3 – C-FODH

Serial Number



 C-FODH (Fleet No.307)



Year of Manufacture



 Turbo-Prop PT6A-34 (Vazar Conversion)


 Vancouver, British Columbia




 Harbour Air Ltd


4760 Inglis Drive, Richmond, British Columbia V7B 1W4

Contact / Link





The third Otter off the line CF-ODH was delivered to Arthur Fecteau of Senneterre, Quebec, a veteran French-Canadian bush pilot on 29th December 1952. Mr Fecteau had first set up business in Senneterre, in the heart of Quebec's mining district, in 1936 with a Travelair biplane. He managed to promote enough business flying Indians and fur traders to keep his tiny one-man business solvent.

He traded his Travelair for a Moth, the first of a long series of De Havilland types he was to own. He gradually built up his business and his fleet. In 1948 he acquired a Beaver, the seventh off the line, which represented a radical change in thinking, as nearly all his equipment up to then had been second hand. He became convinced that new, modern equipment with increased performance, appearance and efficiency would have a strong appeal to the public.

With this in mind, he acquired his first Otter CF-ODH in December 1952. This particular aircraft had initially been allocated as one of the Otters to be delivered to the Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS), in whose registration sequence these marks are, and the aircraft had already been painted in their overall yellow colour scheme, but then Mr.Fecteau showed up at DHC with hard cash and negotiated the purchase of the aircraft. OPAS agreed, in order to help DHC establish the Otter in the commercial market. Thus the first Otter delivered to OPAS became CF-ODJ (14).

Gradually more Otters were added to the Fecteau fleet, some new and some second hand. The Otters proved ideal as bush aircraft in Quebec. They could transport entire mining camps from one location to another, including drilling equipment and building materials. They were invaluable for general charter work. As well as the main base at Senneterre, the company developed other bases throughout the province, at Chibougamau, Sept Iles, Matagami, Havre St.Pierre, Temiscamie and Gagnon. ODH is mentioned in the history of the RCAF Radar Station at Parent, Quebec for 12th June 1954: “Intercept on unknown aircraft.

June's fine weather assisted by a light operational forecast indicated that an uneventful period lay ahead. This feeling of tranquillity was dispelled at 1415Z when a track was identified as unknown. Two of a flight of four aircraft en route to Parent were diverted towards this 'unknown' for positive identification. The aircraft proved to be an Otter, CF-ODH”.

In 1955 Arthur Fecteau incorporated his business as A.Fecteau Transport Aerien Ltee, which years later changed its name to Air Fecteau Ltee. The company became a subsidiary of Quebecair in 1968, but continued to trade under its own name. It took over the aircraft of Northern Wings Ltd (Les Ailes du Nord), another Quebecair subsidiary, in 1978 to give it a fleet of eleven Otters, making the company at that time the world's largest commercial operator of the Otter. In 1981 Air Fecteau merged with another bush operator, La Sarre Air Services, based at La Sarre, Quebec to form Propair Inc. This new company had a massive fleet, of no less than 14 Otters and 14 Beavers, as well as several single Cessnas.

During the early to mid 1980s, the fleet was maintained at this level, spread around the company's many bases throughout Quebec. During the late 1980s, the Otter fleet was gradually reduced, and was down to 5 aircraft by 1990 and subsequently reduced further.

CF-ODH was the first Otter to be acquired by Monsieur Fecteau and of all the DHC-3s operated by his company over the years, ODH remains unique for the length of time it served the province of Quebec in the operation of the Fecteau companies, an incredible 47 years. As other Otters came and went, ODH was retained, perhaps for sentimental reasons? Its operation was also a safe one, with

only one incident recorded, on 6th April 1974 at Lac Mistassini. As the accident summary recorded: “Climb, stall, cargo shifted, substantial damage”. ODH had been operating on wheel-skis from the frozen lake at the time. It was repaired and returned to service. However, all good things must come to an end, and after 47 years of service in Quebec, C-FODH was sold.

Many would have liked to see this veteran remain in Quebec in a museum, but despite its age, this Otter had many more years of productive life left in it. It headed west, to its new base at Vancouver, where it was registered to Harbour Air Ltd in February 2000.

Harbour Air was founded in 1981 by “three far-sighted pilots who saw an opportunity on Canada's Pacific coast to build an airline that serviced the British Columbia forest industry”, according to the company's website. “The partners purchased a couple of floatplanes and set up shop in an old floating office on the waterfront in Vancouver Harbour”. Harbour Air began a scheduled service to the Gulf Islands and opened a new waterfront terminal on the river at Vancouver International Airport.

The first Otters joined the fleet in 1985. In the spring of 1993, Harbour Air took over the float-plane operation of Trans Provincial Airlines, which had encountered financial difficulties, which gave the company a base at Prince Rupert, on the Pacific Coast of northern BC, as well as services from there to the Queen Charlotte Islands. By this stage, services were also being flown from Vancouver to points on Vancouver Island, as well as charters and sight-seeing flights.

On arrival at Harbour Air's facility at the Vancouver International Airport, the veteran C-FODH entered the hangar where it was converted to a Vazar turbine Otter. It then headed north to be based at Prince Rupert, where it started service during the summer of 2000, flying Harbour Air's schedules out to the Queen Charlotte Islands and up and down the BC coast. As of 19th October 2000 this Otter had a total of 23,714 hours total airframe time.

ODH was involved in a bizarre incident on 7th December 2000, returning from Masset on Queen Charlotte Island to Prince Rupert. One of the passengers was a prisoner, who was being escorted by a female deputy sheriff back to Prince Rupert to face assault charges. At about 1540 hours, when the Otter was about 50 kms out from Prince Rupert, cruising at 1,500 metres over the Hecate Strait, the prisoner managed, despite being handcuffed, to wrestle open the door and jumped to his death.

As the Vancouver Province newspaper reported: ”The pilot was about to take the plane down to try to recover the man's body, which they could see floating in the ocean below them, but the deputy sheriff, who had been dangling halfway out of the plane moments earlier, went into shock so they abandoned the attempt and headed straight to Prince Rupert to get the woman to hospital”.

On 22nd September 2001, ODH suffered a birdstrike landing at Seal Cove, the seaplane base at Prince Rupert, on a flight from Digby Island, but was undamaged.

The Harbour Air Otters alternate between the company's various bases. As at October 2002, ODH was based at the Vancouver City Harbour base, flying scheduled services to Vancouver Island. Since then, ODH has been converted with the scenic windows. What with this conversion, its turbine engine, avionic updates etc and looking pristine in its new paint scheme, ODH is not only the oldest Otter still flying but one of the finest and most modern. During 2004 it continued to be based at Vancouver, flying Harbour Air's scheduled commuter services.

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