DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 164

55-3305 rescue ops in Congo, before repaint in UN marks.
Photo: Terence Spencer © July 1960 - via Leif Hellström
401 at N'Dolo Airport, Leopoldville, in first weeks of UN operation.
Photo: Stig Engström © August 1960 - via Leif Hellström
301 peeling badly after bad paint job.
Photo: John Eriksson © 1961 - via Leif Hellström
301 having an engine change in the Congo.
Photo: Gunnar Brink © 1961 - via Leif Hellström
301 after a new repaint, with number added on nose.
Photo: Per-Almar Andersson © 1962 - via Leif Hellström
301 fitted with the right wing of c/n 20 or 21, with "Nations Unies" title.
Photo: Per-Almar Andersson © 1962 - via Leif Hellström
301 close-up of the name and art.
Photo: Gunnar Brink © 1961 - via Leif Hellström

c/n 164

55-3505 • 301 • N127F

CF-RNP

x

• 55-3305 United States Army. Delivered 24-Oct-1956. Designated U-1A.

Initially served with the 3rd Aviation Company, Fort Riley, KS.

Jul-1957. Moved with the unit when it deployed to Illesheim, Germany. Disbanded Nov-1969 but aircraft remained in Europe.

Jul-1960. Deployed using a Douglas C-124 Globemaster to the former Belgian Congo, to join an Army Task Force which was hurriedly formed to rescue US citizens, mostly missionaries, who were caught up in the fighting in the Congo.

• 301 United Nations Support Wing Air Squadron, Leopoldville, Sep-1960 painted all white and given UN markings, and was named the “Silver Trumpeter”.

Served with the UN in the Congo, and subsequently in the Yemen, attached to 134th Air Transport Unit, manned by Royal Canadian Air Force personnel.

Jan-1964. Flown to the UN base at El Arish, Egypt where they were put into storage awaiting disposal.

• No regn G. Rae MacLeod, dba., Aero Leasing, Montréal, QC. Purchased 26th May 1964.

• N127F Ferrer Aviation Inc., Miami, FL. Registered for ferry trip to Canada.

Entries preceded by dates are extracts from the Canadian Department of Transport archives.

24-Nov-1964 Application for Certificate of Registration by G. Rae MacLeod (Aero Leasing Registered), Montréal, QC.

24-Nov-1964 Temporary Certificate of Registration & Flight Permit to ferry Montréal to Lac-à-la-Tortue, QC., and return, valid to 24-Dec-1964, to G. Rae Macleod (Aero Leasing Registered), Montréal, QC.

24-Feb-1965 Temporary Certificate of Registration & Flight Permit to ferry Lac-à-la-Tortue QC to Sept-Îles QC, valid 24-Mar-1965.

23-Jun-1965 Certificate of Airworthiness #10479 issued.

23-Jun-1965 Certificate of Registration #33132 issued to G. Rae MacLeod (Aero Leasing Registered).

• CF-RNP G. Rae MacLeod, dba., Aero Leasing, Montréal, QC. Regd 23- Jun-19645.

23-Jun-1965 Amendment to Certificate of Registration #33132 to permit Commercial operation during lease to Northern Wings Ltd.

23-Jun-1965 Temporary Certificate of Airworthiness & Temporary Registration (Commercial) during lease to Northern Wings Ltd., valid to 22-Jul-1965.

• CF-RNP Leased to Northern Wings Ltd (Les Ailes du Nord), at Sept Îles, QC. Regd Regd 23-Jun-1965.

20-Jul-1967 Application Certificate of Registration Northern Wings Ltd.

21-Jul-1967 Temporary Certificate of Registration & Certificate of Airworthiness issued Northern Wings Ltd., Sept-Îles, QC., valid to 20-AUG-1967.

21-Jul-1967 Certificate of Registration #42145 issued Northern Wings Ltd., Sept-Îles, QC.

• CF-RNP Northern Wings Ltd (Les Ailes du Nord), at Sept Îles, QC. Regd 21-Jul-1967.

Undated. Application for Certificate of Registration by A. Fecteau Transport Aérien Ltée.

09-Apr-1968 Certificate of Registration #42379 issued A. Fecteau Transport Aérien Ltée, Senneterre, QC.

• CF-RNP A. Fecteau Transport Aérien Ltée, Senneterre, QC. Regd 09-Apr-1968.

