Otter 26 was
delivered to the RCAF on 31st December 1953 with serial 3671. It was allocated
to 408 Squadron, Rockcliffe and served with the squadron until May 1957,
although for much of that period it was based at Fort Churchill, Manitoba. On
7th December 1955 it is recorded as flying Army personnel on exercises, in
company with the Churchill Station's own Otter, 3681. On 27th December '55 it
flew at ten thousand feet overhead Churchill to test a new American Army boot! A
note in the Fort Churchill diary for 26th June 1956 records 3671 getting
airborne that day for the first time since the beginning of April. On 7th August
'56 it flew from Churchill to Station Bird, Manitoba on a medevac flight. During
December 1956 the All Up Weight modification was incorporated at Churchill and
on 2nd May 1957 it is recorded as departing from Churchill for the last time en
route to Toronto.
Its next posting in July 1957 was to 111 Communications & Rescue Flight at
Winnipeg. It is mentioned in the Flight's records on 9th January 1958 searching
for a downed Stinson aircraft together with the Flight's other Otter, 3679 (37).
On 20th January '58 two of the Flights C-47s and one Otter were dispatched to
The Pas, Manitoba to set up a search headquarters for another Stinson which had
gone missing. The Otter located the Stinson on Kiskitto Lake three days later.
January '58 was a busy time for 111 C&R Flight, as on the 26th of the month, two
Dakotas and the two Otters (3671 and 3679) deployed to Fort Churchill to search
for a missing Found 100 aircraft, CF-IOO.
Other rescues on which 3671 was engaged included the search for Piper Super Cub
N9929D in the Lac Seul area during March 1960 in company with Otter 3694, three
of the 111 C&R Dakotas and no less than 13 Dakotas from No.2 AOS at Winnipeg and
in May 1960 on “SAR Harrison”, the search for Piper PA-20 CF-HJH, overdue on a
flight from Flin Flon to Tartan Lake. Other Otters taking part in this search
were 3679 and 3694, also serving with 111 C&R Flight, and CF-KTI of Hudson Bay
Air Transport. In July 1961 Prime Minister Diefenbaker was to visit Yellowknife
and the Snare River area. A crew from 111 C&R Flight travelled to Vancouver to
pick up 9420 from 442 Squadron at Sea Island, described as being a “VIP Otter”.
This Otter, 9420, was used to transport the PM and his wife from Yellowknife to
Snare River, with 3671 present at Yellowknife to support the visit. 3671
continued inservice with the Flight at Winnipeg until October 1962, when it was
delivered to No.6 Repair Depot at
Trenton and put into storage as a reserve aircraft. In October 1964 it was moved
to storage in Saskatoon, where it remained until 8th November 1966 when it
re-entered active service with 411 Squadron at Downsview.
In March 1967 the Otter returned to Saskatoon to storage, until allocated to 424
Squadron, Trenton in June 1969, with whom it served until July 1970, when it was
again put into storage, on this occasion at the Mountain View storage depot,
Ontario. In November 1971 it was allocated to 400 Squadron at Downsview, with
whom it was to serve for the next 11 years. In September 1973, 3671 participated
in the Great Burlington Seaplane Race, representing 400 Squadron and also acting
as the SAR aircraft for the race. The squadron history records the following:
“All unnecessary seats and equipment were removed to lighten the aircraft.
Anticipating refuelling at small lake-side facilities during the race, the crew
practiced quick turn arounds at docks in the Toronto area. On 9th September the
aircraft was moved to a dock in Burlington Bay. The next day a large race number
“24” was painted on both sides of the cowling. At approximately 0800 hours on
the 11th, 3671 crossed the start line and turned north to first refuelling stop
at Sault Ste.Marie. 9.4 hours after leaving Burlington, the Otter settled into
the water at Minaki Lodge, the first overnight stop.
On the next day, the destination was Ottawa non-stop. The last leg of the race
on 18th September was back to Burlington. For much of the distance the Otter
kept close company with a Twin Seabee. The Otter came second on the leg from
Ottawa to Burlington, winning $500 for the squadron fund”. With 400 Squadron,
3671 undertook a number of long range trips, for example long-range trips, for
example in July 1974, a visit to NORAD routing from Downsview-Sudbury-Sault
St.Marie-Duluth and then back again via Sault St.Marie and Sudbury to base. In
March 1981, in company with 9404, the Otter undertook a long-range training
flight from Downsview to Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina, fuel stopping at
Chase City, West Virginia on the southbound sector. On arrival at the small
airport at Chase City, it transpired that the airstrip had gone out of business
recently, so there was no fuel available and the two Otters were stuck there for
some days, until the pilots arranged for a fuel bowser to come from Fort Bragg.
“With our planes filled, we could bid adieu. We had become celebrities of sorts.
We were the stranded Canuck airmen. People came to see our bush planes. Word
spread that we were leaving (to the economic dismay of the local motel and
diner). Cars and people lined the road beside the defunct airport to watch us
take off, a major event for the local populace”. On the return home from Myrtle
Beach, an uneventful fuel stop was made at Fort Bragg. 3671 continued to serve
with 400 Squadron at Downsview until the Otter was withdrawn from Canadian
military service during 1982.
3671 was one of seven Otters advertised for sale in September 1982 by the Crown
Assets Disposal Corporation. The seven Otters were located at the AMDU
Detachment, Mountain View, Ontario and 3671 was advertised as having 6,780 hours
on the airframe. The buyer was King's Construction Ltd of Grimshaw, Alberta to
whom the Otter was registered as C-GVMO on 19th November 1982, the purchase
price being $52,650. On 25th November '82 a ferry permit was issued for the
delivery flight from Belleville, Ontario to Edmonton. The purchase had been
negotiated by Mike Hackman Aircraft Sales of Edmonton, who had also purchased
Otter 9415 at the same time, which was registered C-GVMH and for which there was
also a ferry permit from Belleville to Edmonton for the same day.
C-GVMO remained registered to King's Construction Ltd for just over two years,
until sold to Dan Michel of Sterling, Alaska on 25th January 1985, to whom the
Otter was registered as N26DE. Mr Michel's company is All West Freight, which
used the Otter to serve the Kenai area of Alaska, flying freight and fish and
servicing a gold mine at Flat, Alaska. For a time during 1988 the Otter was
leased to Charles H. Strapp and based at Dillingham, Alaska before returning to
All West Freight at Stirling. In common with many other operators, Mr Michel
found the Otter somewhat underpowered for the demanding role of a bush aircraft
servicing the Alaskan outback, and set about doing something about the problem.
In October 1991 he purchased Otter N338D (338) which had at one stage been
converted by the installation of a 1,200 hp Wright Cyclone R-1820 engine taken
from a B-17 bomber. That certainly should have given sufficient power, but
unfortunately the conversion had not been certified by the FAA and the original
P&W R-1340 engine had been re-installed. That Otter crashed at Stirling early in
1992 and was wrecked.
As a replacement, N26DE was taken out of service in 1992 and work commenced at
Stirling in converting the Otter with a 1,200 hp turbine engine, a Lycoming T-53
taken from a Grumman Mohawk. This is the same engine which powers the Huey
helicopter. The T-53 was installed in N26DE but Mr Michel was unable to get the
conversion certified by the FAA and N26DE has not flown since 1992. In August
1997 the registered owner was changed to All West Freight Inc, when the business
was incorporated, but the Otter continued to languish in the hangar in Stirling.
Not having had much success with its Otter operations since 1992, the company
flies Cessna 207 and Short Skyvan aircraft.
History courtesy of Karl E Hayes from DHC-3
Otter: A History (2005)