DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 445

CF-RHW as a roadside attraction near Rosswood, British Columbia.
Photo: Unknown photographer © 01 October 1970 - via Ken Newman
C-FRHW at Vancouver - CYVR, British Columbia.
Photo: John Kimberley © October 1982 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-FRHW visits Ketchikan, Alaska.
Photo: Don Dawson © August 1984 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-FRHW at Seal Cove, Prince Rupert.
Photo: Fred Barnes © 07 June 1990 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-FRHW at Seal Cove, Prince Rupert.
Photo: Karl E. Hayes © September 1999
C-FRHW engine run at Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
Photo: Brent Wallace © September 2003 - Kenneth I. Swartz Collection - Aird Archives
C-FRHW on the trip to Duck Lake, just north of Kelowna airport, British Columbia.
Photos: John W. Olafson © 24 April 2006
C-FRHW at Thompson, Manitoba.
Photo: David P. Brown © 09 March 2020
Photo: David P. Brown © 26 April 2020

c/n 445




• CF-RHW Trans Provincial Air Carriers Ltd., Prince Rupert, BC. Delivered 08-Aug-1964.

• CF-RHW Later re-named Trans Provincial Airlines Ltd.

Accident: Rosswood, BC. 01-Oct-1970. The aircraft collided with trees due to power loss occasioned by a fatigue fracture of the exhaust. Force landed beside a mountain road due engine failure”.

• C-FRHW Re regd to Trans Provincial Airlines Ltd. Circa 1971. Into receivership 19-Mar-1993. Canx 24-Sep-1993.

Accident: 7KM east of Smithers, BC. 12-Jun- 1981 As the pilot was trying to climb to overfly a ridge, the Otter started to lose altitude. Application of more power failed to arrest the rate of descent. The aircraft contacted the surface and travelled a short distance before stopping. The pilot believed he had encountered subsiding air.

Accident: Hepla Lake, BC.04-Mar-1986. The Otter had just taken off from Bank's Island off the BC coast, en route to Seal Cove, Prince Rupert, carrying seventeen empty fuel drums. A cylinder cracked just after take off, resulting in a dramatic loss of power from the engine, and back-firing. The pilot wisely decided that there was insufficient power to manoeuvre and elected to land on the lake surface that remained ahead. At the end of the lake, the Otter's wing struck a tree and the aircraft veered right into the tress and struck a stump on the shore. (See further info. below).

Total time: 18,829 hours circa Mar-1993.

• C-FRHW Hallmark Leasing Corporation, Vancouver, BC. A leasing company of Mr. Trevor Ross. Regd 24-Sep-1993. Canx 04-Oct-1993.

• C-FRHW Leased to Waglisla Air Inc., trading as Wagair, Prince Rupert, BC. Based Bella Bella, BC. Regd 04-Oct-1993. Canx 16-Nov-1995.

• C-FRHW Leased to Inland Air Charters Ltd., based at Prince Rupert, BC. Regd 12-Dec-1995.

• C-FRHW Central Flyway Air (Venture Air), Thompson, MB. Regd 19-Apr-2006, 22-May-2006 & 23-May-2006. Canx 02-Mar-2011.

• C-FRHW Kississing Lake Lodge (Wings over Kississing) Steinbach, MB. Based Thompson, MB. Regd 02-Mar-2011.

 • Current

Otter 445 was delivered to Trans Provincial Air Carriers Ltd, Terrace, BC on 8 August 1964, registered CF-RHW. The company had been formed in 1960 by a group of local businessmen from Terrace and originally operated a Beaver on charter services, later adding a second Beaver. As business expanded it was decided to acquire an Otter and RHW became the company’s first Otter, operated in an all yellow colour scheme with blue trim. It was used on charter work throughout northern BC.

RHW was not long in service when it was seriously damaged. In October 1964 the Otter had landed on the mining airstrip at Galore Creek, north of Terrace. It was loaded with drill steel but its departure was delayed by bad weather and it was forced to overnight. During the night a severe storm arose and the Otter was blown off the airstrip into rocks, and wrecked. It was trucked to Field Aviation in Calgary for rebuild but it was clear from the extent of the damage that it was going to be out of service for some considerable time. Accordingly the company ordered a replacement Otter from DHC, this being CF-ROW (449) which was delivered on 18 November 1964 and Trans Provincial Air Carriers were back in the Otter business. It was joined by RHW when it returned after rebuild some months later.

