DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX   click on arrows to navigate page by page

c/n 267

C-FMAX at Lac-du-Bonnet, Manitoba.
Photo: Anthony J. Hickey © May 1992 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
C-FMAX outside the Museum hangar at Winnipeg - CYWG, Manitoba.
Photo: Henry Tenby © 11 April 2001 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
N724FH of EMERALD AIR, in her winter nest.
Photo: Kelsey Childers © December 2020
N724FH departing Beluga Lake, Homer, Alaska.
Photo: Anton Heumann © August 2022

c/n 267




• CF-MAX Manitoba Government Air Service on 4th June 1958,

• CF-MAX Re regd to Manitoba Government Department of Mines & Natural Resources, Winnipeg, MB. Date unknown.

• CF-MAX Re regd to Province of Manitoba Air Division. Winnipeg, MB. Date unknown.

• C-FMAX Re regd Province of Manitoba Air Services. Winnipeg, MB. 05-Nov-1990. Canx 04-Jun-2019.

Power plant. Converted to Vazar PT-6 turbine by Viking Air, Victoria, BC. Apr-2005.

• N724FH Freeman Carter Aviation LLC., Johnson, KS. Regd 05-Jun-2019.

• N724FH Emerald Air Service Inc., Homer, AK. Regd 17-Jul-2019.


Otter 267 was delivered to the Manitoba Government Air Service on 4 June 1958, registered CF-MAX. It was delivered as a floatplane and joined CF-MAU (74) which had been delivered in February 1956. Both Otters were in the same colour scheme of overall yellow, with a red cheatline and tail stripe. These two Otters were destined to enjoy very long service with the Provincial government, during which the operating division underwent some changes of title. Initially this was the Department of Highways and Transportation, later the Department of Mines and Natural Resources, then the Province of Manitoba Air Division, followed by the Province of Manitoba Air Services and lastly the Manitoba Government Air Service.

The Air Service was based at the Winnipeg International Airport, from where it was administered and the aircraft maintained. The Air Service also maintained bases at Lac du Bonnet and at Thompson, Manitoba and had summer only bases at The Pas, Norway House and Wabowden. The Otters deployed to these bases as required to complete their taskings. By 1962 the Air Service fleet stood at the two Otters and six DHC-2 Beavers. By the early 1970s the registration of Otter 267 had been changed to C-FMAX.

The Otters were used for the following tasks – general transportation of government personnel and freight; detection and suppression of forest fires including water bombing; aerial patrols for Wildlife and Fisheries programmes; placing and servicing field parties for the Mineral Resources branch, Surveys branch and others; northern highways surveys and winter transportation programmes; general transportation for Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Telephone System. In summary, they provided transportation for government personnel for all the tasks on which they were engaged throughout the bush country of Manitoba.

The Otters spent most of the summers on forest protection duties, fitted with floats equipped with water bombing gear. They were converted to wheel-skis for winter operations, enabling them to fly year round. A few incidents were recorded with Otter MAX, the most serious on 15 May 1973 when it over-turned attempting to take off from Riverton in gusty wind conditions. As the subsequent accident report summarised: “Unfavourable wind conditions; dragged wing tip or float; substantial damage”. It was repaired and returned to service. On 18 August 1989 at Wasagomach, Manitoba after dropping water on a fire, the Otter struck a tree but with only minor damage. On 2 April 1990 at Burnwood River, Manitoba on approach to Thicket Portage, the engine quit. The Otter landed without damage.

In May 1989 the two Otters were joined by C-FODY (429) which had previously been operated by the Province of Ontario.   Describing the activities of his three Otters in May 2000, the Air Services’ Chief Pilot Stephen Doolan wrote: “The three Otters are operated in summer on floats and one in winter on wheel-skis. Two are based in Thompson on the river and one at Lac du Bonnet. Island Lake, an aboriginal community, is an occasional base in summer. The Otters range as far north as the Northwest Territories border conducting “fish cop work” – game warden activities with caribou, polar bears and general fisheries management with the biologists. Fuel drums and freight are often a cargo to bush camps for ground firefighters at temporary fire-fighting bases carved out of the bush near an active forest fire”.

