Otter number 67 was completed during March 1955, being taken on charge by DHC on 1 April 1955 and registered to DHC as CF-HXY. It was the prototype amphibian Otter and its test flying from Downsview was undertaken with the registration CF-HXY-X. After the amphibian trials on EDO floats had been successfully completed, DHC retained the Otter as a demonstrator aircraft, until sold to Eastern Provincial Airways (EPA) of Gander, Newfoundland on 16 September 1961. It was painted into the EPA scheme of red overall with white cheatline and EPA fuselage titles.
The Otter was purchased by EPA to replace Otter CF-MEX (332) which had crashed in Greenland on 29 August 1961 and had been destroyed. EPA then had a contract to operate internal air services within Greenland. On 21 September 1961 HXY was flown to Greenland to take over from MEX. HXY remained based in Greenland until Winter 1961. It then returned to Gander and was replaced by CF-LEA (286) which flew the Greenland services for summer 1962 and into the following winter. These services had originally been flown on contract to the Royal Greenland Trading Department, who administered Greenland on behalf of the Danish government. However, Gronlandsfly A/S (Greenlandair) took over the EPA contract on 1 May 1962. HXY arrived back in Greenland in February 1963, when LEA went on maintenance. LEA returned and both LEA and HXY flew in Greenland together for a few weeks before LEA flew back to Gander. That left HXY flying in Greenland for summer 1963 and it would continue to fly these services for the rest of the contract. It acquired Gronlandsfly fuselage titles, the only EPA Otter to do so. HXY was re-registered to Eastern Provincial Airways (1963) Ltd., in September 1963 after EPA had merged with Maritime Central Airways, but the Otter continued to operate in Greenland.
During the summer months, HXY was based at Sondre Stromfjord on floats and flew scheduled passengers services to the towns and settlements along the Greenland West Coast, to Godthab, Holsteinborg and Egedesminde and also to Christianshab and Jakobshavn. From March, when weather conditions improved, it also flew north to Umanak and Upernavik, which took up an entire day’s flying. It also flew services out of Egedesminde to the towns along Disco Bay. In winter it was put on wheel-skis but only operated to destinations north of Sondre Stromfjord as there were no suitable landing grounds to the south. This pattern of operations continued until 1 June 1965, when S-61N helicopters which Greenlandair had acquired took over the internal services within Greenland, and the EPA contract came to an end.
HXY then returned to Canada and was based at Goose Bay on general charter work. On 15 March 1967 for example it flew on skis Goose-Postville-Makkovik-Hopedale-Nain-Davis Inlet-Hopedale-Makkovik-Rigolet-Goose, encountering high, hard snow drifts in all landing areas. The following day, during the daily inspection, maintenance personnel discovered that substantial damage had occurred to the rear fuselage section. This consisted of wrinkled skin, buckled box section around tail wheel, major damage to the bottom of the fuselage bulkhead and stringers on both sides of the fuselage. The pilot reported that landing conditions had been rough due to hard packed snowdrifts. The Otter was flown to a repair facility for repair.
HXY continued in service with EPA until 1970, when EPA’s bush operation and aircraft were sold to Labrador Airways Ltd. HXY was one of five Otters taken over by Labrador Airways in a management buy-out by former EPA employees. C-FHXY was registered to Labrador Airways Ltd in January 1971, remaining based at Goose Bay, the centre of aviation in Labrador. Labrador Airways had also acquired another four Otters from EPA (AGM/ EYO/ LEA and PMQ) giving the new carrier a good solid fleet of bush aircraft. It also operated Beavers and Cessnas.
With Labrador Airways the Otters were used to establish a network of scheduled services from Goose Bay to the coastal communities of Labrador. They went north to Rigolet, Postville, Makkovik, Hopedale, Davis Inlet and Nain and south out of Goose Bay to Paradise River, Cartwright, Black Tickle, Charlottetown, Port Hope, Simpson, Williams Harbour, Fox Harbour, St.Marys Harbour and Red Bay. At that stage there were no airstrips at these locations. During the summer months the Otters flew on floats from the appropriately named Otter Creek on Lake Melville near to Goose Bay, landing on the water at the communities. In winter the Otters flew on wheel-skis out of Goose Bay Airport, landing on the ice at destination.
