Otter 400 was delivered to Miron et Frères Ltée of Montréal on 15th June 1961, registered CF- AGM. Miron et Frères (Miron Brothers) were a well known family from Montréal who had built up a very successful cement business and who also had extensive interests in racehorses. The principals were Adrien and Gerard Miron, who also operated a number of aircraft for their personal and business use. They had a seven hundred acre farm at St. Augustin, where the aircraft were based. The Otter took its registration from their initials (A. G. Miron) and they also flew a PBY Catalina registered CF-MIR (short for Miron) as an executive transport. Also in the fleet was DC-3 CF-HGD and later CF-QCM, making for quite an interesting aviation operation. They had previously operated Otter CF-EYY (19).
Otter CF-AGM was operated by Miron et Frères for just over two years, until it was badly damaged in an accident on 22nd September 1963. It was taking off from Lac Arlette for a flight to St. Michel-des-Saintes with ten passengers on board. The engine failed on take off and the Otter came down heavily on the water, splitting one float and damaging the other. All on board escaped, but the Otter sank. That was the end of its service with Miron et Frères, but they acquired another Otter CF-ROD (440) to replace it.
The insurers of CF-AGM sold it to Canadian Underwater Services of Pierrefonds, Québec who fished it out of the lake and had it rebuilt over the winter of 1963 / 1964. Its Certificate of Airworthiness was renewed on 12 May 1964, after the rebuild was completed, and on 27 May it was registered to J.P. Huneault, I. A. March and D. L. Beatty, the principals of Canadian Underwater Services as CF-AGM. They used it for a nearly a year, flying 57 hours to increase its total time to 467 hours and on 30 April 1965 its Certificate of Registration was amended to a commercial use, and the Otter was leased that day to Gander Aviation Ltd., of Gander, Newfoundland.
Gander Aviation Ltd., was the company of a William J. Bennett and its first Otter, flown for summer 1965, was CF-WJB (183), which took Mr Bennett’s initials as its registration. It was joined by CF-AGM and the company would later fly several more Otters. With Gander Aviation the Otters were used on general charter work and often carried technicians who were installing telephone service in isolated communities not on the road network, as well as transporting hydro workers and equipment for generator breakdowns in remote communities. They were also used to transport passengers to icebound islands such as Fogo and Twillingate when these islands did not have a ferry service during the winter months. The Otters could move forty to fifty passengers and six thousand pounds of freight daily.
AGM continued flying for Gander Aviation until June 1967, after which it was overhauled and then in December 1967 it was leased by its owners to Eastern Provincial Airways (1963) Ltd., who although they had a head office in Gander, their bush aircraft including Otters flew out of Goose Bay in Labrador, to where AGM was sent. Eastern Provincial subsequently bought the Otter from Canadian Underwater Services and it was registered to Eastern Provincial Airways (1963) Ltd., on 3 October 1969. Unfortunately it met with another accident, just as Eastern Provincial were in the process of selling off their bush division in a management buyout. The accident happened on 28 July 1970 after the pilot had landed on Lake Melville, twenty miles east of Goose Bay, due to adverse weather at Goose. He was step taxying to Goose when he struck an unlighted marker buoy two miles from the seaplane base at Goose, damaging the floats and struts, and for the second time in its existence, AGM sank under the water. Once again it was fished out of the water, and on this occasion transported to Calgary, Alberta for rebuild by Field Aviation.
While the rebuild was under way, the sale by Eastern Provincial of its bush division by way of management buyout continued. On 31 December 1970 the Otter was re-registered C-FAGM and sold by Eastern Provincial to Newfoundland Airways Ltd and on 8 January 1971 a ferry permit was issued for its flight from Calgary back to Goose, as the rebuild had been completed. On 13 January ’71 its Certificate of Airworthiness was issued, by which stage it had a total time 3,412 hours, showing that it had continued busy despite its mishaps. It was registered to Newfoundland Airways Ltd., that day and it continued flying based out of Goose. On 10 November 1971 there was a change of name of the company from Newfoundland Airways Ltd to Labrador Airways Ltd. , when the management buy out was complete.
