Sunday, January 04, 2009


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

Yes, January in Manitoba! Tonight's "low" in Gimli is forecast to be -35*C! Well, the old Otter was certified under ICAO Transport Category D requirements, able to operate in temperatures from +50*C to -50*C. So, seeing as how we have been in a "deep-freeze" for over a month, I figured I would look for another Otter that survived "the Antarctic", returned to North America, and still "lives and breathes" today! Here she is..........

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

De Havilland Canada


Otter 30

Otter number 30 was one of the first six of ten DHC-3 delivered to the Royal Norwegian Air Force, as explained in relation to Otter 18. The batch of six were delivered in crates by ship and formally handed over on 2nd March 1954. They arrived in Oslo Harbour on 8th April '54 and were assembled at Kjeller Air Base, Oslo. The Otter took serial 5330 and code 0-AF. On 16th July '54 it joined the Communications Flight at Jarlsberg Air Base, which in November '54 moved to Gardermoen Air Base.

Otter number 30 was one of two Norwegian Air Force Otters (the other was number 31) selected to support a Norwegian scientific expedition to the Antarctic during the International Geophysical Year of 1958/59. One of the Expedition's tasks was to map large sections of Queen Maud Land, for which the Otters were to be used. The aircraft unit was given the designation Support Flight 7070. In March 1958 the Otter deployed to Tyin for winter training for the Antarctic mission. The two Otters had to undergo some modifications to equip them for the mission. Additional fuel tanks were installed in the cabin to increase range. A radio compass, gyrosyn remote compass, sun-compass, directional gyro, radio altimeter, periscope drift measuring equipment, HF radio and camera equipment were all installed. This work was undertaken at the Horten Marine Base, where the two Otters were crated and loaded aboard ship.

The deployment was code named “Operation Penguin”. The expedition left Oslo on board the vessel Polarbjorn on 1st November 1958. Nearly two months later they arrived in the Antarctic. The two Otters were unloaded on the ice and re-assembled. An automatic radio beacon was positioned at the base as a navigation aid. For five weeks missions were flown for photographic purposes in the area 70 to 74 degrees South, 0 to 15 degrees East. When the mission was finished, the aircraft were disassembled and shipped back to Oslo on board the Polarbjorn, arriving home on 5th March 1959 after a successful job. The Otters were again unloaded at the Horten Marine Base and re-assembled there.

In May '59 the Otter joined the 7193 Stotteving (Support Flight) at Bodo Air Base in northern Norway. It was to continue to serve with this unit until April 1965, making periodic trips to the Horten Marine Base, Kjeller Air Base and Wideroes at Fornebu for depot maintenance. After overhaul at Fornebu in April '65 it was assigned to 7192 Support Flight at Orland Air Base, and was to serve at Orland for the remainder of its military career. On 1st January 1967 7192 Support Flight was redesignated 720 Squadron at Orland, the Otter joining the Squadron's D Flight. On 25th January '67 the Otter made its first flight with its new squadron code of JT-R. On 30th May 67 its military career came to an end when it was struck off charge, having flown 5,293 hours in Air Force service. As with all the other Royal Norwegian Air Force Otters, it was handed over to Halle & Peterson, Oslo the DHC agents in Norway for disposal.

The Otter was sold to Varangfly A/S of Kirkenes, to whom it was registered LN-IKI, the registration date being 31st May 1967. The Otter was to serve this operator for the next 15 years, although the company underwent several changes of name, becoming Varangfly-Norwings A/S on 1st April 1971 and Norving A/S on 4th July 1975. The company specialised in passenger and cargo and air ambulance work in northern Norway. During its years of service with Norving, LN-IKI was used for air taxi and ambulance work. It suffered a taxying accident at Varanger on 11th July 1970 but was repaired. A somewhat more serious accident occurred at Ornes on 25th October 1972 when the Otter landed on the water on amphibious floats with the wheels down, but despite substantial damage was repaired and returned to service.

By 1980 this hard-working Otter had put up more than 10,000 flying hours, and by that stage was the last active Otter in Norway and indeed the only active Otter in all of Europe. It was then based at Bodo. Operating Europe's only active Otter from a base in remote northern Norway was not without its problems. As Norving observed :”The engine is a thirsty devil and parts are unbelievably costly. It will be a sad day when our company will have to sell the Otter. An era will then be over and a very fine flying machine will then forever be lost from our country. It is sad because this machine was one of the very first to pick up scheduled flights after WW2. It served our part of Norway with a regularity only next to seagulls. Thousands of people in northern Norway still remember the green machine turning finals two feet above the water in their familiar harbour, bringing news, people and post to and from” (this being a reference to the Wideroe Otter operation which started in 1954).

