DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 59

N2634Y in slow flight, over San Juan Islands, Washington.
Photo: Karl E. Hayes © September 1999
N2634Y taking her break at Burlington - Skagit, Washington.
Photo: Kenneth I. Swartz © 17 August 1999
C-GIWQ in long term store at Victoria - CYYJ, British Columbia.
Photo: Unknown photographer © August 2007 - Michael J. Ody Collection
Otter c/n 59 a "lady-in-waiting" shot at Kenmore.
Photo: Neil Aird © 11 July 2015
N708KA eighth Turbine for Kenmore Air.
Photo: Steve Bjorling © Late December 2015
N708KA earning her keep.
Photo: Nigel Hitchman © 26 August 2017

c/n 59

3692 • N2634Y • C-FBNI • N2634Y • C-GIWQ

N708KA

X

 3692 Royal Canadian Air Force. Delivered on 17-Dec-1954.

Note: It was withdrawn from service during 1981 and flown to the Mountain View Storage Depot, and put up for disposal by the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation.

Total hours: 7,752 hours at Feb 1982.

• N2634Y Newcal Aviation Inc., Little Ferry, NJ. Regd Jan-1983. Stored at Decatur, TX.

• N2634Y Aeronautical Services Inc., Friday Harbour, WA. Regd Oct-1987.

Note: A complete overhaul by Victoria Air Maintenance, Vancouver Island, BC taking out the plush sofas and old, heavy military radios ( It had been used as a VIP transport with the RCAF) and converting the Otter into an efficient freighter. Completed Apr-1988.

C-FBNI Victoria Air Maintenance, Victoria, BC. For certification flight.

• N2634Y Aeronautical Services Inc., Friday Harbour, WA.

Total hours: 13,165 hrs.

• N2634Y Time Tool Inc., Hillsboro, OR. Regd 08-Feb-2001. Canx 18-May-2001.

Note: It made the short flight to Sidney, BC where Viking Air put the Otter on floats and overhauled it.

• C-GIWQ Viking Air Ltd., Sidney, BC.

• C-GIWQ Points North Air Services Inc., La Ronge, SK.. Based Points North Landing, SK Regd 04-Jun-2001. Canx 07-Sep-2001.

• C-GIWQ Viking Air Ltd., Sidney, BC. Still in storage at Victoria Dec-2004.

• N2634Y Kenmore Air Harbor, Kenmore, WA. Regd 03-Apr-2014.

• N708KA Change of Registration pending 08-Oct-2015. Test flight was anticipated late December 2015.

Note: Eighth turbine Otter in Kenmore fleet. Vazar system.

Current

x

Otter 59 was delivered to the RCAF on 17th December 1954 with serial 3692. It went initially to No.6 Repair Depot, Trenton for storage as a reserve aircraft, being allocated in July 1955 to 102 Communications & Rescue Unit at Trenton. It returned to DHC at Downsview in March 1956 for incorporation of All Up Weight modifications and on completion of the work in September 1956 was loaned by the RCAF to DHC for experimental purposes, based at Downsview.

3692 became known as “The Quiet Otter”, having been modified by DHC in May 1957 to see how quietly an Otter could be made to fly. The modification is described well by Sean Rossiter in his book “Otter and Twin Otter”: “First, a five-wooden-blade propeller, with each blade paddle width and the pitch fixed at a fine, nearly flat setting, was installed. Downstream effects of what looked from the cockpit like a solid flickering disc when it was spinning were revealed by taping tufts to the aft end of the engine cowling. The pitch had to be manually adjusted on the ground between flights to find the optimum angle. The penalty of the five fine-pitch paddle bladed airscrew was poor take-off performance and low cruise speed. Two huge automobile-type mufflers were hung on each side of the fuselage, and a single narrow pipe was run from the engine's manifold through the mufflers to pipes that ran back to the freight door. Later the mufflers were relocated into the airplane cabin and a different gearbox was tried on the engine. Various small aerodynamic experiments were carried out on the leading edges of the Otter's wing, including stall bars taped about three feet out from the cockpit on each side”. Tests were conducted at Downsview and also at Patuxent River NAS, Maryland.