During 1968 Pacific Western Airlines was divesting itself of its bush operation, and two scheduled routes in northern BC were acquired by Trans Provincial Air Carriers in August 1968 which, as part of the arrangement, also acquired Otter CF-RNO (21) from Pacific Western, along with three Grumman Goose amphibians. As the company would now be operating scheduled services as well as charters, it changed its name to Trans Provincial Airlines Ltd. Otter RNO joined Otters RHW and ROW in the fleet. The Otters were still painted all yellow but there was a change in the styling of the blue trim to a more conventional blue cheatline. Unfortunately Otter ROW was destroyed in an accident on 14 October 1968 but RNO and RHW continued in service on charter work throughout northern BC. In January 1970 Trans Provincial Airlines bought out Omineca Air Services of Burns Lake, BC thus acquiring two more Otters, CF-KLC (255) and CF-XUY (142) which joined the Trans Provincial fleet, to give it a fleet of four Otters.

RHW experienced another incident on 1 October 1970 at Rosswood, BC, thirty miles north of Terrace when it collided with trees due to power loss occasioned by a fatigue fracture of the exhaust. It force landed on a mountain road and struck the trees on either side of the road. It was repaired and returned to service, re-registered C-FRHW. William Lopaschuk was a pilot flying for Trans Provincial and in his excellent book “They call me Lopey – a Saga of Wilderness Flying” he recalls some flights on RHW:

“Another hauling job that tested my flying skills was moving 700 fuel barrels over two winters to the top of a 6,000 foot mountain north of Thutade Lake. Destined for a number of mining camps in the area, the barrels contained aviation gas, stove oil, diesel for the bulldozers and engine oil. Snow conditions were such we could sometimes offload the barrels and be on our way in half an hour. Other times the snow was so deep we had to tramp a solid-surfaced pad on which to unload the drums and then snowshoe a track to get the Otter airborne. Of course the weather had to be all but perfect for these trips. A nice sunny day would provide good visibility and create a shadow effect for the approaches and landings. Whiteout conditions however meant you could overfly and go sliding down the backside of the mountain with a full load”. Clearly life in northern BC was hard both for the Otter and its pilot!

During the late 1970s and early 1980s a business man by the name of Jim Pattison bought up many of the third-level air companies operating in British Columbia, with the intention of creating a unified, regional airline which became Air BC. In May 1979 Trans Provincial Airlines was acquired by the Pattison Group and became part of Air BC but unlike many of the other bush carriers involved Trans Provincial retained its own identity and continued to operate under its own name. Its main base did however change to Seal Cove Seaplane Base at Prince Rupert and it also had a base at Port Hardy at the northern end of Vancouver Island.

Otter C-FRHW was registered to Jim Pattison Industries Ltd., but continued in service with Trans Provincial (now part of Air BC) and met with another accident on 12 June 1981 seven kilometres east of Smithers, BC. As the pilot was trying to climb to overfly a ridge, the Otter started to lose altitude. Application of more power failed to arrest the rate of descent. The aircraft contacted the surface and travelled a short distance before stopping. The pilot believed he had encountered subsiding air. Again the Otter was repaired and returned to service. RHW was at this stage still in the yellow / blue colour scheme and was noted as such at Vancouver in October 1982, on amphibious floats, and also visiting Ketchikan in August 1984. In 1985 however the Trans Provincial Otters, including RHW, received a completely different red, white and blue colour scheme.

Although Air BC had become a successful airline as far as its mainline services were concerned, the same could not be said for the bush services which it operated along the Pacific Coast, and the Pattison Group decided to sell off this bush operation. In October 1986 Gene Storey, Trans Provincial’s Chief Pilot, led a group of investors who bought Trans Provincial from the Pattison Group. The sale included all the assets, apart from the Port Hardy base.

In the meantime, Otter RHW had suffered another incident, on 4 March 1986 at Hepla Lake, BC. The Otter had just taken off from Bank’s Island on the BC coast en route to Seal Cove SPB, Prince Rupert carrying seventeen empty fuel drums. A cylinder cracked just after take-off, resulting in a dramatic loss of power from the engine and back firing. The pilot wisely decided that there was insufficient power to manoeuvre and elected to land on the lake surface that remained ahead. At the end of the lake the Otter’s wing struck a tree and the aircraft veered right into trees and struck a stump on the shore. In the usual wording of the accident report, it was “substantially damaged”.

The wreck was bought back by Trans Provincial Airlines from the insurers for $5,000. It was airlifted by helicopter from the crash site and put on board a barge and taken to Vancouver where it was rebuilt by Aeroflite Industries and registered to Trans Provincial Airlines Ltd. It re-entered service with Trans Provincial, flying alongside Otter KLC. That remained the position for the next few years, by which stage Trans Provincial had substantially increased in size. In addition to its Beavers, Otters and Goose aircraft, it also operated some Twin Otters, three Bristol Freighters and acquired a fleet of six Convair 580s. Sadly, the company was not able to sustain the expenses associated with this expansion and a Receiver was appointed by its creditors on 19 March 1993. The following month RHW, then located at Prince Rupert, was put up for sale by the Receiver. By May 1993 both RHW and KLC were parked at the Vancouver International Airport, both for sale. RHW had a total of 18,829 hours on its airframe, testifying to a very busy existence along BC’s Pacific Coast, where it had served for a remarkable 29 years.

