46 - C-FQOQ

Serial Number






Year of Manufacture





 De-Registered 2006




1140626 Ontario Ltd


 Cp 1102, Chicoutimi, Quebec G7H 5G4

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Originally delivered to the RCAF as No.3685 to 103 Rescue Unit.

Otter 46 was delivered to the RCAF on 18th November 1954 with serial 3685. It went initially to No.6 Repair Depot, Trenton where it was kept in storage as a reserve aircraft. It went back to DHC in January 1956 for incorporation of All Up Weight modifications before being assigned in June 1956 to 103 Rescue Unit at Greenwood, Nova Scotia. It carried the unit's QZ code. It is recorded in the unit's history as flying to Amherst on 2nd November '56 in aid of the Springhill mine disaster. On returning to Greenwood, it had a “B” category crash on landing, the first of five accidents during its military career. While landing at Greenwood on a grass surface in high wind, the pilot touched down slightly out of wind. Skid marks showed an early application of one brake followed quickly by the other. The Otter nosed over and then dropped back in a three point attitude, damaging the propeller and wrinkling the fuselage.

Repairs were carried out by DHC at Downsview, after which 3685 was assigned to the Cold Lake Station Flight, Alberta in June 1957, on amphibious floats. As well as serving Cold Lake and the Primrose Lake range (as described in relation to Otter 3683), the Station's Otters on occasion ventured further afield. On 5th February 1958 3685 was at Churchill, Manitoba en route to Station Bird on a mission. At Cold Lake the Otter met with its second mishap on 15th July '58. In the course of a cross-country navigation training flight, en route to a lake some miles from base to practice water landings, the instructor and student were pre-occupied, discussing the aircraft's characteristics and neglected to select the landing gear “up” on the amphibious Otter. They also forgot to check the landing gear prior to landing on the lake. The Otter made a smooth touchdown on the lake but after a short run the nose dropped and the aircraft flipped over onto its back. The crew escaped unharmed after a “rapid emergency evacuation”. The Otter was fished out of the lake and brought to the Lincoln Park Depot, Calgary for repair by Canadian Pacific Airlines.

This Depot not only repaired and stored RCAF aircraft but was also responsible for retrieving crashed aircraft. To summarise an article entitled 'The Great Barge' -- “Due to the propensity of the Air Force to land miscellaneous airplanes in various lakes from time to time, our weary Salvage Section requested a portable salvage vessel for retrieving such items. A barge was constructed with a winch, capable of lifting a flooded flying machine or its component parts, transportable in a C-119 or by truck. The barge was ready for action in August 1957, complete with a trusty winch, a sturdy set of gin poles, a diver complete with suit, air pump and signal rope. We couldn't wait for a proper job to turn up, and in July 1958 it did when an Air Force amphib Otter managed to sink in a remote lake”.

“The excited Salvage guys loaded the new barge on the designated truck and sped to the scene. There were problems. The diver couldn't see through the silt, floating green stuff turned his stomach and he got hung up halfway down on his safety line and swung about for a while. The Otter was upside down and when hooked flew away like an enraged Marlin on a strike. The loaded cable over the deck sank the front float of the barge under water, curling the barge up like a pretzel and scared the living bejabers out of the salvage crew. Otherwise things went almost fine and as one outboard motor on the barge still reached the water, they hauled their catch over to the shallows, dragged it up the beach and dried it out”.

The Otter was then transported back to the Lincoln Park Depot for repair and on completion of the work in March 1959 it returned to 103 Rescue Unit at Greenwood, Nova Scotia. It suffered some unspecified damage on 17th April 1962 and on 24 November 1962 went to 6 Repair Depot, Trenton as a reserve aircraft and was placed in storage, where it remained until issued to 400 Squadron, Downsview in September 1964.

Otters based at Downsview were shared between 400 and 411 Squadrons, and 3685 was flying for 411 Squadron when it met its next mishap on 20th June 1965. The 1965 411 Squadron summer camp was held at Fredricton, New Brunswick with a detachment at Harmon AFB, Stephenville, the USAF base on Newfoundland's west coast. The 411 Squadron personnel were housed in tents erected at the Fredericton Airport. During camp, the Otters operated primarily out of Petersville, a 950 foot grass strip at Camp Gagetown. From there the Otters roamed the Gagetown area, alighting at such strips as Bell Ford, Summer Hill, the Manor, Clone's Road, Hayden Road, the Tower and Olinville. 3685 was landing at Olinville when it came to grief on 20th June 1965. During the landing on a training flight, an unexpected gust of wind caused the aircraft to become airborne again. The Otter was not equipped with dual controls and the captain was unable to take over control. The pilot could not stop the aircraft in time and it overshot the runway, descended over a six foot embankment and came to rest 55 feet from the runway. The starboard landing gear compression strut and its attachment had been forced into the fuselage. The accident report noted that no wind sock or other form of wind indicator was available at the strip or in the aircraft.