Accident: Bradore Bay, QC. 51.29N/57.15W. 06-Sep-1968. On a flight from St. Pauls (Also quoted as St, Augustine, QC) to Blanc-Sablon QC. the aircraft was returning to the point of departure due to unfavourable weather conditions ahead, when persons on shore heard a change of engine noise followed by an explosion. The aircraft had struck the water at Bradore Lake slightly short of its final destination after the pilot had flown fog conditions.  Pilot Lester Best, crewman Sam Foreman and six passengers were killed. The aircraft sank and was not recovered. Three bodies only and a seat cushion were all that was recovered. See extended report below.

• CF-RNP Cancelled from Canadian Civil Aircraft Register 12-May-1969.

Total time since new as recorded in Canadian Department of Transport archives.

07-Jun-1966 - 3,403 hours

18-May-1967 - 4,083 hours

04-Jun-1968 - 4,840 hours

At time of accident - 5,088 hours

Destroyed

x

Otter number 164 was delivered to the United States Army on 24 October 1956 with serial 55-3305 (tail number 53305). It first served with the 3rd Aviation Company, Fort Riley, Kansas and moved with the unit when it deployed to Germany in July 1957, establishing at Illesheim. The Otter was noted visiting Blackbushe airfield, near London, on 21 September 1958, code 7 on the cowling. The 3rd Aviation Company disbanded in November 1959.

In July 1960 53305 was one of two US Army Otters selected for United Nations service in the Belgian Congo, the other being 53302. They were flown to Chateauroux Air Base, France, loaded on board USAF C-124 Globemasters and flown to the Congo. 53305 arrived at N’Dolo Airport, Leopoldville and joined the UN Air Transport Force (UNATF), flying with the Light Aircraft Squadron. It flew for a short period in US Army scheme, before being repainted all white and receiving UN serial 401. By 24 August 1960 however it had been re-serialled 301, after the decision had been made that the UN Otters would have serials in the 300 range. It was named “Trumpeten” which is Swedish for “trumpet”, the Light Aircraft Squadron being manned by Swedish personnel. By February 1961 the Light Aircraft Squadron had been re-named the Support Squadron, and the UNATF became the UN Air Division. 301 was re-named “Silver Trumpeten” (“the Silver Trumpet”). The Support Squadron flew four Otters (two ex US Army and two ex Royal Norwegian Air Force) although another four were added at a later date.

301 served with the UN in the Congo and subsequently in the Yemen, attached to 134 Air Transport Unit, a Canadian unit attached to the UN. By October 1963 301 had been disassembled at Leopoldville and flown by USAF C-130 Hercules to Aden, where it was re-assembled and became one of six UN Otters to be operated in the Yemen, on daily patrols in the Quizan and Najran areas.  In January 1964, on the conclusion of the Yemen campaign, 301 and the other five Otters operating in Yemen were flown to the UN base at El Arish, Egypt where they were put into storage awaiting disposal. Two of these Otters, 301 and 304 (serial 21) were sold to Mr G Rae MacLeod, Trading As Aero Leasing of Montreal on 26 May 1964. He had negotiated their purchase through the UN offices in New York.

At that time Canadian regulations prohibited the ferry of single-engined aircraft over water. Accordingly Mr Mac Leod arranged with Ferrer Aviation Inc., of Miami for the ferry flight. This was the company of Frank Ferrer, who had a considerable involvement with Otters during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s and early 1970s and who was responsible for rebuilding several Otters and returning many more back to Canada from different parts of the world. The two Otters were flown by RCAF pilots from El Arish to Beirut in the Lebanon, where they were picked up by the ferry pilots. In Beirut they were registered N127F (164) and N128F (21) to Ferrer Aviation and they set off on the long ferry flight back to Canada, both still in the white colour they carried in UN service. N127F and N128F passed through Manchester, England and Prestwick, Scotland on 21 / 22 June 1964. They continued on via Stornoway, Reykjavik, Narssarsuaq and Goose Bay to Montreal’s Dorval Airport, after 66 hours of flying from Beirut.

