21 - C-FRNO

Serial Number






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



Was CF-RNO, Crashed Schaft Lake, BC 1968.


Otter number 21 was, like number 20, one of the first six of ten DHC-3 delivered to the Royal
Norwegian Air Force. The batch of six were delivered in crates by ship and formally handed over on 2nd March 1954, arriving Oslo Harbour 8th April '54, being assembled at Kjeller Air Base, Oslo. The Otter took serial 5321. In May '54 the Otter was assigned to the Air Force Flying School at Vaernes for the training of pilots and mechanics. On 1st July '54 it joined the Communications Flight at Vaernes Air Base, moving to Orland Air Base on 15th November '54. On 18th December '54 it joined the Communications Flight at Bodo Air Base, which was designated 7193 Stotteving (Support Flight) in December 1956. It was to remain at Bodo for the rest of its military career with the Royal Norwegian Air Force, with periodic visits to the Horten Marine Base for overhaul.

In July 1960 it was allocated, together with Otter number 20, for duty with the United Nations inthe Belgian Congo. It was painted white with titles “United Nations/Nations Unies” in blue on each side of the fuselage and the UN flag on the tail fin. At this stage, the Otter had total time on the airframe of 2,705 hours. On 24th July 1960, together with Otter number 20, it was flown from Bodo to Gardermoen Air Base, Oslo and on 30th July 1960 was airlifted from there to Leopoldville in the Congo on board a USAF C-124 Globemaster. Having arrived in the Congo, the Otter joined the UN Air Wing, Support Squadron being allocated serial 304. It was one of a number of Otters with the squadron, which was based at N'djili United Nations Air Transport Base, Leopoldville but the aircraft were regularly detached to other airfields in support of UN operations. The Otters, flown and maintained by Swedish UN personnel, were used as general utility support aircraft and for reconnaissance, supply and evacuation missions.

304 served in the Congo for three years, until September 1963 when, along with five other UN Otters, it was transferred to the Yemen, where a requirement had arisen for aircraft for the UN Observation Mission in the Yemen, some 1,500 miles north-east of the Congo. The previous year, a Yemeni Republic had been established, which was opposed by a royalist government in exile. Fighting broke out between the two factions. In June 1963 the UN secured a ceasefire and sent an Observation Mission to the area on 4th July '63. This Mission was supported by the 134 Air Transport Unit (ATU) of the RCAF who operated DHC-4 Caribous, providing logistics support for ground teams and patrolling the de-militarized zone which had been established on each side of the border separating Saudi Arabia from the Yemen, to monitor the observance of the terms of disengagement.

The six Otters were flown up from the Congo to the Yemen on board RCAF Hercules, where they were taken on charge by 134 ATU and flown and maintained by RCAF personnel of the Unit. At the termination of the Observation Mission in January 1964, the six Otters were flown to the UN Emergency Force air base at El Arish, Egypt to be put into storage, awaiting a decision on their disposal. Two of these six Otters, 301 (serial 164) and 304 (serial 21), were sold by the UN to Mr G.Rae Mac Leod, Trading As Aero Leasing of Montreal on 26th May 1964. They were however registered as N127F and N128F to Ferrer Aviation Inc of Miami, Florida for the ferry flight from Africa.

This was the company of Mr Frank Ferrer who had a considerable involvement with Otters during the late fifties and throughout the sixties and early seventies, and who was responsible for rebuilding several Otters and returning many more back to Canada from other parts of the world. N127F and N128F passed together through Manchester, England and Prestwick, Scotland on ferry to Montreal, Canada on 21/22 June 1964. They were still in the all-white colour scheme they had sported while in UN service.

On arrival at Montreal's Dorval Airport, N128F was registered on 31st July 1964 to Mr MacLeod as CF-RNO and after overhaul it went on lease, although details of its use over the next four years have not been ascertained. It was then sold to Pacific Western Airlines of Vancouver, BC to whom it was registered on 8th April 1968. Its time with them was brief, as a few months later it was sold to Trans Provincial Airlines Ltd of Terrace, BC to whom it was registered on 5th August 1968, when Trans Provincial took over two routes which up to then had been operated by Pacific Western, serving northern British Columbia out of Prince Rupert.

