Otter number 23
was delivered to the RCAF on 30th December 1953 with serial 3669. Its first
posting was to 105 Communications & Rescue Flight, based at Namao Air Base,
Edmonton, Alberta. Here it joined Otter 3665, serving alongside the unit's other
equipment, three Beech Expeditors and three C-47 Dakotas. 3669 became an active
member of this busy Rescue unit's fleet and undertook many long-range missions.
It carried the Flight's KT code.
On 29th March 1955 3669 departed from Namao bringing Army officers on a tour of
inspection of Northwest Territories bases, in the course of which it was
diverted to Big Slough to pick up an Indian with frozen feet. The full routing
of the trip was from Namao to Fort Smith, NWT-Yellowknife-Fort Reliance-Fort
Resolution-Yellowknife-Fort Simpson-Fort Chipewyan-Hay River-Fort Smith-Big
Slough-Fort Smith-Fort Chipewyan-Fort McMurray-Brochet, Manitoba, before
returning to base. In December 1955 Otters 3669 and 3665 joined Dakotas FZ695
and KJ956 and Expeditors 114, 948, 1506 and 1561 in an extensive search in
northern Alberta for a Fairchild aircraft en route from Peace River to Namur
Lake. The Fairchild was eventually found, down on a lake out of gas. On 9th
January 1956, Otter 3669 departed Namao on yet another lengthy tour, routing
Namao-Fort McMurray-Fort McKay-Bitu Mountain-Fort Chipewyan-Fond du Lac-Stoney
Rapids-Camsell Point-Fort Smith-Rocher River-Hay River-Fort Chipewyan-Fort
Vermillion-Little Red Deer-Namao.
In August 1956 3669 left the unit and flew first to the DHC facility at
Downsview for incorporation of All Up Weight modifications, and then continued
the short distance to its new base at Trenton, Ontario where it joined 102
Communications & Rescue Flight in October 1956. As well as undertaking transport
and rescue taskings, 102KU was also the Otter Operational Conversion Unit (OCU),
responsible for training aircrew on the Otter. During 1964, for example, nine
courses were completed on the Otter, with twenty aircrew graduating. 3669
remained with this unit until August 1966, when it joined No.4 Operational
Training Unit at Trenton, which had taken over as the Otter OCU, and then two
months later, in October 1966 it was posted to 400 Squadron at Downsview, where
it was to remain for the rest of its military career.
3669 undertook some “ground duty” during 1970. The history of 411 Squadron shows
a photo of 3669, with wings attached, inside the Yorkdale Shopping Mall, North
York, Toronto during February 1970 and explains that “among the activities of
early 1970 was the mounting of a joint public relations/recruitment exhibit by
411 and 400 squadrons inside the Mall. The display included the Otter, manned by
unit members, who provided tours and answered questions”. Another photograph
shows 3669 on 16th August 1970, without wings, being towed down Toronto's Avenue
Road en route to the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds. After this, however,
it was back flying from Downsview.
As the Downsview-based Otters frequently flew VIPs, 3669 was configured
accordingly, and outfitted with carpets, a couch with writing table, a
comfortable stuffed chair and a chemical toilet. 3669 was to have a long service
with 400 Squadron, sixteen years in all, and was still with the squadron when it
withdrew the Otter from service during 1982. It was flown to the Aerospace
Maintenance & Development Unit (AMDU) detachment at the Mountain View storage
depot, Ontario and was one of seven Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Otters put up
for sale in September 1982. 3669 was advertised for sale with 10,093 hours on
the airframe . It was one of seven CAF Otters purchased by Newcal Aviation Inc
of Little Ferry, New Jersey to whom it was registered in January 1983 as N2631U.
Along with the other Otters purchased by Newcal, it was flown from the Mountain
View depot to Decatur, Texas where it was placed in open storage, awaiting sale.
It appears that the market for Otters was somewhat soft around this time, and
N2631U was to spend five years under the Texan sun at Decatur before being sold
on. The buyer was Skyharbour Aviation of Nisku, Alberta to whom the Otter was
registered as C-FASV in January 1988. It would appear that Skyharbour were
acting as purchasing agents, as the following month the Otter was registered to
Dawn Air Ltd of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, although the aircraft was based at
La Ronge. Dawn Air ceased operations later that year, and C-FASV was taken over
by PinehouseAirways Ltd, another La Ronge-based operator. One incident is
recorded, on 6th April 1989, when the pilot experienced engine problems and
conducted a successful forced landing on the frozen surface of McTavish Lake,
Saskatchewan. In July 1989 ASV was sold to Air-Sask Aviation Ltd, with whom it
remained based at La Ronge. On 26th July 1990, on level-off following departure
climb, the pilot reduced power to cruise setting. The engine began to run
roughly and to smoke, but a safe landing was made back at La Ronge.
In December 1990 C-FASV was sold to Points North Air Services Ltd of Points
North Landing, Saskatchewan with whom it was to serve for the next eight years.
Points North Landing is located some 450 road miles north of Saskatoon, at the
end of a long, unpaved road leading from La Ronge. C-FASV was later joined by
Otters C-FASZ (463) and C-FODW (403) in the Points North fleet, which also
included C-47 and Cessna 208 aircraft. Supplies and materials were trucked up to
Points North Landing and then distributed to outlying communities such as Stony
Rapids, Fond du Lac, Wollaston Lake and Uranium City by the company fleet. There
were also many fishing lodges and mining camps in the area that relied on Points
North Air for delivery of their supplies. A typical Otter flight was, for
example, a cargo of groceries from Points North Landing to the Indian
reservation at Wollaston Lake, a twenty minute flight by Otter.
Operations by C-FASV continued until 1st May 1999. On that day, the wheel-ski
equipped Otter was engaged in flying road construction crews from base camps to
work sites in northern Saskatchewan. A five-man crew was moved from a base camp
to Waterfound Lake, a small lake 22 nautical miles from Points North Landing.
The drop-off was made in the morning on the frozen lake, with a pick-up planned
for late afternoon. The pilot then flew back to Points North Landing and filled
the Otter's fuel tanks. When he returned for the pick-up, the ambient
temperature was about 7C and there were between five and six inches of slush on
the ice surface of the lake. The pilot loaded his passengers and attempted a
take-off. The aircraft accelerated slowly in the slush and the take-off was
rejected. A different take-off run was selected and a passenger moved to a
forward seat. The pilot then attempted a second take-off. He continued beyond
his previously selected rejection distance. The engine RPM then reportedly
decreased. The aircraft did not become airborne, but ran into the low shoreline
and crashed, skidding to a stop 300 feet from the shore. The passengers and
pilot evacuated the aircraft before an intense fire broke out. Flames engulfed
the fuselage and engine, completely destroying the Otter.
History courtesy of Karl E Hayes from DHC-3
Otter: A History (2005)