Anchorage on board a Lynden Air Cargo Hercules. At Anchorage it was loaded into a container and shipped south to Kenmore's base at Seattle for rebuild. N888KA was registered to Kenmore Air Harbor Inc on 20th September 1999. In December 2000 the damaged Otter was noted in the hangar of Kal Air Repair Ltd at Vernon, BC, awaiting repair. Kenmore Air had contracted out the rebuild of the Otter to Kal Air, who would also fit large scenic windows to the aircraft.

Following completion of the rebuild, the Otter was flown to Paine Field, Seattle for painting into Kenmore Air Harbor's yellow and white colour scheme. It was re-registered to the company on 26th March 2002 as N707KA and named “Capt.Greg Munro”. It entered service with Kenmore Air as part of its large fleet of turbine Otters. It was exhibited at the Otter's 50th birthday celebrations held in Victoria, BC in October 2002.

- by Karl E. Hayes

Yes, quite the history, still flying the West Coast to this very day! "Thanks", Karl!


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