3685 was taken to the DHC plant at Downsview, repaired and returned to service with 400 Squadron in January 1966. It was still serving with this unit when it was involved in another incident on 3rd May 1968, flying from Downsview with a 411 Squadron crew. As the incident report states: “The pilot was the leader of a three plane formation on a VFR flight plan. The weather briefing stated that conditions at destination would improve to VFR limits by 1400Z, but as the formation proceeded at 3,000 feet an undercast of cloud appeared and obscured the ground more and more and the overcast then became solid. When the formation neared its destination, it was informed that the weather there was - ceiling 600 feet, overcast, visibility 5 to 6 miles in fog. The leader decided to descend through cloud in search of VFR conditions for the balance of the trip. The captain of the number three aircraft declined to follow on the grounds that their position was uncertain and he broke off. The other two Otters descended into cloud but the captain of the number two aircraft then broke formation and climbed back on top. The leader continued his descent, broke out of cloud in poor visibility and struck the top of a tree. Fortunately, the pilot was able to climb back on top and return to base, with pieces of foliage dangling from his Otter”.

As the 411 Squadron history recounts of this incident, showing a photograph of the somewhat bent engine cowling of 3685: “View of the cowling after an encounter with a high flying tree. The pilot, J.G.Richardson, was examined by a psychiatrist in the resulting investigation and declared sane. The branches visible inside the cowling were analysed as coming from an ash tree which obviously had grown quite tall. JG had not seen the tree because he was watching his instruments, which any sane man does when he is in cloud”. After that close call, 3685 continued to fly with 400 and 411 Squadrons from Downsview until April 1969 when it was transferred to 424 Squadron at Trenton, which was then the Otter OCU (Operational Conversion Unit).

Its final mishap during its military career occurred on 6th February 1970 in the course of a cross-country proficiency flight from Trenton. The pilot flew to Bon Echo Lake, some eighty miles north-east of Trenton, to practice landings. With an overcast sky and snow conditions on the frozen lake, a grey-out condition was anticipated. The pilot, after making one approach, decided on a white-out procedure. He set up the descent at 300 feet per minute, one quarter flap, 60 knots and 14 to 16 inches of manifold pressure. During the descent the nose pitched up and the pilot, realizing that the rate of descent was excessive, applied power. The aircraft struck the snow heavily and was brought to a stop, sustaining serious damage. As the accident report concluded: “The pilot decided to modify established white-out procedures as he believed the lake was too short for a full white-out procedure. The pilot attempted to arrest the rate of descent by using elevator. This resulted in the loss of airspeed and subsequent stall”.

That accident marked the end of 3685's flying career with the military. The damage was such that the aircraft could not be flown out. Twelve men cleared a road into the lake, dismantled the Otter and loaded it onto two flat bed trailers, an operation which took three days. It was roaded first to Trenton and then to the Mountain View depot, where it arrived on 17th March 1970 and was put up for disposal in its damaged condition in October '70. The purchaser was Gander Aviation Ltd of Gander, Newfoundland, an operator of Beavers, Otters and Cessnas from a base at the Gander International Airport. The company purchased three Otters from the Canadian military in February 1971, all of which were located at Mountain View and all of which were in a damaged condition. All three were trucked from Mountain View to Oshawa, Ontario where they were rebuilt for Gander Aviation by Weston Aircraft Ltd of Oshawa. Provisional allocation of marks occurred on 13th May 1971, CF-QOQ (46), CF-QOR (375) and CF-QOS (398). CF-QOS went into service with Gander Aviation and the other two, after repair, were sold on.

