35 - ZK-VAS

Serial Number






Year of Manufacture





 Lake Rotorua




 Vulcanic Air Safaris



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Was C-FXGA with Air Saguenay (1980) Inc

N511BW. Imported 2002. Weight 3614 kgs. Originally RCAF 3677.

Otter 35 was delivered to the RCAF on 31st March 1954 with serial 3677. It was initially allocated to 103 Rescue Unit at Greenwood, Nova Scotia where it flew alongside Otter 3673 and the Unit's Cansos and Dakotas. The Otter is mentioned frequently in the unit history on medevac and training flights, as well as transport missions to such destinations as Halifax, Yarmouth, Moncton and Summerside. In July 1955 it went on loan to 102 Communications & Rescue Flight at Trenton, before returning to Greenwood. In January 1956 it flew to Trenton for installation of a VHF radio, returning to Greenwood. In October 1956, All Up Weight modifications were incorporated.

The Otter continued in service with 103 RU until assigned to 115 Air Transport Unit, El Arish, Egypt for United Nations duties. The Otter was assigned to the Unit in April 1957, as a replacement for Otter 3675 (33) which had crashed. The Otter was dismantled and loaded on board 436 Squadron C-119 Boxcar 22135, which departed on 4th May 1957 routing via Goose Bay and Zweibrucken, Germany to Naples, Italy and then onwards to El Arish where Otter 3677 was reassembled and entered service with 115 ATU. 3677 was to remain with the unit for all of ten years and is mentioned frequently in the unit diary, flying to such places as Jerusalem, Ras, Gaza etc. For example, on 31st August 1957 it flew a Swedish entertainment group to Kusima and then to Sharm- El-Sheik; on 24th October '57 a passenger flight to Quaisima; on 25th February '58 Gaza-Quaisima- Ras-Sharm-El-Sheik. It spent from August 1960 to June 1961 at the RCAF depot at Langar in England on “CAIR” (Calender Aircraft Inspection and Repair programme) before returning to El Arish.

During its long period of service in the Egyptian desert, only one incident is recorded, a “D” category mishap on 25th July 1963 on an overshoot, resulting in bent propeller tips. The Unit's last two Otters, 3677 and 3696, officially ceased to fly on UN operations on 31st October 1966 but were retained as back-up support until the end of the year. In November 1966 the Otters flew 65 hours and 28 in December. In January 1967 they flew only 9 hours. Otters 3677 and 3696 were both serving with 115 ATU when its Otter operations came to an end in January 1967.

Both Otters were flown back home, to No.6 Repair Depot at Trenton by RCAF C-130 Hercules. After arrival at Trenton, the two Otters were overhauled before being assigned to their next postings, both Otters in fact going to Goose Bay, Labrador in May 1967. 3677 remained at Goose until November '67 when it was assigned to 418 Squadron at Namao Air Base, Edmonton. Here it served for the next eight years until October 1975, as 418 Squadron phased out their Otters, when it was flown to Saskatoon and placed into storage, pending disposal by the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation.

There were a number of Canadian military Otters in storage at Saskatoon and in April 1977 seven of them, including number 35, were transferred to the Province of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources and allocated registrations C-GOFA to C-GOFF inclusive. The seven Otters were flown on ferry permits from Saskatoon to the Ministry's base at Sault. St.Marie, Ontario where they were completely stripped and rebuilt to better-than-new standard, including modern instrumentation. They were also re-painted in the Ministry's eye-catching yellow and black colour scheme. Otter 35 was registered to the Ministry in March 1978 as C-GOFA and entered service. The first six of these Otters had been converted and were put into use by the summer of 1978, leaving only C-GOFG still being worked on at Sault St.Marie. During the winter of 1978/79, several of these new, elaborately equipped Otters were based at Kenora and Sioux Lookout to provide logistical support for an extensive West Patricia Land Use Planning Survey. Operating on wheel-skis in forty below temperatures, caribou and moose census were successfully flown at Weagamow Lake, Fort Hope and Big Trout Lake.

