Sunday, November 23, 2008


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


Lambair will always hold the #1 spot in the Manitoba aviation "Hall of Fame", in my eyes. The Lambair story is spell-binding, and a "blueprint" of hard work and "real" men. Anyways, they operated 13 Otters during their days, but they only bought one that was new, straight from de Havilland. Here is the story of Lambair's only "virgin" Otter...........

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

De Havilland Canada


Otter 446

Otter 446 was delivered to Thomas Lamb Airways Ltd of The Pas, Manitoba on 29th May 1964, registered CF-DCL. This company, later re-named Lambair, was a major user of the Otter, with no less than thirteen Otters registered to it over the years, but number 446 was the only Otter it purchased new from DHC, all its other acquisitions being pre-owned. This was a family business run by Thomas Lamb and his children. DCL stood for Douglas Carl Lamb. CF-DCL was fitted with amphibious floats, and was acquired to support an initial one year contract for the Department of Northern Affairs, based out of Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island in the Northwest Territories.

As Jack Lamb, one of the sons of Thomas Lamb, later wrote: “These floats cost $25,000, which was a quarter of the price of the brand new Otter they were fitted to. Due to the high cost of the floats, we filed a separate tariff of $205 per hour to help recoup this extra cost. In July 1964 I had to fly to Ottawa, spending two days explaining to the Rates & Fares Department how I arrived at the amphibious float figure. That fall, after spending the summer servicing all the settlements on Baffin Island, I took the Otter two thousand miles back to home base at The Pas. We used this Otter on local trips but only charged the normal float rate, as the amphibious configured floats were not required. The Air Transport Committee auditor noted that we did a trip with DCL but did not charge the amphibious rate. I wrote back that we had substituted DCL on that trip because there wasn't any other Otter available. They wrote back wanting my assurance by Statutory Declaration that the air was let out of the tires on the amphib floats thereby making sure we would not be able to use the amphib float configuration. This gives a brief idea as to the mind-set of the people who were in charge of Canada's aviation policies in those days”!

The following year, on 17th November 1965, flown by Conrad Lamb, DCL was damaged on take-off from Rankin Inlet, Northwest Territories en route to Whale Cove and Churchill. There were five passengers on board and the Otter was on wheel-skis. During the take off run in a strong cross wind, the aircraft turned to the right and struck a runway light post. It then crashed onto the frozen surface of a small lake off the end of the runway and suffered damage to the left undercarriage, left wing and propeller. The airstrip that was being used was 3,800 feet long and 150 feet wide. Runway lights at the side of the runway were attached to metal pipes embedded in the ground which rose to a height of four feet. When the tail wheel left the ground, the Otter turned sixty degrees to the right into the strong crosswind. The pilot reported that when he observed a runway light in his path, he was committed to continue the take off and applied full power and additional flap to climb over the light. The tail gear struck the light, which ripped the gear from the aircraft. The Otter began to stall, swung into the wind and the left wheel struck the ground, which caused it to collapse. The accident report concluded that the pilot had “attempted to take off in unsuitable conditions”. Damage was not that extensive and company Otter CF-MEL (222) flew up from The Pas with a repair party.

DCL continued in service with the company, which was re-named Lambair in December 1968. In May 1969 the Otter went on lease to Norcanair for some months, returning to Lambair after the summer. It suffered another accident at Grace Lake, The Pas, Manitoba on 12th July 1970. The Otter, with nine passengers on board and two hundred pounds of baggage, had just taken off en route to Norway House. It started to settle and came down in dense willows on the shore of the lake, fortunately without injury to anyone on board. On 16th July '70, after temporary repairs at the site, it was ferried via Saskatoon to Calgary for repair by Field Aviation. It then returned to Lambair and continued flying for them until sold to Athabasca Airways Ltd, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan by Bill of Sale dated 28th December 1974.

The Otter was put on floats and went to work in northern Saskatchewan. It continued flying for Athabasca Airways until destroyed in an accident on take off from Emma Lake, Saskatchewan on 1st June 1976 on a flight to Patuanak. Prior to the flight, the Otter was loaded with four passengers and their baggage, boxes of canned goods, fresh meat, tool kits, plus four steel road-grader blade components, each eight feet in length. The pilot checked the weight and balance by “guesstimating” the weight and ensuring the floats “looked good”. On the first take off attempt the aircraft failed to get airborne. On the second attempt, the aircraft managed to get airborne, however, insufficient distance remained to the shore line and the take off was aborted. “Being persistent, and oblivious to the obvious” as the Accident Report puts it, the pilot taxied back into a small inlet to gain more room. On his third and final take off attempt, the aircraft got airborne but unable to climb, it crashed into the trees on the far shore and burned. One passenger subsequently died from severe burns. The pilot and the other three passengers were seriously injured. The Otter was destroyed.

- by Karl E. Hayes

What a story! Can you believe the " 'Air Transport Committee wanting a Statutory Declaration that the air was let out of the tires on the amphib floats thereby making sure we would not be able to use the amphib float configuration.....?' " Yes, our tax dollars at work! Canada's "regulators" in the aviation industry have always been "adversarial", too bad, surmising "what could have been"...........


I think if i owned 13 otters at one point in time, i could die a happy man!
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