Upon completion of the trials, the Otter was returned to standard configuration, and in June 1959 went back into storage with 6 Repair Depot. In April 1960 it was made ready for its next assignment, requiring the work of three men for a week to prepare it. It flew north to Goose Bay where it joined the Station Flight on 4th May 1960, replacing 3681 which went to DHC for an inspection. 3692 remained at Goose until 19th December 1960 when it flew to Greenwood, Nova Scotia for its next posting, with 103 Rescue Unit. By that stage, 3681 had returned to Goose Bay. 3692 served at Greenwood until May 1961, when it went back into storage with 6 Repair Depot until October '61, when it re-joined 102 Communications Unit at Trenton. It returned to 6 Repair Depot in October 1962 and remained in storage until March 1965 when it was allocated to 438 Squadron, St.Hubert, where it was to serve for the next 16 years.

During its long service with 438 Squadron two minor incidents were recorded. On 16th April 1966 while conducting an aerial reconnaissance sortie, the pilot flew into trees, resulting in “C” category damage to the starboard wing and both landing gear struts. The damage was repaired. Thirteen years later on 11th February 1979 there was another incident in the course of a cross-country navigation training flight. During the flight, a vehicle was observed on a lake and it appeared to be in difficulty. The pilot descended to fifty feet to see if any assistance was required. Once by the vehicle, as the aircraft was flown between an island and a point on the mainland over the lake, a small 'bang' was heard, followed by a whine. A slight lurch was felt and a wire was observed trailing three feet behind the right wing. The Otter recovered safely to base.

3692 continued in service with 438 Squadron and in its last years of service it was a “VIP Otter”, plushly outfitted with sofas and the like. It was withdrawn from service during 1981 and flown to the Mountain View Storage Depot, where it was one of 18 Otters put up for disposal by the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation. It was one of 12 Otters put up for sale in February 1982, advertised as having total airframe time of 7,752 hours. It did not sell, and was included as one of the final seven Otters put up for sale in September 1982. The purchaser was Newcal Aviation Inc of Little Ferry, New Jersey, a company which specialises in supplying parts for DHC aircraft. It purchased seven of the 18 Otters sold by Crown Assets. 3692 was registered to Newcal Aviation Inc as N2634Y in January 1983 and along with the other six they purchased, was flown from Mountain View to a small grass airfield near Decatur, Texas where all seven were tied down out in the open and put up for sale.

It appears that the market for second-hand Otters was somewhat flat at the time, as these Otters were to languish in the open at Decatur for some years. However, they were all eventually sold, including N2634Y which was purchased by Aeronautical Services Inc of Friday Harbour, Washington in October 1987. The company's pilot arrived at Decatur to collect the new acquisition, which looked somewhat the worse for wear after its five years under the Texan sun and rain. Some of the others were in worse shape. Having been exposed to severe winds, they had been so rocked that both wingtips were bent. The pilot managed to get N2634Y started and it performed well on the 16 hour ferry flight, routing Decatur, Texas - Goodland, Kansas - Rock Springs, Wyoming - Baker, Oregon - Friday Harbour. It was later flown the twenty miles or so across the water to Sidney, BC on Vancouver Island where Victoria Air Maintenance gave it a complete overhaul, taking out the plush sofas and old, heavy military radios and converting the Otter into an efficient freighter.It was also painted in Aeronautical Services attractive blue colour scheme, this work being completed in April 1988.

While at Sidney, the Otter was registered to Victoria Air Maintenance as C-FBNI, as the Canadian Department of Transport had to certify the work done on the aircraft, but would not inspect an American registered aircraft. Accordingly, it was Canadian registered for the occasion, performed its test flight as such, once around the circuit at Sidney and then reverted to N2634Y, entering service as such with Aeronautical Services that month. It joined Aeronautical Services other two Otters N98T (181) and N357AS (357), servicing a UPS contract flying small packages around the San Juan Islands, an archipelago to the northwest of Seattle, between mainland Washington State and Canada's Vancouver Island. On rare occasions, all three Otters flew together in formation, which certainly was some sight and sound. The last time this occurred however was a sad affair. The company's president had been killed in the crash of a Beech Bonanza in October 1992 and during the memorial ceremonies at Friday Harbour, all three Otters flew overhead in a formation tribute.
N98T was sold in June 1993 but throughout the decade of the 1990s N357AS and N2634Y maintained the unique UPS Otter service.