The purchaser of Otter number 46, CF-QOQ, was Labelle Touristair Inc of Mont Laurier, Quebec to whom the Otter was registered in December 1971. It continued in use with this company until it crashed at Parent, Quebec on 5th October 1973. As the accident report summarises: “Climb; mush; selected unsuitable terrain; failed to obtain/maintain flying speed; substantial damage”. The aircraft then went to Hull Air Services Ltd of Masson, Quebec to whom it was registered in March 1974, who repaired the aircraft over a five year period. It then headed north to the Yukon, to its new owners Air North Charter & Training Ltd, based at Whitehorse to whom it was registered in October 1979. It was to have an adventurous time in the Yukon.

Its first accident with Air North occurred at Whitehorse on 4th January 1981. The aircraft was positioned half way down the runway for take-off. Shortly after lift off, the engine backfired and the pilot elected to land back on the remaining runway. The landing was heavy and the right main gear strut was forced up into the fuselage. Being very cold, a fifty minute warm up had been required to get the engine to proper temperature but the pilot did not do a static power run and it is probable that the plugs had fouled during the warm up, the accident report concluded. By 18th January '81 the Otter had arrived at Calgary for repair. Its next mishap was at Fargo, Yukon on 1st April 1981. The Otter landed with the parking brake on and tipped onto its nose. At Rusty Mountain, Yukon on 26th August 1981 a gust of wind affected the approach and instigated a high sink rate. In the hard landing that followed, the main gear collapsed. At Russell Creek, Yukon on 19th April 1982 the pilot carried out a normal landing on the soft, wet gravel strip and came to a full stop before initiating a 180 degree turn to taxy back to the unloading area. After turning through 90 degrees the Otter came to a stop and the pilot added more power to continue the turn. The rear drag strut fitting failed, allowing the main landing gear to collapse. The aircraft fell onto its right wing and belly, causing structural damage.

Its final accident while in service with Air North happened at Glacier Lake, Yukon on 26th July 1983. The pilot was attempting to land the float-equipped Otter on the lake in a mountain valley. Approaching the lake downwind he observed a rain shower had moved over the lake. The narrowness of the valley precluded a 180 degree turn, so he tried to land with a tailwind. While on final approach, some forty feet above the lake surface, the aircraft began to sink and the pilot was unable to slow the descent despite an attempt to overshoot. The aircraft struck the water and bounced twice after which the nose portion of the floats dug in. Afraid of nosing over inverted, the pilot then applied right rudder to roll the aircraft onto a wing. As a result of hitting the water, the right wing broke off and the floats separated from the fuselage. The pilot and his passengers were uninjured, and after clinging to floating wreckage, swam to the shore.

This accident caused such severe damage to the Otter as to end its flying career for quite a time. The wrecked Otter was purchased by Waglisla Air Inc (Wagair) of Bella Bella, BC and registered to them in August 1984. It was retrieved from the crash site, and trucked to the Vancouver International Airport, where it arrived on 24th April 1985. It was to languish out in the open at Vancouver for many years, the damaged wings lying beside the fuselage. After Wagair's demise, it was acquired by Pacific Aircraft Salvage, who stored the fuselage and wings in their hangar at the Vancouver International Airport as a long-term rebuild project. In 1996 they sold it to Air Saguenay (1980) Inc of Chicoutimi, Quebec to whom it was registered as C-FQOQ in May 1997.

The still wrecked Otter was trucked across the country to the repair shop of Aviation V.L. Inc at St.Jean airfield outside Montreal, where a slow rebuild commenced. By May 2000 it was advertised for sale by Aviation V.L. Inc as “In process of rebuilding - could sell 'as is' or complete assembly”. Total airframe time was given as 8,102 hours. The Otter was sold to Lakeland Aviation of Fort Frances, Ontario a company which specialises in the repair and restoration of aircraft. It was taken from Montreal to Fort Frances, where it remained in the Lakeland Aviation hangar for the next three years, being gradually worked on. By September 2003, twenty years after its crash, it was ready to have a new engine installed, and had the scenic window modification done. It was again for sale, the choice of engine being left to the purchaser. As Lakeland Aviation have to overhaul the Otters of Fort Frances Sportsmen during the winter months, no work was done on QOQ over the winter of 2003/04, but in May 2004 work commenced towards getting QOQ airworthy once again, and by the end of that summer, the Otter was substantially complete and ready to receive a new engine. C-FQOQ was registered to 1140626 Ontario Limited (Lakeland Aviation) of Fort Frances on 24th December 2004.

Registration cancelled 2006.

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