The tenth Otter was delivered to the RCAF as 3664 on 31 March 1953 and assigned to 408 Squadron at Rockcliffe. The Squadron’s history records its early days at Rockcliffe, engaged in pilot training, local area flights, cross countries and water training at Golden Lake. 3664 was to remain with 408 Squadron throughout the four years the unit flew the Otter. During July 1954 it was operating out of Fort Churchill, Manitoba. On 18 June 1955 it departed Rockcliffe in company with 3661 (7) en route to Fort McMurray, Alberta supporting the Mid Canada Line (MCL) Western Sector construction. The function of the two Otters, both of which were on floats, was to carry men and equipment into places that were inaccessible to the Squadron’s Canso.
The two Otters were kept with the operation until it reached The Pas, Manitoba. When the survey and siting parties departed The Pas by chartered train, the Otter support was nearly finished. 3664 however was kept on an extra week to freight men and equipment from Flin Flon to Fort Black. 3664 then departed Flin Flon on 31 July ’55 returning to Rockcliffe. During August to October 1956 3664 was again engaged on MCL-Western Sector duties, supporting USAF Sikorsky H-19 helicopters between Fort McMurray and The Pas. In December 1956 3664 returned to DHC for incorporation of the AUW modification, rejoining 408 Squadron in March 1957. One of its final tasks with the Squadron was a deployment to Goose Bay in July ’57 to assist in the task of transporting fishing parties to the Eagle River sites. It then returned to Rockcliffe and continued to serve 408 Squadron until it relinquished its Otters. 3664 was placed into storage with 6 Repair Depot, Trenton in September ’57 as a reserve aircraft and remained there for some years until transferred to the storage depot at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in October 1964 for disposal.
The purchaser of the Otter was Thomas Lamb Airways Ltd., of The Pas, Manitoba where coincidentally this Otter had operated for a time in RCAF service. The Otter was prepared for service with its new owner by Field Aviation in Toronto. Photographs show it after arrival at Toronto from Saskatoon, in front of the Field hangar, with the fuselage roundel removed, still carrying 408 Squadron code MN and still carrying its RCAF serial 3664, with civilian registration CF-GTL crudely applied for the ferry flight. After overhaul and repaint in its new owners colour scheme, the Otter was registered to Thomas Lamb Airways on 15 June 1965 as CF-GTL, taking the initials of Gregory Thomas Lamb, one on the nine children of Tom Lamb, the company’s founder. The company changed its name to Lambair Ltd in December 1968. For much of its time with Lambair, this Otter was based out of Churchill, Manitoba.
On 28 February 1969 CF-GTL was flying out of Repulse Bay in the Northwest Territories. About 15 minutes after take off on a VFR flight the weather deteriorated and the pilot decided to return to his departure point. In the meantime low cloud had spread throughout the area. The pilot decided to make a controlled descent through cloud to the ground, using a radio beacon for an improvised descent pattern. The ground came into view only seconds before the landing on a frozen tidal area of compacted rough sea ice. During the landing the left ski hit an ice ridge, causing damage as the aircraft swung around. The damage was repaired and the Otter continued in service with Lambair, re-registered C-FGTL in March 1974. It was based at Thompson, Manitoba used for charter work. It was one of two Otters (the other being C-FMEL serial 222) still serving with Lambair on that sad day of 18 February 1981 when the company went bankrupt. It was sold by the Liquidator in June of that year to Air Park Aviation Ltd., of Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba where it served alongside the company’s other Otter C-GMDG (302). The Otters were used for mining and exploration charter work, as well as for transporting tourists to and from the company’s fly-in fishing camps. Five camps were operated in eastern Manitoba at Artery Lake, Bullmoose Lake, Bloodvein River and Sasaginnigak River East and West.
By the end of the summer 1983 season Air Park Aviation had itself ceased trading due to economic difficulties, and its remaining aircraft, including Otter C-FGTL, were put up for sale, and sold during 1984. The Otter was sold to Central Air Transport Ltd., of Sioux Lookout, Ontario in August 1984.Throughout its years operation by this carrier, it retained the full Lambair colour scheme of red overall with white speed stripe, with Central Air titles and its logo on the tail. It entered service with Central Air Transport alongside the company’s original Otter C-GYKO (287) serving the bush country of North West Ontario. Central Air Transport had bases at Sioux Lookout and at Pickle Lake. Central Air Transport was re-named Gold Belt Air Transport during 1987. The registration of Otter C-FGTL to Central Air Transport was cancelled 25 October 1988 on which day it was registered to Gold Belt Air Transport Inc of Pickle Lake, Ontario.
