Tuesday, February 03, 2009


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

Here is another proud RCAF "Veteran", having served with Winnipeg's "402 Squadron", Saskatoon's "406 Squadron", and Downsview's "400 and 411 Squadrons". Whatever became of her after her military service.......?

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

De Havilland Canada


Otter 394

Otter 394 was delivered to the RCAF on 26th October 1960 with serial 9416. It was allocated to 402 Squadron, Winnipeg and for the first few years of its RCAF service its career would parallel that of 9415 (393). Both Otters were transferred to 406 Squadron, Saskatoon in January 1961 and both went back to 402 Squadron, Winnipeg in March 1964. 9416 continued to fly for 402 Squadron until November 1975, when it was transferred to Downsview, for use by 400 and 411 Squadrons. It continued to fly from Downsview until 17th February 1981 when it went into storage at the Mountain View depot. It was disposed of through the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation, one of a number of Otters sold at auction in February 1982, advertised as having a total airframe time of 7,592 hours. It was one of seven Otters purchased by Newcal Aviation Inc of Little Ferry, New Jersey, to whom it was registered N3125N in June 1982. These Otters were ferried from Mountain View to an airstrip at Decatur, Texas where they were put into open storage. It appears that the market for Otters was poor at that time, as these Otters were to spend several years in store at Decatur before being sold on.

The purchaser of Otter 394 was 40 Mile Air Ltd of Tok, Alaska. They arranged for the Otter to be overhauled and prepared for service for them by Victoria Air Maintenance Ltd of Victoria, BC. The Otter was ferried from Decatur to Victoria and in January 1988 was registered C-FAXD to Victoria Air Maintenance. This was necessary, as the company could only certify a Canadian registered aircraft. When the work was completed, the Otter reverted to N3125N and was registered in May 1988 to 40 Mile Air and was delivered to its new base at Tok, Alaska. It was in service only a few weeks when it crashed at Eagle, Alaska on 1st June 1988. The pilot was attempting to land the heavily loaded Otter on the gravel strip at Eagle. Upon touchdown, the airplane veered slightly to the right. The pilot unlocked the tail wheel centering device and attempted to correct to the left, into the prevailing crosswind. The Otter continued to the left, however, out of control and went down a steep embankment before coming to a stop.

N3125N was lifted from the crash scene by helicopter but was dropped in the process, sustaining further damage. It was dismantled and transported by train and truck back to Victoria Air Maintenance at Victoria. The wings were further damaged en route as they were rubbing together, having been badly packed. As a result the Otter needed a complete re-build at Victoria. While this work was going on, the Otter was re-engined with a Polish PZL 1,000 horse power engine. Airtech Canada sent their technicians to do this work at Victoria. When the work was completed, N3125N re-entered service with 40 Mile Air. It met with another accident on 27th April 1999, landing on a remote airstrip thirteen miles northeast of Healy, Alaska. The Otter was flying from Fairbanks, transporting building supplies and workers to the area. It was landing at Daniels Strip, 1,500 feet long but only ten feet wide. It was a 'one way' airstrip, with landings performed towards the west. The airstrip was flat for half its length and then proceeded uphill. According to the pilot, on the third landing of the day, at about 1315 hours, he touched down on the main landing gear. Before the tail wheel touched down, a gust of wind pushed the aircraft off the left side of the strip. The leading edge of the left wing struck a tree, damaging the wing. The damage was repaired and N3125N was restored to service.

While flying for 40 Mile Air, the Otter was usually based at Tok, supporting mineral exploration camps in the bush, and flying hunters during the summer. It also spent much of its time based at Prudhoe Bay, and at a nearby camp called Kavik. The work out of here was supporting 'cat trains' and exploration camps, continuing the work which had been performed by other 40 Mile Air Otters, for example N1037G (77). Other Otters operated by 40 Mile Air were N5056Q (296) and N2899J (425). Eventually the users in Prudhoe Bay insisted that they wanted turbine equipment, so Otter N3125N could no longer be used. The loss of the Prudhoe Bay contract meant that 40 Mile Air's Otter operation was no longer viable, as the work out of Tok was insufficient to support the Otter. Reluctantly, a decision was taken to sell the aircraft, bringing to an end over twenty years of DHC-3 operations by 40 Mile Air. N3125N was sold in October 2003 and flown to Anchorage for overhaul. It was registered to its new owners, Alaska Air Taxi LLC, on 3rd December 2003. It had a BARON/STOL kit installed and a gross weight upgrade to nine thousand pounds, and entered service based out of Anchorage. In November 2004 the Otter was advertised for sale by Alaska Air Taxi, with an asking price of $780,000. At that stage of its career, it had 14,166 hours on the airframe.


Otter 394

January 1st, 2008. N3125N. Alaska Air Taxi, Anchorage, Alaska. PZL. Following an accident on 2nd September 2006 at Wainright, Alaska the Otter was returned to Anchorage on board a Lyndon Air Cargo Hercules and was under rebuild during 2007 at Anchorage.

- by Karl E. Hayes

A real fine "specimen"! 15,000 hours and still not ready for "retirement"...........

- N3125N of 40 Mile Air at Tok, Alaska July 1990 (John Kimberley)


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