Norving continued to fly LN-IKI until July 1982, when it was sold to another Norwegian operator, Sirdalsfly A/S of Tjorhom, along with two Beavers. LN-IKI was registered to its new owners, who traded as Transit Air, on 26th July '82 and was based at Stavangar-Sola. It was re-painted in an attractive colour scheme of white undersides, red cheat line and blue upper fuselage with “Transit Air Inter City Sky Taxi” on the tail, indicating its use. The Otter remained in service with Transit Air for nearly a year, until the operation went bankrupt. On 11th April 1983 the Otter was put up for sale by auction in the course of the bankruptcy, but a bid of 105,000 crowns was rejected by the bank who had a charge on the aircraft. On 2nd June 1983 it was registered to the Oslo Handelsbank, the main creditor. There was a second auction on 20th June '83 and it was sold to Norronafly A/S of Rakkestad and on 4th July '83 it was registered to its new owners. During July it was transported from Norway to Stockholm, from where it sailed to the United States. The Norwegian registration was officially cancelled on 18th August 1983. That left Europe without any active Otters, a situation that was to obtain for the next seven years until two Otters (274 and 406) arrived in Sweden.

The purchaser of Otter number 30 was Dodson Aviation Inc of Ottawa, Kansas who reserved registration N4683K on 7th February 1984 and registered the Otter with these marks the following month. The period from August 1983 to March 1984 when the aircraft was without a registration represented the time it was in transit by sea from Europe to the US and its re-assembly in the US. The Otter remained registered to Dodson Aviation for two and half years, until sold to Newcal Aviation Inc of Little Ferry, New Jersey in September 1986. Newcal Aviation are a major supplier of parts and equipment for DHC aircraft.

In July 1988 the Otter was sold on to a Mr Eugene Q.Weiler of Anchorage, Alaska, who was well familiar with Otters, being an Instructor Pilot on the type with the Alaska Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. He leased the aircraft to Diamond Aviation, based out of Wrangell, Alaska. N4683K was noted at Vancouver on 10th August 1988. Diamond Aviation supported a gold mine in the mountains of northern British Columbia, flying in fuel and supplies and flying out the gold concentrate. Their first Otter was N61LC (393) operated from August 1987 until it crashed in November '87. This was replaced by N55CX (139) operated from December 1987 until it crashed in July 1988. N4683K was acquired as the replacement and remained in service with Diamond Aviation from August 1988 until June 1992, when support of the mine was taken over by another operator.

N4683K was sold on to Waglisla Air Inc, trading as Wagair of Bella Bella, BC. It arrived at Vancouver on 15th June '92 on delivery to Wagair, to whom it was registered as C-FWAF on 20th July '93, after overhaul and repaint into their colours. Wagair were one of several Canadian native-owned First Nations operators which were formed during the 1980s. C-FWAF joined their fleet, painted in their striking yellow and green colour scheme and for two years provided charter services along the BC Pacific coast from its base at Bella Bella, flying alongside the company's other Otter CF-MPY (324) and also C-FRHW (445) which flew out of Prince Rupert.

Sadly, things did not work out for Wagair which ceased trading during 1995. The fleet was disposed of, Otter WAF being sold to Edward K.Kiesel, trading as Ward Air, based at Juneau, Alaska to whom the Otter was registered N63354 on 26th April 1996. Ward Air was a business which had been formed in 1974 by Ken Ward to provide a bush charter service out of Juneau serving the Alaskan panhandle, and had previously operated Otter N62355 (262). Mr Kiesel took over the business in 1993 and added Otter N63354 to the fleet of Beavers and single Cessnas in April 1996. As its website proclaims: “Ward Air offers unmatched excellence in floatplane and amphibious air charter service for Juneau's outlying wilderness areas. Aircraft such as the Otter, Beaver or Cessna 185 provide the flexibility for Ward Air to travel almost anywhere within Southeast Alaska”.


Otter 30

January 1st, 2008. N63354. In service with Ward Air, Juneau, Alaska. This Otter arrived Vernon, BC on 4th October 2006 for conversion to a Texas Turbine by Kal-Air and to have a new interior installed. This work was carried out over the winter of 2006/07 and N63354 departed Vernon on 7th April 2007 returning to its base at Juneau as a Texas Turbine and re-entered service with Ward Air.

- by Karl E. Hayes

From Norway to the Antarctic, to British Columbia, to Alaska, this Otter knows how to operate in "frigid climates"!

- photo by Bjorn Olav Mojord, 1982.

- photo by John Kimberley at Vancouver, BC.


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