Otter number 23 was delivered to the RCAF on 30 December 1953 with serial 3669. Its first posting was to 105 Communications & Rescue Flight based at Namao Air Base, Edmonton, Alberta. Here it joined Otter 3665, serving alongside the Unit’s other equipment, three Expeditors and three C-47 Dakotas. 3669 became an active member of this busy Rescue unit’s fleet and undertook many long range missions. It carried the Flight’s KT code.
On 29 March 1955 3669 departed from Namao bringing Army officers on a tour of inspection of bases in the Northwest Territories, in the course of which it was diverted to Big Slough to pick up an Indian with frozen feet. The full routing of the trip was from Namao-Fort Smith-Yellowknife-Fort Reliance-Fort Resolution-Yellowknife-Fort Simpson-Fort Chipewyan-Hay River-Fort Smith-Big Slough-Fort Smith-Fort Chipewyan-Fort McMurray-Brochet (Manitoba)-Namao.
In December 1955 Otters 3669 and 3665 joined Dakotas FZ695 and KJ956 and Expeditors 114, 948, 1506 and 1561 in an extensive search in northern Alberta for a Fairchild aircraft en route from Peace River to Namur Lake. The Fairchild was eventually found, down on a lake out of gas. On 9 January 1956 Otter 3669 departed Namao on yet another lengthy tour, routing to Fort McMurray-Fort McKay-Bitu Mountain-Fort Chipewyan-Fond du Lac-Stony Rapids-Camsell Point-Fort Smith-Rocher River-Hay River-Fort Chipewyan-Fort Vermillion-Little Red Deer-Namao.
In August 1956 3669 left the Unit and flew first to the DHC facility at Downsview for incorporation of AUW modifications and then continued the short distance to its new base at Trenton, Ontario where it joined 102 Communications & Rescue Flight (102 KU) in October 1956. As well as undertaking transport and rescue taskings, 102 KU was also the Otter Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), responsible for training aircrew on the Otter. During 1964 for example nine courses were completed with 20 airmen graduating. It remained with this Unit until August 1956 when it joined No.4 Operational Training Unit at CFB Trenton, which had taken over the Otter OCU from 102KU, and then two months later, in October ’56, it was posted to 400 Squadron at CFB Downsview, where it was to remain for the rest of its military career, although it did spend from July to October 1968 at the Aerospace Maintenance & Development Unit (AMDU) at Trenton before returning to 400 Squadron, Downsview.
3669 undertook some “ground duty” during 1970. The history of 411 Squadron shows a photo of 3669, with wings attached, inside the Yorkdale Shopping Mall, North York, Toronto during February 1970 and explains that “among the activities of early 1970 was the mounting of a joint public relations/ recruitment exhibit by 411 and 400 squadrons inside the Mall. The display included the Otter, manned by unit members, who provided tours and answered questions”. Another photograph shows 3669 on 16 August 1970, without wings, being towed down Toronto’s Avenue Road en route to the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds. After this however it was back flying from Downsview. As the Downsview-based Otters frequently flew VIPs, 3669 was configured accordingly and outfitted with carpeting, a couch with writing table, and a comfortable stuffed chair and a chemical toilet.
3669 was to have long service with 400 Squadron, all of sixteen years, and was still with the Squadron when it withdrew the Otter from service during 1982. It was flown to the AMDU detachment at the Mountain View storage depot, Ontario and was one of seven CAF Otters put up for sale in September 1982. 3669 was advertised for sale with 10,093 hours on the airframe. It was one of seven CAF Otters purchased by Newcal Aviation Inc., of Little Ferry, New Jersey to whom it was registered in January 1983 as N2631U. Newcal was a company specialising in the sale of DHC parts and aircraft. Along with the other Otters purchased by Newcal, it was flown from Mountain View to Decatur, Texas where it was placed in open storage, awaiting sale.
It appears that the market for Otters was somewhat soft around this time, and N2631U was to spend five years under the Texas sun at Decatur before being sold on. The buyer was Skyharbour Aviation Ltd., of Nisku, Alberta to whom the Otter was registered as C-FASV on 28 January 1988. Skyharbour, an aircraft overhaul company, were acting as purchasing agents on behalf of Dawn Air Ltd., and the following month the Otter was registered to Dawn Air Ltd of La Ronge, Saskatchewan. Dawn Air also operated Otter C-FYLZ (247), a Beaver, a Cessna 185 and a Twin Otter, and had taken over the bush operations of Norcanair.
Unfortunately Dawn Air ceased operations later that year, in July 1988, and C-FASV was taken over by Pinehouse Airways Ltd., another La Ronge based operator. One incident is recorded, on 6 April 1989, when the pilot experienced engine problems and conducted a successful forced landing on the frozen surface of McTavish Lake, Sask. In July 1989 Pinehouse Airways was re-named Air-Sask Aviation Ltd, and ASV was registered to this name on 13 July 1989. The company also flew two Beavers on bush work out of La Ronge. On 26 July 1990 on level off following departure climb, the pilot reduced power to cruise setting. The engine began to run roughly and to smoke, but a safe landing was made by ASV back at La Ronge.
In December 1990 C-FASV was sold to Points North Air Services Ltd., of Points North Landing, Sask, the company of George Eikel, who had also owned Dawn Air which had previously flown this Otter. ASV was to serve for Points North Air for the next 8 years, painted in the company’s white colour scheme with blue cheatline and fuselage titles. Points North Landing is located some 450 road miles north of Saskatoon, at the end of a long unpaved road leading from La Ronge. C-FASV was later joined by Otters C-FASZ (463) and C-FODW (403) in the Points North fleet which also included C-47 and Cessna 208 aircraft. Supplies and materials were trucked up to Points North Landing and then distributed to outlying communities such as Stony Rapids, Fond du Lac, Wollaston Lake and Uranium City by the company’s fleet of aircraft. There were also many fishing lodges and mining camps in the area that relied on Points North Air for delivery of their supplies. A typical Otter flight was, for example, a cargo of groceries from Points North Landing to the Indian reservation at Wollaston Lake, a twenty minute flight by Otter.
Operations by C-FASV with Points North Air continued until 1 May 1999. On that day the wheel-ski equipped Otter was engaged in flying road construction crews from base camps to work sites in northern Saskatchewan. A five man crew was moved from a base camp to Waterfound Lake, a small lake 22 miles from Points North Landing. The drop off was made in the morning on the frozen lake, with a pick-up planned for late afternoon. The pilot then flew back to Points North Landing and filled the Otter’s fuel tanks.
When the pilot returned for the pick-up, the ambient temperature was about seven degrees C and there were between five and six inches of slush on the ice surface. The pilot loaded the passengers and attempted a take off. The aircraft accelerated slowly in the slush and the pilot rejected the take off. He selected a different run and tried again, having moved a passenger to a forward seat. The pilot continued beyond his previously selected rejection distance. The engine RPM then reportedly decreased. The Otter did not become airborne but ran into the low shoreline and crashed, skidding to a stop 300 feet from the shore. The passengers and pilot evacuated the aircraft before an intense fire broke out. Flames engulfed the fuselage and engine, completely destroying the aircraft. The registration was cancelled on 29 March 2000, giving the cause of cancellation as “destroyed by fire”.
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.