DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 359

9403 at Calgary - CYYC, Alberta.
Photo: Ken McTavish © early 1960's - via Trevor McTavish
N3125H still in old military scheme, probably at Decatur, Texas.
Photo:R. Shane © August 1984
C-GMLB at Orillia, Ontario.
Photo: Michael J. Ody © May 1985
C-GMLB getting ready for a long winter.
Photo: Rich Hulina © Novemver 1990 - Karl E. Hayes Collection - Aird Archives
C-GMLB in winter store at Geraldton - CYGQ, Ontario.
Photo: Rich Hulina © April 2009 - Aird Archives

c/n 359

9403 • N10708

C-GMLB

X

 9403 Royal Canadian Air Force. Delivered 04-May-1960. Designated CC-123 Otter.

18-May-1960. Assigned to 402 Squadron, Winnipeg, MB..

Accident; Winnipeg RCAF base. 16th August 1967. While parking the aircraft after refuelling at a stationary fuel pump, the starboard wingtip was damaged when it contacted a telephone pole guy wire. The damage was repaired.

01-Mar-1976. Joined Number One Air Reserve Wing, St.Hubert, QC., for use by 401 and 438 Squadrons.

01-Aug-1981. To storage at CFB Mountain View, ON. Prepared for sale by Crown Assets Disposal Corporation (CADC).

• N3125H Newcal Aviation Inc., Little Ferry, NJ. Regd Jun-1982.

To outside storage at Decatur, TX., where they were for some years before being sold on.

• C-GMLB 382820 Ontario Ltd., Nakina, ON. (Wings North Fly-In Outfitters & Charter Air Service) .Based O'Sullivan Lake, ON. Regd 28-Apr-1988. Canx 31-May-1993.

• C-GMLB Huron Air & Outfitters, Armstrong, ON. Based McKenzie Lake, ON. Regd 10-Jun-1993. Canx 23-Mar-1994.

• C-GMLB Waweig Lake Outfitters Ltd., Thunder Bay, ON. Regd 23-Mar-1994. Canx 26-Aug-1994. Regd 01-Sep-1994, Canx 11-Oct-1994.

• C-GMLB 1037680 Ontario Ltd., Thunder Bay, ON. (Waweig Lake Outfitters Ltd., Thunder Bay, ON. Based Waweig Lake. ON. Re regd  11-Oct-94. Canx 13-Jun-1995 11-Jan-1996.

• C-GMLB Wilderness North Air Ltd., Thunder Bay, ON. Based Waweig Lake, ON. Regd 13-Jun-1995. Canx 11-Jan-1996.

• C-GMLB 1103420 Ontario Ltd., (Wilderness North Air Ltd), Thunder Bay, ON. Based Waweig Lake, ON. Re-regd 11-Jan-1996. Canx 25-Sep-1996.

• C-GMLB Wilderness North Air Ltd., Oshkosh, WI. Based Waweig Lake, ON. Re regd 09-Mar-2000 & 07-Aug-2001. Canx 16-Jan-2002

• N10708 Northern Aircraft Leasing Inc., Oshkosh, WI. Regd 14-Feb-2002. (An associate company of Wilderness North Air Ltd). Canx 20-May-2004.

Airworthiness date: 11-Jun-2002.

• N10708 On lease to Alaska Air Taxi Inc., Anchorage, AK. Summer 2002.

Total time: At May-2003 11,257 hours.

• C-GMLB 1401380 Ontario Ltd., (Waweig Air), Armstrong, ON. Based Waweig Lake.  Regd 02-Jun-2004, 03-Jun-2004, 18-Apr-2006 with address at Thunder Bay, & 24-Nov-2006. Canx 08-May-2010. Re regd 18-Aug-2010. Canx 07-Mar-2014.

• C-GMLB Thunderhook Camps Inc., Armstrong, ON. Regd 07-Mar-2014. Canx 11-Jun-2014.

• C-GMLB Fort Frances Sportsmen Airways Ltd., Fort Frances, ON. Canx 22-Apr-2015. Regd 31-Aug-2017.

Current

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Otter 359 was delivered to the RCAF on 4 May 1960 with serial 9403. The Otter was assigned to 402 Squadron, Winnipeg, which it joined on 18 May. As the Squadron history recounts: “In May 1960 the Squadron was equipped with two Otter aircraft (9403 and 9405) which joined the Squadron’s eight Beech C-45 Expeditors. The Otter proved to be a highly versatile aircraft and greatly increased the scope of operations. On 1 April 1961 the Squadron was transferred to Air Transport Command. This change brought the additional responsibility of the provision of regular service flights from Winnipeg west to Saskatoon as well as to many northern points and by 1964 two additional Otters (9415 and 9416) had been added to the Squadron inventory”.