HXY continued in service with Labrador Airways until sold in October 1973 to Austin Airways Ltd., a prominent northern Ontario bush operator, which operated a number of Otters from several bases in northern Ontario. The company then had a maintenance base at Mount Hope, the municipal airport at Hamilton, Ontario and the work programme starting 1 November 1973 included the following for HXY, in preparation for its entry into service with Austin Airways: “To be painted. HF and VHF radios to be installed. Complete inspection. Ground run. Test fly. Paper work and licence. Complete ski installation”. This work was completed in January 1974 and HXY was registered to Austin Airways Ltd on 14 February 1974 and entered service. July 1974 was noteworthy for pilot Moe Sears. That month he flew some 160 hours and logged a record 16,251 miles flying HXY on James Bay.
HXY went on to serve the communities of northern Ontario with Austin Airways for four years, until sold in March 1977 to St.Andrews Airways of Winnipeg, registered to them 21 June 1977. It flew for them only briefly. An incident was recorded on 22 June 1977 at Garden Hill, Manitoba, unfortunately no details available. The Otter was sold on to Lac Seul Airways Ltd., of Ear Falls, Ontario to whom it was registered on 10 April 1978. HXY joined Otter C-FDDX (165) in service with Lac Seul Airways, serving the Ontario bush country. Both otters were painted in the same colour scheme, white overall with a red cheatline and Lac Seul Airways fuselage titles. The Otter was destined to serve with the company for many years, in the course of which it was converted with the Polish PZL-1000 engine by summer 2001, the conversion carried out by Airtech at Peterborough, Ontario.
During the summer months, the Lac Seul fleet which included three Beavers and a Cessna 180 as well as the pair of Otters, serviced fly-in outpost cabins located between 60 and 170 miles north of the Ear Falls base – over twelve outposts on the Cobham River system. “Lac Seul Airways Fly-In Outpost lakes will show you the best Boreal Lake fishing available in northern Ontario. We have walleye, northern and lake trout fishing that is nothing short of spectacular” – this according to the company’s website. The Otters were also used for moose hunting parties and general charter work. An incident was recorded on CADORS for 15 June 2003, eighty miles north of Red Lake, Ontario. HXY was en route from Cobham River to Ear Falls when the pilot noticed that the engine cowling of the PZL engine had moved forward and contacted the propeller. He diverted to Barton Lake and landed without incident. The cowling was removed and the Otter ferried to base for repairs. It was found that a cowling mounting tab had cracked and failed, inducing the other mounting tabs to bend and fail as well.
During the winter of 2005 / 2006 HXY was overhauled at Silver Falls, Manitoba by Winnipeg River Aircraft and repainted yellow overall with a black cheatline. The reason for the repaint was because a new owner, Bruce La Vigne, had purchased Lac Seul Airways. He was also the owner of a company called Amik Outposts, which provided services to fishermen and henceforth the Otter was to fly for this company, although it continued to be registered to and operated by Lac Seul Airways. It acquired small ‘Amik Outposts’ titles and moved its base from Ear Falls north to Red Lake, from where it would operate alongside a Cessna 206 floatplane. During the summer season the Otter would be used to fly fishermen to remote lakes such as Blackbirch Lake, Cherrington Lake, Findlay Lake, Shearstone Lake and to go to the Chukuni and Cobham Rivers, where excellent fishing was to be had.
Summer 2006 was its first summer of operation for Amik Outposts. It is mentioned in CADORS on 18 June 2006 departing from the Balmertown Bridge area of Red Lake, with no radio contact until airborne. It continued to fly from Red Lake that summer and undertook a trip to Quebec later that year. It is again recorded on CADORS for 5 November 2006 on a VFR flight from Sept Îles to Riviere du Loup when the pilot did not close his flight plan on arrival at 21:49Z so the Quebec FIC started a communications search an hour later. Local police found the Otter at Riviere du Loup at 23:20Z.
The Otter continued in service with Amik Outposts in the years that followed. Another CADORS reference is on 15 May 2011. The Otter, on floats, was concluding a VFR flight inbound to Red Lake. The aircraft experienced radio failure en route. The pilot advised the FSS after arrival that he had landed ‘no radio’ on the east side of the Balmerton Bridge. Two other aircraft, a Cessna 182 and a 185, had been operating in the area at the time. As at summer 2016 HXY was still flying for Amik Outposts out of Red Lake.
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.