“These aircraft are an integral part of the annual operations to fight wildfire starts. All three Otters are equipped with a water-bombing system in the floats allowing the pilots to skim the water and scoop approximately 170 gallons of water depending on fuel load. They can drop the water on a new forest fire start, preventing it from spreading until the heavy water-bombers arrive. Often they will go out on patrol with an initial attack crew to drop them off near the site of the fire and then begin water bombing”.

“There are no plans to replace the Otters as they are unique in what they do. We may look at one of the engine conversions to increase performance”.

Over the years, the Air Services increased its fleet and as well as the three Otters, flew a Twin Otter, a Piper Navajo, several Cessna Citation jets configured as air ambulances and a fleet of Canadair CL-215 water bombers. During 2004 the Air Services secured funding to convert two of its Otters to turbine power and selected C-FMAX (267) and C-FODY (429). Unfortunately funding could not be arranged for the third Otter C-FMAU (74) and it was withdrawn from service at Winnipeg in February 2005 and subsequently sold.

The two Otters to be converted to Vazar turbines with the PT-6A-34 engine, MAX and ODY, routed from Winnipeg to Calgary on 30 March 2005 and then onwards via Golden, BC., to Vancouver, where they arrived on 2 April. MAX continued on to Victoria, BC., where it was the first to be converted, the work being carried out by Viking Air. It passed through Calgary at the end of May 2005 on its way back to Winnipeg. Otter ODY was converted by Aeroflite Industries at the Vancouver International Airport, after which it too returned to Winnipeg.

The following month, June 2005, both MAX and ODY were flown to Wipaire at Minneapolis, Minnesota where they were fitted with Wipaire 8000 amphibious floats, before returning to Winnipeg. In January 2006 both Otters were flown to Rocky Mountain Aircraft at Springbank, near Calgary, Alberta for a new avionics fit, including sat phone and moving map display. Then in April they went from Calgary to Red Deer, Alberta for painting into a new red and white colour scheme, then back to Springbank for finishing off and return to Winnipeg end April in time for the summer 2006 season. By that stage these two Otters were the very last Otters still in government service in Canada. They were noted at the Lac du Bonnet base in mid May 2006, undertaking training in advance of a busy operational summer season.

Both Otters continued in service for the Manitoba government in the years that followed. MAX featured in two CADORS reports during 2012. On 26 April it was taxying for departure at Thompson and when the pilot taxied onto Taxiway Echo he reported losing steering capability. The taxiway was closed and the Otter towed back to the apron for repair. On 31 July 2012 MAX reported on finals for the water at Island Lake and said it would report down. The pilot did not report down and did not respond to radio calls from the FSS, who contacted the RCMP and initiated a search. Some minutes later the pilot reported down and taxying for departure.

In February 2014 the Manitoba Government Air Services acquired a third Otter, this being C-FMFK (54) which was registered to them on 15 April 2014 and joined MAX and ODY in service. It had been involved in a crash with its previous owner but had been completely rebuilt by STOLAirus Aviation in Kelowna, BC, converted to a Vazar turbine and completed to the same specification as the other two Otters and painted into the same colour scheme. For the next few years these three turbine Otters flew for the Air Services, serving the bush country of Manitoba.

In July 2018 the Manitoba Government announced that it intended to privatise its Air Services and claimed that it would save money by doing this. Much public debate ensued as to the wisdom of this course, particularly as the Air Services provided the Province with its vital protection against forest fires, not to mention its air ambulance service which remote communities were entirely dependent upon. However the government insisted and in February 2019 the Manitoba Government Air Services ceased to exist and the entire operation was taken over by a private contractor. It also acquired the Canadair fire bombers and Cessna Citation air ambulances, which it would continue to operate, but said it had no need of the other aircraft, which were to be sold. Included in the sale in March 2019 were the three Otters, one Twin Otter and one Navajo. Otter MAX had total airframe time at that stage of 23,651 hours. It had flown for the Province for a record 60 years.

All three Otters were quickly sold.  C-FMFK joined the fleet of Kenmore Air in Seattle, and both MAX and ODY were sold to Freeman Carter Aviation LLC., with an address at 16221 Foster Street, Overland Park, Johnson, Kansas. The Canadian civil registrations were cancelled on 4 June 2019 and both Otters were registered to their new owner the following day, ODY as N722FH and MAX as N724FH

The Otters have now been sold on to Emerald Air Service Inc., of Homer, Alaska, registered on 17 July 2019 and they are now in service out of Homer on the company’s bear viewing flights..

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.