The pattern of operation was for the Otters to overnight at the Bayview/Skagit Airport near Burlington on the mainland. Here each weekday morning the two Otters were loaded with UPS cargo brought in by truck, and they took off around 0730 hours, arriving at Friday Harbour thirty minutes later. The two Otters usually flew over together and sometimes advised air traffic control that they were a “twin Otter” flight! On arrival at Friday Harbour, which is located on San Juan Island itself, the cargo destined for that island was unloaded and delivered around the island by truck. The two Otters then departed on separate circuits around the other islands, distributing the packages they had brought in and collecting outgoing cargo for delivery to the mainland. The Otters arrived back at Friday Harbour around midday and remained there until 14:20 in the afternoon. By that stage the outgoing cargo from San Juan Island had been collected by the trucks and was loaded aboard the Otters, which then returned to Bayview / Skagit on the mainland. From there the cargo was trucked down to Seattle and entered the UPS mainline system. The two Otters remained at Bayview until the next morning, and then repeated the process all over again.

By 21st September 1999 N2634Y had increased its total airframe time to 13,165 hours. An incident was recorded on 3rd May 2000, as reported in the San Juan Islander newspaper: “An Aeronautical Services plane made an impromptu landing in a field of potatoes near Bayview Airport, Skagit County the morning of Tuesday, May 3rd. The single-engine Otter loaded with UPS packages, popped a cylinder after leaving the airport at 10 am. The engine started losing power, so the pilot turned the plane around and headed back toward the airport. Fearing the laden aircraft might not make it back to Bayview, the pilot landed the plane in a tater patch. The plane was not damaged. Otters are equipped with large wheels that enable them to land on bumpy ground. Aeronautical emptied the plane of freight and flew over a mechanic who installed a new cylinder. The Otter was back in service the next day. “We flew it right out of the field” the company's president said, noting that Otters could take off in very short distances. The Otter continued is use until November 2000 by which stage the unique cargo Otter operation of Aeronautical Services was coming to an end. The growth in cargo had exceeded even the Otter's capacity by that stage and a revised pattern of distribution saw the cargo move around the islands by large trucks on the ferries. N2634Y was sold to Time Tool Inc., of Hillsboro, Oregon. It made the short flight to Sidney, BC where Viking Air put the Otter on floats and overhauled the aircraft for its new owners, to whom it was registered on 8th February 2001. The new owners had premises on an island in the San Juans, the Otter being acquired as a means of transport to the island. It was not long however before the Otter was sold on to Viking Air Ltd., of Victoria/Sidney, BC on Vancouver Island, intended for conversion as their third turbine Otter.

The Otter was not immediately required for this purpose and was accordingly leased to Points North Air Services Inc of La Ronge, Saskatchewan as C-GIWQ on 31st May 2001. It flew for them on floats until returned off lease to Viking Air. It was noted at Victoria in July 2002 with the fuselage detached from the wings at Viking Air's facility. At the “DHC Out-of-Production Aircraft Conference” held at Victoria between 18th and 20th October 2002, hosted by Viking Air, which also celebrated the Otter's 50th anniversary, C-GIWQ occupied pride of place, suspended from the ceiling of Viking's hangar, above the delegates attending the conference. It still carried the Aeronautical Services colour scheme. It remained in storage after the conference, awaiting turbine conversion. It was still in storage in Victoria in December 2004. It was trucked to Kenmore, converted and is currently in service as a Vazar-Turbine with Kenmore Air, Washington.

History courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).

Courtesy of Ian Butter: This aircraft, together with N357AS (357), as noted above, worked on the inter-island cargo service around the San Juan Islands for many years which is outlined in an excellent article by Karl and Eamon, with photos in Issue 81 of Propliner magazine (Winter 1999).

[See below]

ISLAND OTTERS
by
Karl E. Hayes & Eamon Power

This article appears in 'Propliner' magazine and I am grateful to the Editor Tony Merton Jones for permission to reproduce the story and the more so to Karl and Eamon who wrote it.