RHW was sold by the Receiver in September 1993 to Hallmark Leasing Corporation of Vancouver. This was the leasing company of Trevor Ross, who had imported the Burmese Air Force Otters back into Canada. The registration of RHW to Trans Provincial Airways was cancelled on 24 September 1993 and the Otter registered to Hallmark Leasing Corporation. A lessee was quickly found, Waglisla Air Inc, trading as Wagair, to whom RHW was registered on 4 October 1993, on lease. It was prepared for service and painted into Wagair’s attractive yellow and green colour scheme at Vancouver, where it was noted in February 1994, prior to its return to Seal Cove SPB at Prince Rupert, from where it would fly for Wagair.

Wagair was a First Nations airline which operated scheduled and charter services along the BC coast and RHW joined Otters C-FWAF (30) and C-FMPY (324) in service with the company. Unfortunately Wagair encountered financial difficulties and ceased trading during 1995. The registration of RHW to Wagair was cancelled on 16 November 1995 and it was returned to the lessor. The following month it was leased to Inland Air Charters Ltd., also based at Seal Cove, and was registered to that company on 12 December 1995. It continued flying from Seal Cove, Prince Rupert, now with its third operator at that location. The Otter was fitted with a larger than usual propeller, taken from a Grumman Albatross, which gave better take-off performance. With Inland Air Charters, the Otter (or a company Beaver, depending on the load) was used on a scheduled service from Seal Cove to Kitkatla and Oona River, as well as charters to the many native villages in the area.

A number of incidents were recorded on CADORS during its operation by Inland Air Charters as follows:

1 July 2002.  While on short final to Seal Cove, RHW commenced a go-around after being cut off by a small boat.

17 June 2003.  RHW reported over Butze Rapids inbound for Seal Cove, two nautical miles south-east. This was its first call to the FSS but there was no pertinent traffic.

6 July 2003.  RHW aborted a landing at Digby Island due to boat traffic in the landing area. It then landed without further incident.

4 August 2003.   Otter RHW called C-GLCP, also an Otter (of Harbour Air) on the mandatory frequency at Seal Cove and engaged in conversation prior to calling the FSS.  LCP departed Seal Cove en route to Digby Island without calling for an advisory.

27 April 2004.  Otter RHW on floats, flying from Sea Cove, indicated it would like to make a low pass over the runway at Prince Rupert Airport, with no intention of landing. FSS did not advise a vehicle operator that was on the runway of the aircraft’s intentions, nor did it advise the Otter that there was a vehicle on the runway. The vehicle saw the Otter on finals, exited the runway and was clear at the time of the overhead pass.

Otter RHW continued in service with Inland Air Charters, based at Seal Cove, Prince Rupert until March 2006. When it left Seal Cove that month it had been serving the BC Pacific Coast for 42 years. It now headed east for the next phase of its career. It arrived at AOG Aircraft at Kelowna, BC to have some work done before sale to a new owner. The Otter, on straight floats, landed on Duck Lake and was then put on beaching gear and brought to the AOG facility where over the next few weeks it had the BARON STOL modification incorporated. It was registered to its new owners, Central Flyway Air Inc., of Thompson, Manitoba on 19 April 2006. It left Kelowna on its delivery on 24 April and John Olafson was privileged to be present. He describes the scene:

“I followed C-FRHW on its very interesting journey from Kelowna Airport to Duck Lake. The machine they use to move floatplanes is ideally suited to this task and the operator did an incredible job of safely moving the Otter to the lake. Its first obstacle was a very rough cattle guard to cross, and a dusty trip through a cattle ranch, then a crossing over a railway, followed by a trek through a ginseng farm and finally to the lake shore, where it was fuelled and then launched and flown out. A very rough trip, but expertly carried out by the AOG crew. Some places along that ‘road’, the Otter was banked over at close to 45 degrees. A few poplar trees had to be sacrificed along the way. A job well done and another Otter goes back to work”.

The onward delivery flight that day was also full of drama, as reported on CADORS, the routing being from the lake at Kelowna to Edmonton and then to Thompson: “At 6:29pm the pilot of C-FRHW advised the Edmonton Terminal Departure Controller that he was at 7,500 feet, three nautical miles south west of Wizard Lake, inbound to Cooking Lake. He was instructed to squawk 5271 on the transponder. At 6:31pm the crew of Air North flight ANT 508, a Boeing 737-200 (en route Calgary-Edmonton-Whitehorse) advised the Edmonton Arrival Controller that they had just passed in close proximity to an aircraft. The 737 crew indicated that no target had been present on their TCAS. The Departure Controller instructed the pilot of RHW to orbit in his present position and re-cycle his transponder. The Otter was then descended to 4,500 feet as the target could not be identified. As the CADORS report concluded – “safety was not assured when RHW failed to contact the Terminal Controller prior to entering Class C Airspace”. The remainder of the delivery flight from Cooking Lake, Edmonton to Thompson, Manitoba was conducted without incident and RHW entered service with Central Flyway Air, which used the trading name of Venture Air, based at the Burntwood River Seaplane Base at Thompson.

