DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 125

N5368G at Renton - KRNT, Washington.
Photo: Peter A. Kirkup / Aviation Archives © September 1977 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-GBNA Maybe they ran out of duct tape?? At Calgary - CYYC, Alberta.
Photo: Michae J. Ody © February 1980
C-GBNA with BUFFALO NARROWS AIRWAYS.
Photo: Doug Stene © 1987
C-GBNA on glassy water of Nyberg Lake.
Photo: Barry O'Brien © Fall 2015

c/n 125

55-3278 • N5368G

C-GBNA

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• 55-3278 United States Army. Delivered 23-May-1956. Designated as U-1A.

Assigned to the 2nd Aviation Company, Fort Riley, KS.

April/May 1957 to Brookley AFB., Mobile, AL., Here the aircraft were loaded on board the 'USS Tripoli', an aircraft carrier then serving with the Military Sea Transportation Service, which set sail for Bremerhaven, Germany arriving on 16-May-1967.

2nd Aviation Company based at Illesheim, Germany, until July 1959 when the unit moved to France.

The Company headquarters of the 2nd Aviation Company and one platoon were based at Orléans, a second platoon at Verdun and a third platoon at Poitiers. During its time in France the aircraft was either based at or visited all three locations for different levels of maintenance.

The aircraft was noted visiting Abbotsinch Airport, Scotland on 11th June 1966. This would have during the unit's annual deployment, based at Prestwick. This was in support of Corporal Missile Battalions, who fired live missiles from the Benbecula Range in the Hebrides.

Noted by the webmaster Neil Aird at Prestwick - EGPK 30-Jun-1966.

To the 56th Aviation Detachment, Mannheim, Germany between Mar-1967 and Oct-1967.

Transported to the United States and onwards to Vietnam, arriving with the 54th Aviation Company at Vin Tau in March 1968. Also named as 54th Utility Aircraft Company with the call sign “Big Daddy” which related to the tasks undertaken by the unit.

Emblem of the 54th Aviation Company, aka the Utility Aircraft Company

Later in 1968 and during 1969 it flew for the 45th Medical Detachment, then the 247th and then the 254th Medical Detachments in Vietnam. These units were mainly Huey helicopter equipped units.

It was then returned to the United States and arrived at the Red River Army Depot, TX  in July 1970, where it was overhauled.

In July 1971 it was allocated to the 19th Aviation Battalion, Fort Richardson, Anchorage, AK.

It was then flown to the 568th Transportation Company at Fort Wainright, Fairbanks, AK in 1973 who prepared it for its next posting.

October 1973 it was assigned to the Alaska Army National Guard, based at Bethel, AK., until Dec-1976 when the use of the Otter in Alaska was terminated.

• N5368G Transferred to the Civil Air Patrol. Initially for the Alaska Wing but was parked at Anchorage until while later moved  to Seattle, renovated, painted in CAP scheme and then served at the CAP Great Lakes Region Headquarters, based at Pontiac, MI.

• C-GBNA Buffalo Narrows Airways Ltd., Buffalo Narrows, SK. Regd 28-Mar-1980 Re regd 15-Jun-1998. 07-Jun-2002. Canx 07-Jun-2002.

• C-GBNA Voyage Air (634643 Alberta Ltd), Fort McMurray, SK. Based Buffalo Narrows, Regd 07-Jun-2002. 26-Jun-2006, 07-Mar-2007 and 18-Apr-2013.

Note Jan-2005 converted to Walter turbine power at the AOG facility at Kelowna, BC.

Current

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Otter 125 was delivered to the United States Army on 23 May 1956 with serial 55-3278 (tail number 53278) and was assigned to the 2nd Aviation Company, Fort Riley, Kansas. This unit was destined for service in Europe after it had received its full complement of Otters and its personnel had been trained on the new type. During April / May 1957 the 2nd Aviation Company flew its Otters from Fort Riley to Brookley AFB., Mobile, Alabama. Here the Otters were loaded on board the ‘USS Tripoli’, an aircraft carrier then serving with the Military Sea Transportation Service, which set sail for Bremerhaven, Germany arriving on 16 May 1957.  Here the Otters were re-assembled and flown to their new base at Illesheim, Germany.

The 2nd Aviation Company was based at Illesheim for just over two years, until July 1959, when it moved to France, dividing its Otters into three platoons. The Company HQ and one platoon was based at Orleans, a second platoon at Verdun and a third platoon at Poitiers. 53278 continued to fly for the 2nd Aviation Company throughout the existence of the unit.  It was noted at Gatwick on 19 June 1963, flying that day to Dublin, supporting Army Choctaw helicopters during President J. F. Kennedy’s visit to Ireland. It was noted at Saran Army Airfield, Orleans on 20 June 1965. It was noted visiting Abbotsinch Airport, Scotland on 11 June 1966 during the Unit’s last Scottish deployment.

