Sunday, April 13, 2008


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

U.S. Army member, to the Panama Canal Zone, Costa Rica, cross-country to return to her "birth-land", "illness" at a "jungle strip", back to Canada, operated on wheels, floats, and skis. A couple of incidents, two crashes, "resurrection", and she flies to this day. I have seen this "girl" as she "clacked" around Manitoba. I never "fondled" her, I just viewed her from "afar". Let's find out more about her...........

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

De Havilland Canada


Otter 225

Otter 225 was delivered to the United States Army on 25th November 1957 with serial 57-6107 (tail number 76107). Its initial unit allocation is unknown but by January 1962 it was serving with the 57th Aviation Company at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In March 1963 it went to the depot for maintenance and in August '63 was allocated to the Panama Canal Zone. In February 1966 it joined the Inter American Geodetic Survey (IAGS), also based in the Panama Canal Zone, and for the next four years was active throughout Central and South America on survey duties. In May 1970, as the IAGS was winding down, it was allocated to the 352nd Aviation Company, based at Albrook AFB in the Canal Zone.

76107 continued to fly for the 352nd Aviation Company for some years, and was one of three Otters in service when the Company ceased to fly the Otter in February 1974. The following month, all three Otters were transferred to the Government of Costa Rica and flown to San Jose where they were refurbished and re-painted, prior to being put into operation by the Guardia Civil Air Wing. 76107 was registered TI-SPG in March 1975, the other two being tail numbers 53255 (97) registered TI-SPE and 53258 (100) registered TI-SPF. Word of the arrival of these Otters in Costa Rica had evidently reached Canada, as soon offers to purchase the aircraft were being made. Air Alma Inc of Alma, Quebec was so confident of having clinched a deal for the aircraft that on 19th March 1975 they reserved Canadian registrations for the three, C-GAOG for TI-SPG (225), C-GAOI for TI-SPE (97) and C-GAOJ for TI-SPF (100). The proposed purchase however did not proceed and all three aircraft entered service with the Guardia Civil.

Air Alma lost interest, but Aviation Labrosse & Fils Inc of Montreal then entered into negotiations with the Costa Rican government to buy the aircraft. On 4th January 1978 they received a letter from attorneys acting on behalf of the Costa Rican government that the government was still interested in selling the aircraft, but had been very busy and could not advance the negotiations. The talking continued and in October '78 Aviation Labrosse & Fils evidently were so confident of having purchased the aircraft that they applied for Canadian registrations. By that stage TI-SPF (100) had been written off (it crashed on 28th October 1977) and Air Alma confirmed they were no longer interested, so on 4th October 1978 C-GAOI was allocated to Aviation Labrosse for Otter 97, TI-SPE and C-GAOJ was allocated to them for Otter 225, TI-SPG. They also received a Canadian Flight Permit for Importation for a flight by both Otters from San Jose, Costa Rica to St.Jean Airport, Montreal. At that stage, TI-SPE had 5,549 hours total airframe hours and TI-SPG had 4,338 hours. Again, the negotiations collapsed and both Otters remained in service with the Guardia Civil.

TI-SPG suffered some minor damage in an incident at Guarnicion, Costa Rica on 11th October 1978 but was repaired. Both Otters continued in service until, finally, in 1980 the Costa Rican government did decide to sell the Otters. The purchaser was Mr Thomas Johnson of Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba. He bought the two Otters, as well as two Cessna 185s, one Cessna 180 and a Piper Apache. He rounded up the required number of pilots, they travelled down to Costa Rica and all the aircraft set off together for the long delivery flight to Canada. They all used Canadian ferry marks, and comprised Otters C-GGOR (ex TI-SPE) and C-GGON (ex TI-SPG), Cessna 180 C-GGOJ (ex TISPA) and Cessna 185s C-GGOH (ex TI-SPC) and C-GGOP (ex TI-SPD). Mr Johnson himself was flying one of the Otters. The pilot of the other Otter became ill while they were flying over the jungle, but fortunately they found a jungle strip and landed.

Later they continued on, landing at Managua in Nicaragua. The Apache was left there, and the Otters and Cessnas continued on via Mexico-Brownsville, Texas-Wichita, Kansas-Winnipeg. All five aircraft arrived at Winnipeg on 27th April 1980. At Winnipeg the Otters were overhauled and registered to Mr Johnson's company, Whiteshell Air Service Ltd in March 1981, TI-SPE becoming C-GGOR and TI-SPG becoming C-GGON, retaining the marks used for the ferry flight. At first the Otters were based on Nutimik Lake but in 1984 they moved to the airfield at Lac du Bonnet, where Whiteshell Air Service has its hangar and offices.

Both of these Otters went on to give many years of excellent service to Whiteshell Air Service, mostly flying hunters and fishermen to camps and lodges during the summer months. As its website explains: “Whiteshell Air Service operates a full American Plan lodge, five remote lake outpost cabins, three remote lake tent camps and nine boat caches in three of Manitoba's parks, the Whiteshell Provincial Park, Nopiming Provincial Park and the Great Atikaki Wilderness Park. Whether you are seeking fly-in fishing, a sight-seeing trip or a remote canoeing experience, Whiteshell Air Service can provide the air transportation for your needs. To access our lodge, cabin and camps, flights are made with our float planes, consisting of two Otters, one Beaver and two Cessna 185s. Our float planes are also available on wheel-skis for winter charters. We also have a Piper Navajo and a Navajo Chieftain available for charter out of Lac du Bonnet Regional Airport, which is adjacent to our float base and hangar”.

Otter C-GGON was involved in a minor incident which occurred on 14th November 1994. The Otter was landing on runway 36 at Little Grand Rapids airport, Manitoba when the pilot lost directional control and “departed the runway surface”. The aircraft was un-damaged and the pilot and single passenger uninjured. The pilot suspected either the crosswind and/or a cocked tail-wheel were to blame. As the accident report notes: “The aircraft was flown back to its base at Lac du Bonnet, where maintenance will inspect the tail wheel steering mechanism”. Some years later, on 23rd June 2002, 'GON was involved in another incident. It was en route to Side Saddle Lake when deteriorating weather was encountered. The pilot elected to land at George Lake, Manitoba and wait for weather conditions to improve. While manoeuvring to land on the lake, the Otter flew over rising terrain and struck trees, in the course of which damage was sustained. The pilot activated the ELT and was rescued by SAR aircraft six hours later. Temporary repairs were carried out on site and the Otter flown back to Lac du Bonnet. It was soon back in service.

Sadly to relate, the Otter was involved in a much worse accident just under a year later, having flown only 40 hours since its repair. On 22nd May 2003 it made an emergency landing in a wooded marsh north of its base at Lac du Bonnet when the engine quit soon after take-off from Lac du Bonnet on a flight to George Lake. The four occupants received injuries and were taken to hospital. The wreck was returned to Lac du Bonnet by truck, where it was noted in October 2003, undergoing a slow rebuild in the Whiteshell Air Service hangar. This continued throughout 2004, with a view to the Otter being ready for service again in Spring 2005.


Otter 225

January 1st, 2008. N3952B. Pro Mech Air, Ketchikan, Alaska. Vazar. On lease from Single Otter Leasing LLC.

- by Karl E. Hayes

"North, to Alaska!" Now she "sports" a Pratt and Whitney turbine. I am sure she is much more confident now that her Pratt and Whitney "Wasp" R-1340 S3H1-G geared, nine cylinder, air-cooled, super-charged radial engine of 600 HP is just a "fond memory"! "Thanks, Karl!"


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