Travel to the San Juan Islands situated off North America's Pacific coastline to take a look at the unique operations of Aeronautical Services

To quote from a previous commentary on the subject, "Rolling under the Otter's wings was a lush panorama of celadon islands, sparkling sapphire water dotted with the occasional ferryboat, wildflowers playing out a banquet of colour, pastoral farmland, azure ponds and lakes, tall pine and fir trees - a visual feast for the pilot's eye at low altitude".

The location so eloquently described by the writer is the San Juan Islands, situated some 90 miles northwest of Seattle, an archipelago between mainland Washington State and Canada's Vancouver Island. The Otter referred to is one operated by Aeronautical Services Inc., and the quote comes from a fall 1993 article published in 'Airliners' magazine, which first brought this unique operation to the attention of aviation enthusiasts.

FORMER MILITARY OTTER

There are more than 100 islands, many of them very small and uninhabited, but twenty or so of the larger islands are inhabited year round. The islands also have a strong tourist industry during the summer months. To service the islands, bringing around the mail, passengers and freight, Aeronautical Services Inc., was formed in 1973 based at Friday Harbor, the capital of the San Juan Islands. The company started in a small way with a single Cessna 206, but prospered and built up a fleet of Cessna 207's. In 1980 an associated company, West Isle Air, took over the passenger operation with a fleet of single-engined Cessna's, leaving Aeronautical Services to fly the freight. It was awarded a contract by United Parcels Service (UPS) to service the San Juan Islands on their behalf and for the contract the company acquired its first DHC-3 Otter N357AS, a former Canadian Air Forces machine, which was still in its military scheme when delivered to Friday Harbor on July 20 1985.

This Otter, which took its registration from its constructor's number (c/n 357), was first delivered to the RCAF in May 1960 as serial 9402 and spent most of its military career based at St Hubert, Montreal. It was one of the final twenty Otters in Canadian military service, placed into storage at the Mountain View, Trenton, Ontario storage depot and offered for sale by the Canadian Assets Disposal Corporation. It was acquired in November 1982 by aircraft broker Mike Hackman Aircraft Sales, registered C-GVMC. Its logbook records its lengthy ferry flight to the Hackman base at Edmonton, Alberta, leaving Mountain View on November 28 1982, and routing to Port Huron-Marshall-Battle Creek, Michigan-La Crosse, Wisconsin-Pierre, South Dakota-Glasgow, North Dakota-Edmonton, where it arrived on December 5 1982 after a ferry flight lasting 25 hours.

Its next operator was King's Construction Ltd., of Grimshaw, Alberta, who used the aircraft during 1983 and 1984, still painted in its military scheme. The log book records flights from Edmonton and Grimshaw to locations where construction projects were on-going, with pilot King at the controls, to remote locations such as Peace River, Vtikuma, Shaftesbury, Lubicon, Talbot and Joker Lake. During the winter, the Otter flew on wheel-ski's, enabling it to land on the frozen lakes. In 1985, the Otter was sold to Aeronautical Services, and flew Edmonton-Boeing Field-Friday Harbor on July 20 1985 on delivery. Two days later it was registered N357AS and awarded its American certificate of airworthiness. It was still painted in Canadian military scheme, which it was to retain for several more years, before being repainted into the attractive Aeronautical Services blue paint scheme that she displays today.

FLEET EXPANSION

The massive Otter brought a useful 3000 lb of payload to the Aeronautical Services operation, and proved ideally suited to plying the islands. So impressed with the Otter operation were UPS that they asked the company to service a contract between Long Beach, California and Catalina Island, and for this task a second Otter was acquired, N98T, which joined the fleet in September 1986. Unlike the first Otter, N98T had no military background. It had been delivered in 1956 to Taxi Air Group of Detroit and used on a pioneering inter-city shuttle operation between downtown Detroit and Cleveland during the summer months and between points in Florida during the winter. This lasted until 196, after which N98T served as a bush aircraft in Alaska, first with Sea Airmotive and later with Peninsula Airways, with whom it distinguished itself by crashing five times, testifying to the rugged nature of the bush Otter. Its last prang was in July 1981 at South Naknek, Alaska, after which it was trucked down to Seattle for a lengthy rebuild. Completely restored, it was acquired by Aeronautical Services, who went on to operate it for seven years without a single incident.