Mr MacLeod had to pay $4,804 per aircraft on import into Canada. At Montréal both Otters were refurbished by Aircraft Technicians Inc., and serial 164 was registered to Mr Mac Leod as CF-RNP (with serial 21 becoming CF-RNO).   A ferry permit was issued for CF-RNP on 24 November 1964 from Dorval to Lac-à-la-Tortue, Québec and then on 24 February 1965 from there to Sept Îles, where the Otter was leased to Northern Wings Ltd .,(Les Ailes du Nord), a company based at Sept Îles. During the Easter vacation of 1965 at Sept Îles, High School students were employed to strip off the UN paint scheme so that the Otter could be repainted in Les Ailes du Nord colour scheme. It then entered service on floats for summer 1965, alongside Otter CF-EYY (19). That year Les Ailes du Nord became a subsidiary of Québecair and started scheduled services to link the villages on the Lower North Shore of the Gulf of St.Lawrence, using the two Otters on floats in summer and on wheel-skis in winter. Between Havre St.Pierre and Blanc Sablon there were eleven small villages – Baie Johan Beetz, Aguanish, Natashquan, Kegaska, Romaine, Harrington Harbour, Whale Head (Tete de la Baleine), La Tabatiere, St.Augustine, Old Fort Bay and St.Paul’s River. There were only three airstrips, at Havre St.Pierre, Natashquan and Blanc Sablon. The Otters provided daily service between St.Pierre and Blanc Sablon, with stops in every village. In most cases this involved landing on salt water on floats in summer and on either a lake or a smooth plain on skis in winter. One Otter left Blanc Sablon westbound at 08:00 in the morning and the other left Havre St.Pierre eastbound after the DC-3 scheduled flight had arrived from Sept Îles around 10:00am. During the summer the Otters carried passengers, first class mail and air-freight and during the winter also handled second class mail.

In September 1968 Otter RNP was operating from the Northern Wings base at Blanc Sablon. On 6 September it was waiting at Blanc Sablon for the weather to improve to operate the schedule westbound to Havre St.Pierre. There was fog all along the coast, but not inland. It could therefore fly a trip to a fishing camp on St.Paul’s River and then returned to Blanc Sablon. An hour later, a call came from St.Augustine for a medevac flight and it took off at 15:30 hours from Blanc Sablon headed for St.Augustine, 69 miles away. The Otter then departed St.Augustine for Old Fort, a distance of 42 miles, before continuing to St.Paul’s River, a distance of six miles. At St.Paul’s River seven passengers joined the flight, which then took off for Blanc Sablon, a distance of 21 miles. The Otter also had on board an assistant as well as the pilot, nine souls in all.

A variable fog condition existed along the shore line of the Strait of Belle-Isles that day. En route to Blanc Sablon the pilot contacted base and was advised that the weather at his destination was 200 feet obscured and a quarter of a mile in fog. The pilot then advised that he was going to return to St.Paul’s River. The Otter crashed in Bradore Bay, near to the south-west end of the Island of Ledges, a mile south-west of the lake of destination. This area abounds in reefs and rocks, with numerous crevices below water level. A number of witnesses located at Bradore Bay heard the aircraft. One witness actually saw the Otter at a low level in the fog for a few seconds, after which it disappeared. Two witnesses reported having heard the sound of the crash as the aircraft impacted the water.

An extensive search followed, which continued for eight days and involved the entire local community. Heavy fog persisted in the Strait of Belle-Isles for three days after the accident and prevented any aircraft search operations. Floatable items such as floor boards, cabin insulation, part of the left main float and three bodies were found along the shore line of the Island of Ledges. None of the rest of the persons on board nor the aircraft itself were ever found.

Due to the remoteness of the location, and the fog conditions which persisted for some days, the accident investigators had considerable difficulty getting to the scene. Two Department of Transport investigators flew from Montréal to Sept Îles by Air Canada scheduled flight. A Provincial Government group also flew to Sept Îles aboard the government de Havilland DH125 jet. The investigators eventually departed Sept Îles on the morning of 9 September aboard a Northern Wings DC-3, which made two unsuccessful landing attempts at Blanc Sablon before diverting to St.Anthony, Newfoundland due to the continuing fog. A pick-up truck was then chartered to drive the group eight miles to the coast, where a ferry boat was located. Having crossed the  Strait of Belle-Isle the investigators eventually arrived at Blanc Sablon early on the morning of 10 September, four days after the crash.

By this stage the fog had cleared and a Northern Wings Otter was used to search the area, as well as an RCAF Rescue helicopter from Halifax and two boats. These joined the many private boats which were independently carrying out searches. The search continued until 15 September 1968 but nothing further as found. From an examination of the few pieces of wreckage that were recovered, particularly the float, the investigators concluded that the Otter had struck the water in a steep nose down attitude, most probably in a bank to the right. They gave as the cause of the accident the fact that the pilot had continued flight into known fog conditions, which resulted in a loss of control at low level. Otter CF-RNP had total airframe hours of 5,088 since new at the time of its loss.

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.