DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 202

CF-JXR
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c/n 202

CF-JXR

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 CF-JXR McMurray Air Service Ltd., Uranium City, SK. Delivered 28-May-1957.

Note: Flew under charter for the Polar Continental Shelf Project, based at Isachsen, in the Northwest Territories in the High Arctic.

Accident: 81.24 North 104.16 West. Approx 80mls north of the nearest land. 29-Apr-1961. Following an engine stoppage, the pilot landed the wheel ski equipped aircraft and landed on the sea ice in the vicinity of the sea ice camp to which he was flying. On landing it sank initially to the level of the wings. The four occupants exited the aircraft with their emergency kit and there were no casualties. They were subsequently rescued by helicopter. The aircraft subsequently sank in the sea and was not recovered. Fuller report below.

Written off

Otter 202 was delivered to McMurray Air Service Ltd of Uranium City, Saskatchewan on 28 May 1957  registered CF-JXR. Uranium City is a settlement in northwestern Saskatchewan, on the northern shore of Lake Athabasca, near the border of the Northwest Territories. During the 1950s and 1960s and into the 1970s it was the location of many uranium mines, which gave rise to considerable aviation activity, with McMurray Air Service being a major operator in the area.

Otter JXR is mentioned in the Western Area SAR files on 29 December 1957 going to the assistance of Beaver CF-GQZ. The Beaver was overdue on a flight from Embarras to McMurray and the Otter commenced a search. The Beaver was sighted at the mouth of the Firebag River by the Otter, which then landed to ascertain the problem. The Beaver had landed with engine trouble and the pilot was flown to McMurray in JXR.

In the spring of 1958 the Canadian government established the Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP), a scientific study to gather data on the Arctic, with a view to exploiting its resources. McMurray Air Service was one of a number of airlines contracted to provide air support for the Project, and a base was established at Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island. On 14 March 1959 Otter JXR and a company Beaver arrived at Resolute, the Otter departing the next day for Isaachsen in the High Arctic. McMurray acquired a second Otter CF-LAP (289) to replace a Beaver and for summer 1959 both Otters JXR and LAP were flying for the Project. Over 400 landings were made by the Otters on un-prepared runways on the sea ice and on bare ground or snow while transporting field parties. The survey ranged throughout the High Arctic including Ellef Ringes Island, the ocean near Cape Isaachsen, Meighen Island ice cap and the Prince Gustaf Adolph Sea. The Project ran for the summer months only, leaving the Otters free for other work, including support of the uranium mines, at other times of the year.

Otter JXR again supported the Project the following year. The first aircraft to arrive at Resolute, on 14 March 1960, were the two McMurray Otters JXR and LAP, “who distinguished themselves by landing simultaneously only in opposite directions. In April 1961 Otter JXR was one of eight aircraft flying under charter for the PCSP, based at Isaachsen, on the western shore of Ellef Ringes Island.  The other aircraft involved were CF-LAP, the other McMurray Air Service Otter, CF-JOK an Aero Commander of Kenting Air Services, DC-3s CF-GKZ of Nordair and CF-IQF of Wheeler Airlines, Sikorsky S-55s CF-HVR and CF-MYV and Bell 47 CF-MYU, all of Autair Helicopters of Montreal, who supported the Project in its formative years.

On Saturday 29 April 1961 Otter JXR took off from Isaachsen with the pilot and three scientists attached to the Project on board, headed for a camp established on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean eighty miles north of the nearest land. The scientific party were to take bottom samples near the edge of the Shelf and to study temperatures and currents on the ocean itself. The Otter was on wheel-skis and was described as being white in colour with red dayglow on the wingtips and empennage. It suffered engine failure and landed on the sea ice in the vicinity of the camp, at 81.24 North 104.16 West. It sank initially to the level of the wings. The four occupants exited the aircraft and there were no casualties.

The pilot had just put out a ‘mayday’ call before landing on the rugged sea ice, which resulted in a major search-and-rescue operation. Other Project aircraft began the search, and they were joined the next day by a Lancaster from the RCAF’s 111 Rescue Unit at Winnipeg and by two C-47s from the 102 Rescue Unit at Trenton, which were flying from Resolute Bay at the time, 320 miles to the south, on another mission. The downed Otter was first spotted by the Kenting Air Services Aero Commander, which had been performing aerial magnetometer work for the Project. The pilot radioed back to base at Isaachsen that the four on board the Otter were alive and well.

The Otter carried emergency rations, sleeping bags and a tent, so that the occupants were able to look after themselves until rescue arrived. They were picked up by the S-55 helicopter CF-HVR and flown to Isaachsen. There was no rescue for the Otter unfortunately, which subsequently sank. The registration was later cancelled due to the aircraft having been “lost at sea”.

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.