7 – C-GPPL

Photo courtesy of Rich Hulina 2004

Serial Number






Year of Manufacture



 Piston R.1340


 Wawa, Ontario




 Hawk Air


 Box 186, Wawa, Ontario P0S 1K0

Contact / Link



 Weight 3614 kgs

Otter number 7 was the first Otter delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), on 28th March 1953 with serial 3661. Before formal handover, while the Otter was still at Downsview, code letters AB were painted on the fuselage side, so that the side markings were presented as AB (roundel) 661 and in this guise a number of photographs were taken for publicity purposes. The letters AB were to give the Otter a “military look” and were not the code letters of any RCAF unit then intended to operate the Otter. The official user of the code AB at that time was 401 Squadron, which then flew Harvards and Vampires. One of the publicity photographs of 3661 is captioned “The first commissioned Otter flies over Downsview Airport on 13th March 1953. On this day a simulated SAR operation was conducted by members of the Trenton Para Rescue Section to show the new aircraft to the media”. RCAF Otters 3662, 3663, 3664, 3665 and 3666 were similarly painted with a spurious AB code for publicity purposes before delivery.


After Otter 3661 had been formally delivered by DHC to the RCAF on 28th March '53, it was allocated that month to the Central Experimental & Proving Establishment (CEPE) at Rockcliffe, Ottawa for the purposes of evaluation of this new type of aircraft to enter RCAF service. It then went to the Fort Churchill, Manitoba Station Flight, where its arrival is recorded on 4th July 1953. It entered service with the Flight alongside Norseman 789. The diary of the Churchill Station Flight records the many missions undertaken by 3661. It operated on floats during the summer months from Landing Lake at Churchill.


On 14th August '53 it operated a medevac to Baker Lake and on 20th August was in the Duck Lake and Neultin Lake areas searching for a lost trapper. Later that month it was involved in the search for 405 Squadron Lancaster 999 which had crashed, and performed a coast crawl from York Factory to Eskimo Point. When the Lancaster was found, its crew of 8 were picked up by the Otter from the lake where it had ditched and were flown to Churchill. On 31st August '53 both Norseman 789 and Otter 3661 flew to Ennadai Lake with rations.


On 6th October '53 the Otter made its last float trip to Knife Lake and on 8th October was removed from Landing Lake and re-configured with wheel-skis. For the winter months, it would operate from the airport at Churchill, continuing with its light transport and SAR taskings. On 2nd January 1954 it was involved in the search for the Flight's own Norseman 789 which went missing on a medevac flight from Fort Churchill to Baker Lake, a flight of three hours fifteen minutes. Six RCAF Dakotas were also involved in the search for the missing Norseman, two each from Winnipeg, Rivers and Edmonton, as well as Arctic Wings Avro Anson CF-GLA. When the Norseman was found on a small lake at 62.46 North 96.06 West, one of the Dakotas orbited the scene until the evacuation of the Norseman crew and passengers was carried out by Otter 3661 on 5th January.


On 15th February 1954 the Otter flew from Churchill to the scene of the Norseman forced landing with a repair party, but its tail assembly broke on landing on the rough terrain. When it became overdue, Dakota 971 from Winnipeg took off to fly to the area, but due to ice fog had to return to Churchill without finding the Otter. It departed again early the next morning and sighted the downed Otter beside the Norseman. The two aircraft had to remain where they were until 20th February '54, when the Arctic Wings Anson flew in with replacement crews, and both the Otter and the Norseman flew back to Churchill.


The following month, the Otter was re-assigned and took off from Churchill on 19th March '54 en-route to Ottawa, being replaced at Churchill by Otter 3672. On arrival at RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ottawa 3661 entered service with 408 Squadron, adopting its MN code. Although based at Rockcliffe, the squadron spent much of its time deployed away from base, having been assigned the major task of mapping and surveying large tracts of the Canadian North. During the summer of 1954, four of the Squadron's Lancasters flew out of Goose Bay, Labrador on the mapping project, supported by six of the Squadron's Cansos and six Otters, including 3661. At the end of the summer season, 3661 and the other Otters returned to base at Rockcliffe for the winter, where they were engaged on local area flying and training.


Another major task entrusted to 408 Squadron was support of the construction of the Mid Canada Line (MCL) of radar sites along the 55th parallel of latitude, all 102 of them. In 1954 the RCAF launched a helicopter operation for the MCL with the formation of 108 Communications Flight which, with its H-19, H-21 and H-34 helicopters would carry men, supplies and equipment to the numerous isolated sites. On 18th June 1955 Otter 3661 in company with 3664, both on floats, departed Rockcliffe and arrived at Fort McMurray, Alberta on 21st June. The function of the two Otters was to carry men and equipment into places that were inaccessible to the Squadron's Canso, which was also supporting the operation. The Otters remained with the operation until it reached The Pas, Manitoba. 3661 was released on 22nd July '55 and departed Flin Flon, Manitoba that day to return to Rockcliffe.


In December 1955 3661 was again transferred to the CEPE at Rockcliffe. It underwent a DHC All Up Weight modification in January '56, after which it returned to 408 Squadron. On 27th June'56 it was flown to Goose Bay where 408 Squadron crewmen instructed Goose Bay Station Flight on the Otter, following the fatal crash of Goose Bay's own Otter 3666 on 10th April '56. On 22nd August '56 3661 proceeded from Goose Bay to St.John's/Torbay to transport the Canadian and Russian Ministers of Fisheries on a tour of Newfoundland fishing ports. 3661 then returned to base at Rockcliffe.