C-GOFA continued to serve the Province of Ontario for the next eight years, until sold on 13th May 1986 to a company in the United States called Boundary Water Aire Inc of Eveleth, Minnesota to whom the Otter was registered on 26th June 1986 as N511BW. The Province of Ontario was at the time disposing of its Otter fleet, and this company also purchased two more of the Ministry's Otters, C-GOFD (58), which became N100BW and C-GOFE which became N61FE. Quite what the company did with these three Otters is unknown, but they were not held for long, Otter number 35 being sold on to Temsco Helicopters Inc of Ketchikan, Alaska in February 1987, retaining the registration N511BW.

Temsco Helicopters, as its name implies, operated a large fleet of Hughes and Bell helicopters. In January 1985 Temsco purchased Tyee Airlines (operators of Otters N9895B, N68086 and N2783J) as well as floatplanes owned by South Coast Inc, creating a new airline which retained Tyee's colourful red, orange and yellow colour scheme. As well as Tyee's fleet of aircraft, Temsco also acquired as part of the deal the Tongass Avenue dock and hangar at Ketchikan which Tyee had used, its hangar at the Ketchikan Airport and a hangar at nearby Peninsula Point, which was used for aircraft maintenance. The following year Temsco Helicopters also purchased Ketchikan-based Westflight Aviation, thus getting rid of the competition and acquiring its Otter N1018B to add to the three former Tyee Otters it already operated. At this stage Temsco Helicopters Inc adopted the trading name Temsco Airlines.

As well as scheduled services, the company also used its fixed wingfleet on charters and advertised tourist flights over the Misty Fjords national park, directed in particular to passengers on the cruise ships which docked at Ketchikan, the Otters being very suitable to bring groups from the ships on these sightseeing flights.

The Otter had proven to be a breadwinner for Temsco Airlines, and two more were added to the fleet in 1987, one of which was N511BW, one more in 1988 and a further two in 1989, to bring the total operated to nine. These were flown alongside an equally large fleet of Beavers and some Cessna 185s. At that stage in 1989, Temsco was the world's largest scheduled airline operating De Havilland Canada seaplanes, and owned the largest commercial seaplane Otter fleet. Ketchikan was definitely “Ottertown USA”. Also operating from Ketchikan were Taquan Air Service and Ketchikan Air Service, which were Temsco's competitors on scheduled services and charters and Pro Mech Air, a charter only carrier. These began to get the better of their larger commercial rival during 1990/91.

Citing “adverse economic conditions “ and increased competition, Temsco Airlines announced
abruptly on Monday 28th October 1991 that its final services would take place the following Friday, 1st November '91 and that the airline's fixed wing division would close down on that date. The helicopter division was not affected by the closure.

Temsco's Otters were however very much affected by the closure. In fact, overnight they were all redundant, although all of them would eventually be restored to service with other carriers. Otter N511BW was one which did not immediately re-enter service after the collapse of Temsco Airlines, but was to languish in the maintenance hangar at Peninsula Point, Ketchikan for nearly four years before becoming active again. One of the carriers to take over the business after Temsco Airlines ceased operations was Taquan Air Service Inc, a company formed in 1977 by Tsimshian native Jerry Scudero. The company steadily built up its fleet, acquiring its first Otter in May 1991. Taquan Air built up its Otter fleet to nine units, including four of the former Temsco Otters. N511BW was one of these, registered in June 1995 to Jerry Scudero's own company, Scudero Inc, and entering Taquan service after an overhaul. It was repainted in Taquan's blue and white scheme and registered to Taquan Air Service Inc in May 1997.