The company established a branch at Long Beach, California, where one of the Otters was based, flying daily out to Catalina Island and continued to fly the other Otter around the San Juan Islands. The Long Beach based Otter returned to Friday Harbor every six months, both for reasons of maintenance and because it saved having to pay a California State tax if the aircraft was only in the state for six months. This led to numerous 'Otter swaps', when the Long Beach Otter headed north, exchanging roles with the San Juan based aircraft which migrated south. Although a fine aircraft in every respect, it has to be said that the DHC-3 does not go very fast, which led to some length ferry flights. On one occasion, one of the Otters made it direct from Friday Harbor to Sacramento, California and then on to Long Beach but that was at the limit of its range. A more typical ferry flight was teh flight north, leaving Catalina flying first to Madeira, California, landing on a lonely crop-duster strip to pick up a spare engine, then on to Chico, California-Eugene, Oregan, Bayview/Skagit Regional Airport, Washington and on to Friday Harbor.

A third Otter joined the fleet in April 1988, another former Canadian military aircraft serial 3692, whose last military posting had been with 438 Squadron at St Hubert. Here it had served in nothing less than the VIP role, plushly fitted out with sofas and the like. Withdrawn from service by March 1982, it too was flown to Mountain View and put up for disposal, its airframe time standing at 7,752 hours on leaving military service. Along with six other CAF Otters, 3692 was bought by Newcal Aviation who specialised in de Havilland Canada aircraft and spares, and they were all flown to a grass strip at Decatur, Texas, where they were stored. It appears that the market for second-hand Otters must have been somewhat flat at the time, as they were to languish in the open at Decatur for some years. However, they were all eventually sold, including 3692, now registered N2634Y (59), which was acquired by Aeronautical Services in October 1987.

The company pilot arrived at Decatur to collect the new acquisition, which looked somewhat the worse for wear after its five years under the Texan sun and rain. Some of the others were in worse shape. Not having been properly tied down, they had been so rocked by the winds that both wingtips were bent! The pilot managed to get N2634Y started, and it performed well on its sixteen-hour ferry flight over the route Decatur-Goodland, Kansas-Rock Springs, Wyoming-Baker, Oregon-Friday Harbor. It was later flown the twenty miles or so across the water to Sidney, British Columbia, where Victoria Air Maintenance gave it a complete overhaul, taking out the plush sofa's and old, heavy military radios, and converting the Otter into an efficient freighter. The work was completed in April 1988.

Students of such things will note that in the month of April 1988 this Otter was re-registered C-FBNI to Victoria Air Maintenance, before reverting to N2634Y. It transpires that the Canadian Department of Transport had to certify the work done on the aircraft, but will not inspect an American-registered aircraft. Accordingly it was Canadian registered for the occasion, performed its test flight as such, once round the circuit at Sidney and then reverted to its American identity. It then joined the Aeronautical Services fleet as their third Otter.

FLYING BOAT OPERATOR TAKEN OVER

Just as with the San Juan Island operation, the Long Beach-Catalina Island run had proved a great success, so much so that in 1989 the owners of Aeronautical Services purchased Long Beach-based Catalina Flying Boats Inc., and used this company to service Catalina Island. Catalina Flying Boats, as befitted its name, had been operating a fleet of two Grumman Goose aircraft (N1257A and N69263) on its service to Catalina Island. The new owners, although retaining the companies name, disposed of the two flying boats and instead acquired three Beech 18s. At that stage, the Otters were withdrawn from Long Beach and from 1990 onwards were based exclusively at Friday Harbor, serving the San Juan Islands only. Catalina Flying Boats continued operations with its three Beech 18 freighters (N18R, N911E and N9375Y) and over the following years the business grew to such an extent that the Beech 18s were often flying eight or nine round trips each day. It became clear that a larger aircraft was required and Catalina Flying Boats decided on a DC-3.

This decision was to have an effect on the San Juan Islands operation, which was then using three Otters. Two Otters were sufficient for the operation and the opportunity arose to exchange an Otter for a DC-3. Accordingly in May 1993 Otter N98T left the Aeronautical Services fleet and Catalina Flying Boats acquired much needed DC-3 capacity in the shape of N403JB. N98T's next operator was Ketchikan Air Service in Alaska and it joined their fleet in June 1993. Sadly to relate, it did not survive long in its new environment. On November 10 1993 it suffered engine failure, ditched in Thorne Bay not far from Ketchikan, and sank.