408 Squadron's use of the Otter came to an end in June 1957 and the following month 3661 was assigned to the Station Flight at Cold Lake, Alberta where it was to serve for the next two years. In June 1959 it went into storage as a reserve aircraft at the Lincoln Park, Calgary depot, located at what was then Calgary's downtown airport, which became an RCAF base when the new civilian airport was built northeast of the city. In December '59 it was taken out of storage and ferried to DHC at Downsview to be prepared for its next posting. In July 1960 it joined 102 Communications Unit at Trenton, Ontario where it served in an all silver scheme, with black front engine cowling, code VR (roundel) 661 on the rear fuselage and the serial 3661 and Canadian Ensign on the fin.


In November 1962, 3661 was taken out of service and put into storage by No.6 Repair Depot, Trenton. Here it remained until March '63, when it was one of 5 RCAF Otters selected by the Canadian Government to be donated to India. All five were trucked to DHC at Downsview and crated for shipment to India, the official transfer date to the Indian Air Force being 25th April 1963. On arrival in India the Otter was allocated serial BM-1004 with the Indian Air Force, with whom it served for the next 27 years, until withdrawn from use in 1990. In April 1993 the Indian Ministry of Defence advertised for sale by global tender “8 Otters on the ground since 1990 and 5 Otter airframes (without engines)”, which included BM-1004. The successful bidders were La Ronge Aviation Services of La Ronge, Saskatchewan jointly with Mike Hackman Aircraft Sales of Edmonton.


The purchasers managed to find another damaged Otter during their visits to India, which made 14 Otters to be returned home. These were located at different Indian Air Force bases. BM-1004 was one of three Otters located at Kanpur and another five were located at Barrackpore. This batch of eight were paint stripped, dismantled and trucked to Calcutta, from where they were shipped to Canada. They eventually arrived at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan by 30th April 1994. BM-1004 had at that stage of its career 5,051 hours on the airframe. It was put up for sale, along with all the other former Indian Air Force Otters. They were advertised for sale “as is”, or else the sellers would arrange for the aircraft to be rebuilt to flying condition for a customer.


Otter number 7 was purchased by Watson's Algoma Vacations Ltd, trading as Watson's Skyways, based at Wawa, Ontario. The Otter was one of those purchased “as is” and was trucked from Saskatoon to Echo Bay, Ontario where it was rebuilt for its new owners by Skyservice. On completion of the rebuild, it was registered to Watson's Algoma Vacations Ltd on 26th April 1995 as C-GPPL. There was a change of name of the registered owner on 28th February 2000 to Watsons Skyways Ltd.


C-GPPL joined Otter C-GOFB in service with Watson's Skyways. The Otters were based at Wawa and during the summer months were used to fly fishermen to two lodges, Pine Portage and Kaby Lodge, which the company operates on Kabinakagami Lake in the Ontario interior, one of which is located sixty miles from Wawa, the other seventy. The Otters were also available for general charters, and often flew for the Ontario Government's Ministry of Natural Resources, flying fire crews and Ministry personnel into the bush. Summer 2000 for example saw personnel flown by the Otters to Michipicoten Island in Lake Superior. By the end of that summer season, PPL's total time had reached 6,900 hours. The Watson's Skyways operation is summer only, the Otters being stored during the winter.


PPL remained in service with Watson's Skyways until the end of the summer 2000 season and was then placed in storage for the winter at the Springer Aerospace facility at Bar River, to the east of Sault St.Marie. In September 2000 it was advertised for sale, having been replaced in service with Watson's Skyways by a Cessna Caravan. The advertisement quoted an asking price of $590,000 Canadian, with the aircraft on EDO floats, ten passenger seats, wingtip strobes, vista vents in the two crew and four passenger windows, and well equipped with avionics, including HF radio and a Garmin GPS. It was sold the following month to Hawk Air of Wawa but remained in storage for the winter at Bar River, being registered to its new owners on 11th April 2001. PPL joined Otter C-FQMN with Hawk Air and continued to serve the Ontario bush country, flying fishermen to outpost camps and supplying lodges during the summer season. The company required an additional Otter to cater for an upsurge in its business, which kept both PPL and QMN busy during the summer of 2001 and subsequent years.


C-GPPL was involved in an incident on 15th June 2004. Eight minutes after it had taken off from Hawk Junction en route to Esnagi Lake the engine quit and the Otter was forced to make an immediate landing on Dipneedle Lake, some ten miles north of Hawk Junction. The lake was extremely narrow shortly after the point of touch down. The left wing struck two dead trees, resulting in damage to the outer four feet of the leading edge of the wing. Approaching the shore, one float struck a submerged rock, resulting in a one foot hole in one compartment. There were no injuries to the five passengers or the crew of two. The Otter was repaired and resumed service with Hawk Air.


C-GPPL. Having been operated by Hawk Air out of its base at Wawa, Ontario since April 2001, Otter number 7 was sold to Alaska Coastal Airlines of Juneau, Alaska and was registered to its new owners on 30th May 2007 as N342AK. Alaska Coastal Airlines trades as Wings of Alaska and already operates four Texas Turbine Otters on sight seeing flights from its Juneau base. N342AK arrived at Vernon, BC in late July 2007 to be converted as a Texas Turbine Otter by Kal-Air. On 20th November 2007 the registration was changed to N753AK. Work on the conversion continued at the Kal-Air facility over the winter of 2007/08.

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