In March 1967 53278 was transferred to the 56th Aviation Detachment, Mannheim, Germany. It visited Edinburgh 25 June 1967. It then left Europe, being transported via the United States to Vietnam, arriving with the 54th Aviation Company in March 1968. Later in 1968 and during 1969 it flew for the 45th, then the 247th, then the 254th Medical Detachment in Vietnam. It was then returned to the United States and arrived at the Red River Army Depot, Texas in July 1970. Here it was overhauled. In July 1971 it was allocated to the 19th Aviation Battalion, Fort Richardson, Alaska. A crew from that Unit flew Otter 81686 (293) from Fort Richardson to the Red River Depot and picked up 53278 as a replacement, and flew it all the way back to Alaska. The 19th Aviation Battalion was re-designated  the 222nd Aviation Battalion in August 1972 and 53278 continued to serve this Unit at Fort Richardson until September 1973. It was then taken to the 568th Transportation Company, Fort Wainright who prepared it for its next posting and in October 1973 it was assigned to the Alaska National Guard, based at Bethel, Alaska. It continued flying from Bethel until December 1976 when use of the Otter by the military in Alaska came to an end.

After an interesting and varied military career, which encompassed service in the Continental United States, Europe, combat service in Vietnam and finally service in Alaska, 53278 was transferred to the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), registered N5368G on 23 August 1977. It was initially taken on charge by the Alaska Wing of the CAP, and was then ferried to Seattle by CAP pilots. It was noted at Boeing Field, Seattle in September 1977, still in its Army olive drab colour scheme, being prepared for CAP service by Lloyd Rekow, a noted Otter repairer and rebuilder, whose company was called Foreign & Domestic Enterprises. It received its Certificate of Airworthiness as a civilian aircraft on 21 October 1977, having at that stage 4,958 hours on the airframe.  It was repainted into CAP colour scheme and in March 1978 departed Seattle to its new base at Pontiac, Michigan where it would fly for the CAP’s Great Lakes Region Headquarters.  The CAP colour scheme on this Otter was very stylish, white with a blue cheatline outlined in black, with GLR HQ on the tail.

It was noted at the USAF base at Dayton, Ohio in July 1979, a static exhibit at the air show. It was still based at Pontiac in October 1979. It continued to fly for the CAP until sold to Buffalo Narrows Airways Ltd., of Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan. It was flown from Pontiac to Calgary, carrying marks C-GBNA as well as N5368G, arriving 22 February 1980 and the US registration was cancelled that day. It was officially registered to Buffalo Narrows Airways on 28 March 1980 after overhaul at Calgary.

C-GBNA was to have many years of service with Buffalo Narrows Airways flying mostly during the summer months with fishermen, hunters and tourists and in support of mining and exploration companies. The owner of Buffalo Narrows Airways was Denis O’Brien and in April 1996 he purchased another Otter, N9895B (194) from Taquan Air in Ketchikan, Alaska. This Otter was registered to him, taking his initials, as C-GDOB but tragically it crashed on its delivery flight from Ketchikan via Prince Rupert to Buffalo Narrows on 30 April 1996, killing Denis O’Brien. After his death, his widow took over running the company, which in July 1996 adopted the trading name of Courtesy Air, and following her death in a car accident, the company developed into a commercial type charter operation, with a fleet of Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftains.

What had been the floatplane division of Buffalo Narrows Airways / Courtesy Air, was acquired in 2002 by Barry O’Brien, brother of Denis O’Brien and re-named Voyage Air (634643 Alberta Ltd). The registration of the Otter to Buffalo Narrows Airways was cancelled 7 June 2002 and it was registered that day to Voyage Air. This company had bases at Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan and at Fort McMurray, Alberta which are some 125 miles apart. Voyage Air continued to operate Otter BNA as well as four Beavers and two Cessna 185s, continuing the type of operations which the floatplanes of Buffalo Narrows Airways had carried on. The Otter and two Beavers were based at Buffalo Narrows and the other two Beavers at Fort McMurray.

In January 2005 Otter BNA was flown to the AOG facility at Kelowna, BC where work started on converting the Otter to a Walter engine turbine. It emerged from the hangar duly converted as a turbine Otter mid March 2005 and returned to its base at Buffalo Narrows to resume service with Voyage Air. It was white overall, blue cheatline, blue and orange trim and with Voyage Air fuselage titles.  BNA continues flying for Voyage Air, its website advertising fishing and hunting flights, canoe trips, science tours and mining exploration work.

The Otter has been mentioned occasionally on CADORS:

17 July 2015  Company Beaver C-GDOB departed Buffalo Narrows Water base northbound. It lost VHF contact after leaving the mandatory frequency area. Contact was established with Otter BNA, who then advised that the Beaver was inbound with an inoperative radio. The Otter later established visual contact with the Beaver.

05 June 2016.   Otter BNA conducted a missed approach at the buffalo Narrows waterdrome due to boat traffic.

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.