Catalina Flying Boats continue to this day as a sister company of Aeronautical Services, their current fleet being two Beech 18s (N18Rand N9375Y) and two DC-3s (N403JB and N2298C). They had intended to place a DCH-4 Caribou in to service on the runs to Catalina Island and acquired N9249Q, a former military C-7B variant, which sat for a time at Long Beach while an assessment was made of the work necessary for the FAA to licence the Caribou for commercial service. In the end, the project proved not to be viable, and N9249Q was put up for sale. It was acquired by the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation and on April 14 1999 was ferried from Long Beach via El Paso and Waco, Texas and Meridian, Mississippi, to its new home at Tara Field near Hampton, Georgia.

To return to Aeronautical Services, while the three Otters were in use, on rare occasions all three aircraft flew together in formation, which must certainly have been some sight an sound. The last time this occurred, however was a sad affair. The company's president had been killed in the crash of a Beech Bonanza in October 1992 and during the memorial ceremonies at Friday Harbor, all three Otters flew overhead in a formation tribute. N98T and N2634Y have soldiered on, and are still as active as ever. [see note later]

Of the 466 Otters built, some 190 are still in active service, mostly serving as bush aircraft in remote parts of Canada and Alaska. They fly hunters and fishermen to lodges, fly mineral exploration personnel to mining camps, cargo and passengers to native villages and settlements. The two Aeronautical Services Otters, however, are unique in the year-round cargo service they provide in what, compared to areas where other Otters operate, is a relatively populated region. The style of flying called for though is very akin to operations in the bush.

Although one of the ultimate bush planes, the Otter has been criticised as being somewhat under-powered, and there have been many instances of engine failure. this led to a raft of re-engining projects, replacing the original 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial with the PT-6A turbine and the Polish PZL 1,000 hp piston engine. Aeronautical Services have never encountered any such problems, but they are fortunate in having excellent pilots and good maintenance. A re-conditioned R-1340 radial engine costs $23,000 as opposed to half a million dollars for a PT-6A turbo-prop. The trade-off is the greatly reduced maintenance costs of the turbine, but Aeronautical Services are sticking with the original powerplant.

Not far from the San Juan Islands, at Bellingham on the mainland, a DHC-3T turbine Otter is based which provides an interesting comparison with the 'classic' Otter. N79JJ is a former Indonesian Air Force aircraft converted to turbine power and is painted in a somewhat unusual scheme, mainly overall grey with a white 'skull and crossbones' The owner, it is reported, made is money from the sale of sunglasses and must have made lots of it as he also has a matching turbo-Beaver. He owns an island in the San Juan's, and flies up to Bellingham in his executive jet before transferring to his Otter or beaver, and flying out to the island. This happens only occasionally and for the most part the Beaver and Otter are to be seen parked on the ramp. The contrast with the hard working Aeronautical Services Otters could not be more marked.

WITNESSING THE OTTER OPERATION

To view the Aeronautical Services operation at first hand we travelled to the Sa Juan Islands and were most graciously received, although on arrival at Friday Harbor on Tuesday September 21 last, no Otters were to be seen. It transpires that the current pattern of operation sees both aircraft over-nighting at the Bayview/Skagit Regional Airport, which s near Burlington on the mainland. Here each weekday morning the two Otters are loaded with UPS cargo brought in by truck and they take off around 07.30 arriving at Friday Harbor thirty minutes later. The two Otters usually fly over together and have been known to sometimes advise air traffic control that they are a 'twin-otter' flight!

On arrival at Friday Harbor, which is located on San Juan Island itself, the cargo destined for that island is unloaded and delivered around the island by truck, and the two Otters then depart on separate circuits around the other islands, distributing the packages they have brought in and collecting outgoing cargo for delivery to the mainland. The Otters arrive back at Friday Harbor around mid-day and remain there until 14.20 in the afternoon. By that stage the outgoing cargo from San Juan Island has been collected by the trucks and is loaded aboard the Otters, which then return to Bayview on the mainland. From Bayview the cargo is trucked down to Seattle and enters the UPS mainline system. The Otters remain at Bayview until the next morning and then repeat the process all over again.