In March 1963 the Squadron’s Otters were used to operate “Flying Doctor” medical services to Armstrong and Gypsumville. As well as transport taskings, the Otters participated in SAR missions, an example being on 17 November 1963 when both 9403 and 9405 (363) flew on ‘SAR MacDonald’ searching for a Piper PA22 CF-IGO missing en route from Winnipeg to Kenora. Also on this search were an Albatross and three C-47s from 111 Rescue Unit, the two Otters and six C-45s from 402 Squadron. Otter 9403 actually found the Piper, which was on its back, but both occupants were unhurt. Albatross 9309 dropped survival equipment and the two survivors were later rescued by helicopter.

By 1965 there were still four Otters on strength with 402 Squadron and from 6 November the Otters commenced a “scheduled” freight service each Saturday, flight RF4420 from Winnipeg to Portage, Beausejour and Gimli and return to Winnipeg. Army personnel were flown on inspection tours in northern Manitoba. In February 1965 two of the Otters flew to Snowshoe Lake, north of Lac du Bonnet, to give pilots experience in operating from frozen lakes and to instruct ground crews in caring for aircraft in cold weather. In May 1965 three Otters took part in a search for a missing Stinson on a flight from Snake Falls to Bulging Lake, Ontario. During July the Otters were on summer camp at Penhold, as well as Camp Shilo and Camp Wainright. During August 1965 Otters were stationed at Flin Flon, Manitoba to transport militia personnel engaged in a bridge building exercise. On 19 December 1965 a Squadron Otter dropped Christmas presents for Indian children at Jackhead Harbour on Lake Winnipeg.

Throughout 1966 there were transport taskings, Army co-operation flights, SAR and medevacs. On 16 August 1967 Otter 9403 was slightly damaged at its Winnipeg base. While parking the aircraft after refuelling at a stationary fuel pump, the starboard wingtip was damaged when it contacted a telephone pole guy wire. The damage was repaired and it was soon flying again. It continued flying for 402 Squadron until February 1976 when it was transferred to No.1 Air Reserve Wing, St.Hubert, Québec which it joined on 1 March 1976, for use by 401 and 438 Squadrons.  9403 served at St.Hubert for more than four years, until 1 August 1981 when it departed to the Mountain View storage depot. On 9 December 1981 it was entrusted to the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation (CADC) and was sold at auction in February 1982, advertised as having 8,189 hours total time.

9403 was one of seven Canadian military Otters bought by Newcal Aviation Inc of Little Ferry, New Jersey, a company which traded in DHC aircraft and spare parts. By Bill of Sale 25 May 1982 the CADC transferred ownership of the Otter to Newcal Aviation for a price of $50,000.   9403 was registered N3125H to Newcal Aviation in June 1982. All seven Otters were flown from the Mountain View depot to an airstrip in Decatur, Texas where they were in outside storage for some years before being sold on. Eventually a buyer was found and by Bill of Sale 17 November 1987 Newcal Aviation sold N3125H to 382820 Ontario Ltd., (Wings North Fly-In Outfitters & Charter Air Services) of O’Sullivan Lake, Orillia, Ontario.

Wings North flew a Cessna 185 and two Beavers and the Otter was acquired to replace one of the Beavers. Marks C-GMLB were allocated for the Otter and in January 1988 it was ferried from Decatur to Barrie, Ontario. It was overhauled there and painted into an orange overall scheme with white cheatline. It was inspected there on 29 February 1988, its total time by then 8,216 hours, an increase of 18 hours as a result of its journey to Texas and back. On 14 April 1988 it was flown from Barrie via Goderich to its new base at Orillia and it was formally registered C-GMLB to Wings North on 28 April 1988 and entered service flying their fishing guests, hunters and tourists. It was to fly for Wings North for five years, until the company as closed down at the end of the summer 1992 season. By then the Otter’s time had increased to 9,067 hours.

By Bill of Sale 9 May 1993 Wings North sold the Otter to 988533 Ontario Ltd., and this company leased C-GMLB to Huron Air & Outfitters Inc of Armstrong-McKenzie Lake for the summer 1993 season. By Bill of Sale 1 January 1994 988533 Ontario Ltd., sold the Otter to Aircraft Investments Inc., of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This was the company of John J. (Jack) Mark, who had come to Canada from Oshkosh and developed a passion for flying in the Ontario wilderness. He founded Wilderness North Air in 1990 and also Waweig Lake Outfitters. On 14 March 1994 Otter C-GMLB was leased to Waweig Lake Outfitters Ltd., of Waweig Lake in the Thunder Bay District of Ontario and was registered to that company and flew for the company for summer 1994.