Venture Air was a family-owned flight charter company, the owner and chief pilot being Jon Boychuk. The Otter joined Beaver CF-JOF, a Beech Baron and a Cessna 185. Mr Boychuk arranged for the Otter to be converted to a Garrett-powered Texas Turbine Otter, the work being carried out by Recon Air at Geraldton, Ontario over the winter of 2007 / 2008, conversion # 32. Its first task as a turbine Otter was to fly north to Baker Lake, Nunavut to operate on behalf of Ookpik Aviation, which it did in May 2008. This company was the owner of Turbo Otter C-FPEN (439) but did not as yet have its own Aircraft Operator’s Certificate (AOC). Accordingly PEN was registered to Venture Air for operation on behalf of Ookpik Aviation and as occasion required Venture Air’s own Otter RHW deployed north to Baker Lake and flew for Ookpik. A few CADORS reports feature RHW during this period:

On 22 July 2008 the pilot of the Venture Air Otter landed RHW on the apron at Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay), instead of on the runway. The next day he did the same thing, due to excessive crosswinds on the runway. The following is a description of an incident involving RHW on 23 August 2008: “The Venture Air turbo Otter began its take-off roll on tundra at a survey camp at Amer Lake, Nunavut. Immediately after rotation the left main landing gear struck a wooden crate and empty fuel barrels, which had been dropped off on the inbound flight and the tail wheel struck a survey worker standing nearby. The aircraft continued to climb and then returned and landed without incident. The Otter had departed perpendicular to the marked runway path due to a helicopter parked at the end of the marked runway. While the pilot felt that enough distance was available to clear the objects, flaps had not been selected for the take-off. The pilot was unaware that a person was standing among the objects and did not know that the aircraft had hit anything until after the take-off”.

In April 2009 Ookpik Aviation obtained its own AOC and RHW thereafter flew for Venture Air out of its seaplane base at Thompson. Another CADORS report for 17 September 2009 mentions RHW departing northbound off the Thompson water aerodrome without contacting the FSS – “C-FRHW had departed and arrived earlier in the day and was able to contact the FSS via the mandatory frequency while taxying on the water. RHW also has a Mode A transponder and does not display altitude on radar”.

Early in 2011 Venture Air as a company was sold to Kississing Lake Lodge Ltd., of Steinbach, Manitoba, to whom C-FRHW was registered on 2 March 2011. The Kississing family brand started when Curt and Juanita Emms purchased Kississing Lake Lodge & Outposts from Curt’s parents in 1990. In 2007 Wings over Kississing was born after Jackson Air Services sold its Flin Flon operation to them. The company operates a number of Otters on behalf of its own lodge, also flying on behalf of other lodge operators. With its new owner, Otter RHW remained based at Thompson, Manitoba.

Over the years that followed, a number of incidents have been recorded on CADORS:

4 July 2012.  RHW departed the Thompson water base and a short time later the pilot advised the FSS he was returning due to a high oil pressure indication. The Otter land safely. It turned out to be an indication problem only. Maintenance rectified the problem and RHW returned to service.

25 July 2013.  RHW flying from Oxford Lake to the Thompson water base, squawked 7600 due to radio failure. The pilot called the Thompson FSS to advise on his cell phone.

30 May 2016.  RHW flying from Pickle Lake to the Thompson water base. The pilot reported on finals and said he would report when down, but didn’t. FSS called the Thompson Fire Paramedic Service out to search. The pilot phoned later that he had missed the down and clear call.

8 July 2016.  RHW did not call down at Churchill.  RCMP dispatched to investigate. RHW confirmed safe when it called for departure advisory.

20 December 2016.  At St.Theresa Point, Manitoba C-FGKL a Cargo North Turbo DC-3 was departing to Red Lake. It was already on the runway back-tracking for departure, behind Otter RHW which had just landed, when it made its initial call to air traffic on the mandatory frequency.  As can be seen, Otter RHW was active not only during the summer months but also in the depths of winter.

4 June 2017.  RHW reported entering the Thompson mandatory frequency area, inbound to Thompson.  There was no further contact. Emergency services established that the Otter had landed safely.

As of summer 2018, Otter RHW remained in service with Wings over Kississing, based at Thompson, its 54th year of operation since it was first delivered in 1964.

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.