Otter GTL was flying for Gold Belt Air Transport when on 11 October 1990 it sustained serious damage at Tarp Lake, seven miles north of Pickle Lake. During the climb out of Pickle Lake the engine fire warning light illuminated and the pilot shut the engine down. In the forced landing that followed, GTL came down in a bog just short of Tarp Lake. This abrupt arrival in the bog did the Otter no good at all and it was badly damaged. Gold Belt considered rebuilding the aircraft having brought it back to Pickle Lake but in the event it was not rebuilt by them but the wreck was sold to Kuby’s Aircraft Ltd., of Kenora, Ontario to be rebuilt at some stage.
C-FGTL was registered to Kuby’s Aircraft Ltd., on 22 July 1997 and lay in outside storage in Kuby’s Yard, Kenora for years (15 years in fact) alongside other wrecked Otters which Kuby had acquired. In May 2004 the fuselage of GTL was still to be seen in the yard, still painted in its Lambair colour scheme. Kuby never did get around to rebuilding GTL either. In October 2005 the damaged Otter was sold by Kuby’s Aircraft along with three other wrecked Otters, to Recon Air Corporation of Geraldton, Ontario, and all four were trucked from Kenora to Geraldton for eventual rebuild. C-FGTL was registered to Recon Air Corporation on 9 August 2007.
A buyer was found for the aircraft and during the second half of 2007 and into 2008 work continued at Geraldton in completing the rebuild of the aircraft and converting it to Texas Turbine configuration with the Garrett engine. On 27 March 2008 it was registered as C-GDHW to Drinnan Holdings Ltd., Whitehorse, Yukon for operation by Black Sheep Aviation and Cattle Company, which is owned by Cam Drinnan. It was painted into Black Sheep’s colour scheme of white upper fuselage, two shades of blue below the cabin windows, black underside and Black Sheep Aviation fuselage titles. It had been purchased as a replacement for Black Sheep’s Texas Turbine Otter C-GZCW (447) which had crashed in June 2007. Following completion of the rebuild, the Otter was registered, still as C-GDHW on 7 July 2008 to Black Sheep Aviation & Cattle Co., Ltd., and was then delivered from Geraldton north to its new base at Whitehorse, entering service alongside the company’s other turbine Otter C-GMCW (108).
In August 2009 the Otter was advertised for sale or lease. The advert informed that it had 15,000 hours on the airframe, with 300 hours on its new Garrett engine since it had been converted to turbine. C-GDHW however continued in service with Black Sheep Aviation during the winter of 2009/2010 and into the following summer. It is mentioned in a CADORS report for an incident on 17 June 2010. C-GSDT, an Alkan Air Piper Navajo, was cleared to land on runway 13 Right at Whitehorse when Otter C-GDHW taxied over the hold-short line on Taxiway Foxtrot. The Navajo pilot was advised and the pilot of the turbine Otter reversed back past the hold-short line prior to the Navajo landing.
In August 2010 the Otter was still advertised for sale, with an asking price of $1,395,000 (Canadian) or lease. Flying hours had increased by 200 since the August 2009 advertisement, as the aircraft was still flying for Black Sheep Aviation. With the unfortunate loss of C-GMCW in an accident in March 2011, C-GDHW became Black Sheep’s only Otter and the for sale or lease adverts were withdrawn. The Otter continued in service with Black Sheep Aviation alongside a Cessna 185. It was used principally for flying canoeists/kayakers, hunting and fishing parties, mining and exploration support and drill moves, fuel hauls and camp support. DHW arrived in Campbell River on Vancouver Island on 14 October 2011 for maintenance by Sealand Aviation and was there over the winter. The work included installing Viking Air’s nine thousand pound weight increase modification. DHW returned to Whitehorse mid February 2012 and resumed service with Black Sheep Aviation. As well as the Otter and Cessna 185, the company also now operates a Beaver and Cessna 208 Caravan.
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005), now with added and updated information which Karl has supplied for the benefit of the website.