Conditions at Friday Harbor on the morning of our arrival on September 21 were ideal, with warm temperatures and a clear blue sky. The Cessna's of West Isle Air came and went on their passenger and mail services around the islands. The Cessna 208 Caravans of Harbour Air which link Friday Harbor with Seattle on passenger schedules for Alaska Airlines were also to be seen. There was a Federal Express Caravan and a veteran Beech 18 of Methow Aviation, which flies the mail from Paine Field to Friday Harbor for the US Post Office. Passing overhead at low altitude were four US Navy F-18 Hornets in battle formation, inbound to nearby Whidbey Naval Air Station, adding to the diversity of aircraft to be seen. By 09.30, however, there was still no sign of the Otters and it transpired the were 'socked-in' by thick fog at Bayview. Much to our relief they did arrive shortly after ten o'clock and the unloading of the inbound cargo immediately got underway.

No sooner had the Otter's cavernous interior been emptied of cargo that the packages for the other islands were loaded on board. Looking at the many brown boxes being stuffed inside the Otter, there was an amazing selection of contents. Flowers, computers, a bicycle, machine parts, tyres from Taiwan, cans of oil, gardening equipment, household goods of all sorts, to name but a few. Soon the cabin was full to capacity and the 3000 lb maximum load had been reached, as testified by the Otters tyres, which were visibly sagging under the weight.

A TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF AN OTTER

An illustration of a typical morning's flying is provided by the activities of N357AS that day. Lift off from Friday Harbor was at 10.48, the Otter leaping into the air after a short run despite the heavy load. There followed an eleven minute flight to Anacortes on the mainland, where the cargo was unloaded and new cargo taken on board, followed by another eleven minute sector to Eastsound on Orcas Island and then a nine minute leg to Friday Harbor. Having serviced the larger islands, it was time to deal with some of the smaller ones. A four minute flight to Shaw followed, landing on a very narrow and hilly strip cut into a forest. From Shaw, it was a five minute flight to Blakley Island and then a 'long' eleven minute flight north to Stuart Island, before a nine minute sector back to Friday Harbor, where N357Y blocked on at 13.09 hours, its mornings work complete. N2634Y had also been busy during the morning, its tasking having been Friday Harbor-Anacortes-Eastsound-Ancortes-Lopez-Friday Harbor.

We were again privileged to accompany the Otters the next day, but awoke to find Friday Harbor enveloped in thick fog, with zero visibility. Ironically conditions on the mainland were perfectly clear, where the two Otters sat on the ramp at Bayview. The fog came down during the night and with advanced warning that the flying schedule was going to be disrupted, UPS and put the cargo on the ferry which plies from the mainland to the islands. The fog eventually lifted and the two Otters arrived at Friday Harbor around eleven o'clock, hours late. There was still some work for them to do and N357AS departed Friday Harbor for Center Island, a seven minute flight, followed by a hop of less than one minute (apparently in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's shortest scheduled airline service) to Decatur Island.

The turn around at Decatur was typical of what occurs at these small islands. No one arrives to greet the Otter. The pilot brings the few packages for this destination into a small wooden hut on the airstrip, picks up the outgoing parcels and having been on the ground for all of six minutes, is airborne again for the return sector to Friday Harbor. This sector proved to be slightly longer than usual, as N357AS met up with N2634Y which had flown Friday Harbor-Shaw-Blakley and was itself returning from Blakley to Friday Harbor, the two Otters formating for some memorable air to air photography.

That concluded our visit to the picturesque San Juan Islands and our acquaintance with the two remarkable Otters of Aeronautical Services. As at September 21 1999 N357AS had amassed 12,065 hours on its airframe, and N2634Y 13,165 hours, for both aircraft a combination of many years of faithful service for the Canadian military, followed by their current, much appreciated role providing an important and reliable delivery service for the inhabitants of the San Juan Islands.

The authors would like to express their most grateful thanks to all at Aeronautical Services and in particular to Danny Monahan of ASI Maintenance and pilots Rich Herman and Elton Hanneman for such an enjoyable and worthwhile visit.