When in 1997 Taquan took over the assets of Ketchikan Air Service inc, which had been closed down, its fleet totalled 28 aircraft, including 9 Otters, making Taquan Air the largest floatplane operation in North America at that time. During 1997 Taquan carried 251,000 passengers and handled more than seven million pounds of cargo. It was by that stage the major carrier out of Ketchikan. Fifty percent of its summer revenues came from cruise ship passengers on sightseeing flights and sports fishermen going to lodges. In October 1999 the Kootznoowoo native corporation, which already owned half of Taquan Air, purchased the other half from Jerry Scudero, to become the sole owner. Within a short time however the airline was in trouble, as its new owners realised the amount of money required to keep it flying during the winter. They apparently determined that the operation was no longer financially viable. On 31st December 1999 Taquan Air dropped flights to more than twenty isolated communities in Southeast Alaska, laid off 80 employees and grounded all but three of its aircraft, which were kept flying to maintain essential services.

What remained of Taquan Air was put up for sale. The name and five Beavers were sold in May 2000, so that a much reduced operation continued under new ownership. That same month the company's other aircraft, including its then five remaining Otters, were put up for sale by auction. It as a sad end to a long-established Ketchikan carrier. Thus, for a second time, Otter N511BW was redundant, and as on the previous occasion of the Temsco Airlines collapse, it languished unused at Ketchikan. It did not sell at the May 2000 auction but remained at Ketchikan waiting for a buyer to be found. Its enforced retirement continued until February 2001 when it was sold to Hilltop Aviation LLC of Jay in the State of Maine. The Otter left Ketchikan, its home for many years, that month for the long cross-country flight which, interestingly, was undertaken on non-amphibious, straight floats.

From Ketchikan, the Otter flew south to Campbell River on Vancouver Island and then to Victoria. It being winter, a southerly route was chosen, continuing on via Seattle to San Francisco, landing in the harbour. From there N511BW lake-hopped across the country, through Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, New York State, Connecticut to Oldtown, Maine where it landed on deep snow on its floats, quite an achievement.

It was overhauled at Oldtown, after which it was registered to its new owners on 16th May 2001. It was then flown from Oldtown to Timpond Camp, Eustace, Maine where its new owners had a lodge.

Hilltop Aviation were also associated with Labrador Outdoors Inc, who have a lodge at Minipi Lake, Labrador , the Otter being intended to serve these camps, if a buyer was not found for it. In August 2001 the Otter was advertised for sale, with an asking price of US$389,000. Total airframe time was given as 17,500 hours, the aircraft being on EDO 7170 floats, with a ten place stereo intercom. “This aircraft has been in the shop for three months and is ready to work”, proclaimed the advert. It was transferred to Air Caribou Ltd of Goose Bay on 27th June 2002, registered C-FXGA to service the lodge, based at Schefferville, Quebec. Having flown for that company for the summer, the Otter went on lease to Air Saguenay (1980) Inc on 22nd August 2002, joining their large fleet of DHC-3s, serving the Quebec bush country. On 5th September 2003 'XGA was registered to Nordplus (1998) Ltee of Schefferville Quebec, operators of Otter C-GFUT (404), on lease from Hilltop Aviation.

The following year, the Otter was sold, to a buyer in New Zealand. The Otter had remained in Canada after the lease to Nordplus (1998) Ltee and the Canadian registration C-FXGA was
cancelled on 13th July 2004. The Otter was shipped from Montreal to New Zealand in two forty foot containers. It was railed from Montreal to New York, then by ship to South Africa and on to Freemantle and Sydney, finally to Tauranga in New Zealand, arriving October 2004 after its long sea crossing. The buyer was Volcanic Air Safaris Ltd, based at the Rotorua City Lakefront on the shore of Lake Rotorua on New Zealand's North Island. This operator flew two Cessna 206 floatplanes and a Jet Ranger and Squirrel helicopters. As its web-site proclaims “We provide the opportunity to view from the skies the spectacular natural features of Rotorua and the Central North Island Region. The main theme of our published tours is 'volcanic', focusing on the many crater lakes and geothermal attractions of the area, with specific emphasis on the dormant volcano of Mount Tarawera, the geothermal activity of Hell's Gate and New Zealand's most active (offshore) volcano on White Island”. The company also flies charters. The Otter was registered to Volcanic Air Safaris as ZK-VAS on 16th November 2004 and entered service with them in December 2004 after it had a new interior and a panoramic window kit installed.

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