The Otter crashed near Schaft Lake, BC on 13th December '68. CF-RNO, on skis, was prepared for flight after being parked outside overnight. A layer of ice on the upper surfaces of the wings had not been completely removed. The pilot took off at near-maximum permissible loading and climbed away slowly in a right turn after a long ground run. There was insufficient altitude to cross a mountain pass ahead and as the turn rate was increased to avoid the mountain, the aircraft stalled and came to rest on the snow-covered western slope of the mountain pass, which was extensively covered with dead trees, one mile east of Schaft Creek. It was repaired and continued to serve northern BC for many years. In February 1973 the registration was changed to C-FRNO.

In 1979 a Vancouver industrialist named Jim Pattison began acquiring many of the third level carriers on the BC Pacific coast, with the intention of creating a unified, regional airline called Air BC. He acquired Trans Provincial Airlines in May 1979, which became a subsidiary of Air BC. Although the other carriers acquired were merged into Air BC, and their aircraft painted in Air BC colours, Trans Provincial Airlines continued to operate under its own name, although C-FRNO was registered to Air BC Ltd on 14th May 1979. Air BC went on to become a successful regional airline insofar as its commuter aircraft operations were concerned, although the same did not happen for its bush aircraft. Over the years that followed, the bush operation was sold off, and Trans Provincial Airlines became an independent carrier again. C-FRNO was re-registered to Trans Provincial Airlines on 2nd June 1988.

All the while C-FRNO continued to fly from its Prince Rupert base, painted in Trans Provincial colour scheme. There were a number of minor mishaps. On 9th August 1987 the main gear collapsed on landing at Prince Rupert. Usually however the Otter was flown on floats from the Seal Cove seaplane base at Prince Rupert. On 13th September 1988 while in cruise flight the engine failed and the Otter was landed on a small, un-named lake. On 24th September '88, following a power interruption, the pilot force-landed on Skidegate Lake, BC and on 18th July '89, ten minutes after departing Sandspit on the Queen Charlotte Islands the engine began to run rough and a precautionary landing was made. On 20th August 1991, when reaching cruise altitude two miles west of Rose Harbour BC the engine lost power and the pilot landed back on the water. A cylinder head was found to be cracked at the rocker arm housing.

C-FRNO continued in the service of Trans Provincial Airlines until the company ceased trading and went into receivership on 19th March 1993. On that day, it had a total time of 19,683 hours on the airframe. It was sold to Harbour Air Ltd of Vancouver, to whom it was registered on 13th May 1993 and repainted in their attractive yellow and white colour scheme. Harbour Air took over Trans Provincial's Prince Rupert operation, so C-FRNO remained based at Seal Cove seaplane base at Prince Rupert, continuing its service to the northern BC communities. On 12th June 1995, eight miles north of Prince Rupert, the float equipped Otter developed a rough-running engine en route to Port Simpson and the crew made a precautionary landing on a lake.

Another incident was recorded on 18th November 2000. RNO was in cruise flight en route from Seal Cove to Hartley Bay when the engine lost power due to cylinder failure. The pilot performed a precautionary landing on the Oona River near Gibson Island. The Otter was taxied on the water to the dock without further problems, escorted by local boats to ensure safety. On 5th September 2001 the Otter was en route from Port Simpson to Seal Cove when the pilot noted a decrease in engine power and completed a precautionary landing onto Georgetown Lake, fifteen miles north-west of Prince Rupert. The company dispatched other aircraft to collect the passengers and a maintenance team to fix the Otter, which had a cracked cylinder. Shortly after this incident, RNO was ferried south to the Harbour Air maintenance base at the Vancouver International Airport where during November/December 2001 it was converted to a turbine Vazar DHC-3T Otter, joining the company's turbine Otter fleet.

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