AGM was to fly for Labrador Airways Ltd., for the next ten years, alongside several more Otters. The Otters were used to provide a network of scheduled services linking Goose Bay with the coastal communities – Nain, Hopedale, Davis Inlet, Makkovik, Postville, Rigolet, Black Tickle, Charlottetown, St.Mary’s Harbour and Williams Harbour. As these communities did not have airfields, service during the summer months was by the Otters on floats and on wheel-skis in winter, landing on the frozen sea ice. This decade of operation was devoid of any incident, and by 1981 AGM’s total time had reached an impressive 12, 234 hours. By that stage Labrador Airways were replacing their Single Otters with DHC-6 Twin Otters on the scheduled services, and disposing of the Single Otters.
On 26 August 1981 .C-FAGM, as it then was, was sold to Newfoundland & Labrador Air Transport Ltd., of Corner Brook, Newfoundland although it remained based at Goose Bay. AGM was one of five Otters operated by this company out of Goose on passenger and freight charters. On 5 March 1982, while hauling freight out of Makkovik, the right hand ski fell off, but was repaired. In January 1983 there was yet another change of owner, to Goose Bay Air Services Ltd., which was a management buy out by staff of the Goose Bay operation of Newfoundland & Labrador Air Transport. AGM was sold to Goose Bay Air Services by Bill of Sale 21 January 1983 and registered to its new owners on 3 March 1983. In August 1983 AGM was re-engined with a Polish PZL-3S engine and at the same time had its Certificate of Airworthiness renewed, total time now increased to 12,645 hours.
A minor incident was recorded on 1 August 1984 at Nachvak Fiord when the Otter struck the stern of a ship, but damage was quickly repaired. The PZL-3S engine did not work very well with the Otter, a fact which was established two weeks later when AGM was taking off from Davis Inlet and the propeller came off. It was converted back to its original P&W R-1340 engine. That worked much better and by the time of its C.of A. renewal in December 1985 total time had increased to 13,177 hours. At that stage AGM had been based at Goose Bay for nearly twenty years, and had gone through all the Otter operators at Goose during this period. Sadly it was to meet its end not far from Goose on 24 March 1986. It was flown on that day by Howard Mercer, who was the president of Goose Bay Air Services Ltd.
That morning the Otter had flown to Snegamook Lake to retrieve a group of partridge hunters but on the return flight to Goose encountered engine trouble. After take off from the lake, the engine began to run rough but improved somewhat when power was reduced in the cruise. As the Otter was approaching Nipishish Lake 47 miles north of Goose the pilot told the company dispatch that the engine was running rough again, but he was able to maintain altitude and would follow the Crooked River toward Goose Bay in case a precautionary landing became necessary. Three minutes later the pilot called dispatch again to report that there was an odour of smoke in the aircraft and that he intended to land on the river but unfortunately he never made it. The Otter struck the ground in a nose-down, left bank attitude at a high vertical speed and was consumed by fire. The pilot and three passengers were killed, while one passenger sustained serious injuries.
When the company dispatch did not receive the expected call that the Otter had landed, a company aircraft was sent to render assistance. Upon arriving at the landing site, the aircraft reported that Otter AGM had crashed and burned. The company aircraft could not land itself due to whiteout conditions. Three helicopters proceeded immediately to the scene from Goose, one chartered by the company, one chartered by the RCMP and the based Canadian military rescue helicopter. It was subsequently determined that a fatigue-initiated crack in a cylinder head had caused the engine to run rough and lose power. While the pilot manoeuvred close to the ground for a landing in whiteout conditions on the frozen, featureless surface of Crooked River, the aircraft struck the surface, rupturing fuel cells and starting a fire. The accident report concluded that given the prevailing weather conditions, the lack of visual references and the aircraft attitude at impact, it was most likely that the pilot had lost depth perception in the whiteout. Otter AGM had a total time of 13,258 hours at its destruction. The registration was cancelled on 6 May 1986.
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)