Over the winter of 1994 / 1995 the Otter was converted to a DHC-3T Vazar Otter with a PT-6A-135 turbine engine, the work carried out by Recon Air at Geraldton, Ontario. There were a number of associated companies providing outfitting services in the Thunder Bay District, including Waweig Lake Outfitters, Waweig Air, Wilderness North Outfitters and Wilderness North Air and for the next few years C-GMLB flew for these companies during the summer seasons, flying their fishing lodge guests and was in storage each winter. This continued until December 2001 when the Otter was transferred to Northern Aircraft Leasing Inc of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, another Jack Mark company. On 16 January 2002 the Canadian registration was cancelled and the Otter registered N10708 to Northern Aircraft Leasing and together with Otter N10704 (44) headed to Alaska for a lease to Alaska Air Taxi LLC., of Anchorage.

This company picked up both turbine Otters at Geraldton. N10708 remained in its orange overall scheme with white cheatline but acquired Alaska Air Taxi titles on the fuselage and floats. Both Otters were flown first to Thunder Bay, Ontario where some work was performed on the radios. The two Otters then flew on together through Saskatchewan to Grand Prairie, Alberta where they were weathered in for five days and then onwards via Watson Lake and Whitehorse to Anchorage. Both Otters were in service during the summer of 2002, flying from Lake Hood, Anchorage on floats. They were used to service fishing and hunting lodges and fly tourists.

Both Otters were put into storage at Anchorage over the winter of 2002/ 2003 and put up for sale by their owner, Northern Aircraft Leasing, in May 2003. N10708 was advertised as having 11,257 hours total time, Part 135 certified, with an asking price of $1,100,000 to include wheels, skis and floats. A sale did not materialise and both Otters were flown back to Ontario. On 2 June 2004 the Otter reverted to C-GMLB and was registered to 1401380 Ontario Ltd (Waweig Air) and flew again from Armstrong-McKenzie Lake, also flying for associated company Wilderness North Air. It joined Otter C-FYCX (44, the former N10704) and C-FQND (233), giving Waweig Air/Wilderness North Air a fleet of three turbine Otters.

Wilderness North Air was one of Canada’s top providers of fly-in fishing vacations, with sixteen outpost camps and five lodges within the Ogoki and Albany River watersheds in Northwest Ontario. As well as the three turbine Otters, it also operated a number of Beavers and used its “De Havilland Air Force” to move its customers to and from the lodges and out to the camps. It also had three AT-802 Air Tractors modified to carry fuel to the lodges and to customers throughout northern Ontario. C-GMLB is mentioned on CADORS for an incident on 6 June 2008. The turbine Otter was en route from Ogoki Lake to Waweig Lake. The aircraft encountered low cloud and the pilot diverted the flight to a company base at Mojokit Lake but the aircraft encountered more low cloud and struck the branch of a tree. The pilot climbed on top of the cloud and proceeded to Lake Nipigon and landed without further incident. The company dispatched another aircraft to pick up the passengers. C-GMLB had sustained damage to its water rudder and leading edge of the wing. The damage was repaired and the Otter returned to service.

Wilderness North Air was based on Waweig Lake, Armstrong which is a three hour drive north out of the town of Thunder Bay. As well as for hunters and tourists, the Otters were primarily used to fly guests to fishing lodges in the wilderness areas of northern Ontario, a remote and beautiful land. As one guest described a flight in the Otter: “We lifted off Waweig Lake and winged our way north. The landscape below changed constantly. Logging roads petered out and endless miles of lakes, bogs, streams, rivers, pine and spruce forest stretched to all horizons. We came in over Whitewater and flew low over the bay at Striker’s Point before making a smooth landing”. After some days fishing at the Striker’s Point Lodge, the guests were collected by the Otter. “The flight back to Wilderness North’s base on Waweig Lake was excellent. Sun glistened off deep blue lakes. Black bog waters contrasted with the gold and red of autumn’s lichen and mosses. The feeling of arriving back into civilisation came with the sighting of logging roads, the rail line, Armstrong, then Waweig Lake”. At the end of the summer 2013 season Otter C-FQND was sold, as was C-GMLB, leaving only C-FYCX in service with Wilderness North Air/Waweig Air.

The buyer of C-GMLB was Thunderhook Camps Inc., of Armstrong, Ontario, to whom it was registered on 7 March 2014, as it was prepared for service. It joined Beaver C-FSRX and Cessna 180 C-FSRQ. The company operates six fishing camps in the Wabakimi Wilderness Provincial Park and the Otter would be used alongside the other aircraft to fly the fishing guests from Armstrong to the camps, including the main lodge known as Smoothrock Camp. The company also used its aircraft to support moose hunters and for wilderness canoe trips. On 11 June 2014 C-GMLB was registered to Fort Frances Sportsmen Airways Ltd., Fort Frances, Ontario for operation on behalf of Thunderhook Camps. In the years that followed it would spend the summers flying out of Armstrong and the winters stored / on maintenance at Fort Frances and that remained the position as at spring 2018.

ull 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.