39 - C-GOFB

Copyright John Stephens (Taken 21.10.2000 at CBHC)

Photo courtesy of Rich Hulina 2004

Serial Number






Year of Manufacture



 Turbo-Prop - PT6A


 Wawa, Ontario




 Watson's Skyways Ltd


 11 Mission Road, Box 1129, Wawa, Ontario P0S 1K0

Contact / Link




Otter 39 was delivered to the RCAF on 26th May 1954 with serial 3681. Its first posting was to the Fort Churchill, Manitoba Station Flight, to replace 3672 which had crashed on 26th April '54. 3681 is recorded as making a test flight at Churchill on 10th June '54 and then entering service with the Station Flight. An attempt on 25th June to move the Otter from the airfield to Landing Lake for float operations during the summer months was hampered by high winds, but the move was successfully made three days later.

The Otter was heavily tasked, with many medevacs and searches at this remote location (“Polar Bear Capital of the World”). On 8th July 1954 it flew to Ennadai Lake in company with RCMP Otter CF-MPP, which was also based at Churchill, to search for missing Eskimos. On 13th July it flew to York Factory to pick up an Indian patient, and then to the location where 405 Squadron Lancaster 999 had crashed the previous August, to check the lake and the condition of the Lancaster, which was to be broken up. There were many more medevacs around this time, including one to Winnipeg on 26th October and one to The Pas on 19th November '54. During February 1955 3681 was involved in the rescue of the RCMP Otter near Ennadai lake, as described in relation to CF-MPP. On 11th March '55 an RAF Shackleton arrived at Churchill for cold weather testing. On 13th March 3681 airlifted supplies to Napier Lake in connection with the test. The following month, the Otter recorded flights to Baker Lake, Brochet and South Knife. On 10th May '55 US Overseas Airlines DC-4 N90407 crash landed thirty miles short of the airfield at Churchill on the Hudson Bay ice, Otter 3681 being involved in the rescue.

A few days later, on 17th May 1955, Dakota 913 of 111 Communications & Rescue Flight, Winnipeg crash landed on the Hudson Bay coast 100 miles north of Churchill. The Otter proceeded to the scene and homed in on a USAF C-124 Globemaster which was orbiting the area, and descended using a beacon let-down on the emergency Gibson Girl. The crew of the downed Dakota were evacuated to Eskimo Point by the Otter, where they spent the night. On 25th May there was another medevac by 3681 to The Pas. Starting on 6th June '55 the Otter was used on an extensive search for a fishing party of military personnel who were missing on their return to Churchill. The Otter flew out to investigate the camp site the party had set up at the mouth of Goose Creek. Several passes were made to arouse anyone who might have been asleep in the tents but on-one appeared.

Extensive searches were made over the following days of the Churchill River and Hudson Bay by the Otter, as well as by USAF Globemaster 20994, Lancaster 958 and Canso CF-GBG but no sign of the missing persons was found. 7th December 1955 saw 3681 flying alongside Otter 3671 of 408 Squadron airlifting Army personnel on an exercise. On 4th July '56 3681 was put on floats and was flown by a 408 Squadron crew to Upper Back to install a SHORAN set (a type of radio beacon). On 14th September 1956 3681 departed Churchill at the end of its assignment there, flying to Downsview where All Up Weight modifications were incorporated by DHC. At the conclusion of this work in December 1956, the Otter was re-assigned to the Goose Bay Station Flight, to replace 3684 which had been damaged beyond repair on a flight from Goose Bay to Postville, Labrador on 17th December 1956. 3681 arrived at Goose Bay on 30th January 1957 and became an active member of the Station Flight, which it was to serve for nearly nine years.

In March '57 it deployed to Knob Lake, Quebec on temporary duty, before returning to Goose. The Otter is mentioned in the unit history undertaking a long-range rescue during November/December 1958. On 29th November, having flown from Goose Bay, the Otter picked up a sick Eskimo child at Povungnituk in northern Quebec on the Hudson Bay coast and flew the patient to Great Whale, where the child was transferred to RCAF Dakota KP224 which had come up from Trenton, and which flew the child to hospital in Ottawa. The Otter then flew to Nottingham Island, where the Hudson Strait meets Foxe Channel, to pick up another ill person, escorted by RCAF C-47 994 flying from Coral Harbour, and flew the patient to Coral Harbour where he was transferred to the C-47 and flown to Churchill, Manitoba. The C-47 then returned to Goose Bay where it arrived on 4th December. Otter 3681 also returned home via Churchill, where it was weathered-in for some days, and then continued on via Winisk,Ontario-Bagotville-Sept Iles back to base at Goose where it arrived on 9th December 1958, after two marathon medevacs.

In May 1960 Otter 3681 flew south to Downsview for work by DHC, being replaced at Goose Bay by 3692, until it returned to Goose in December 1960. On 20th January 1961 3681 flew from Goose via Saglek to Resolution Island, to fly out the crew of a USAF C-47 tail number 77291, which had force landed on the sea ice near the DEW Line radar site, a rescue in which Wheeler Airlines Otter CF-IUZ (135) was also involved. IUZ flew the C-47 crew from the scene of the crash to Resolution Island, while 3681 then flew them to Frobisher Bay, escorted by USAF SC-54 tail number 72703 of the 48th Air Rescue Squadron at Goose Bay. During July 1961, 3681 together with the Goose Station Flight's other Otter 3698, was involved in the large scale search for Okanagan Helicopters Sikorsky S-58 CF-LWC, missing on a flight from Cartwright to Goose Bay.

On 26th February 1962, 3681 returned to Downsview for a repaint, no doubt much needed after its long service in arduous northern conditions, returning to Goose on 20th March. On 22nd December 1963 one of two French-registered Nord 1002s en route from Martlesham, Suffolk in England to the United States, force landed on Cut Throat Island, 130 miles from Goose, while on the sector from Narssarsuaq, Greenland to Goose Bay. Cut Throat Island was once the site of a Pinetree Line radar site. The two Nords, F-BFYX and F-BGVU, had been in England, masquerading as Messerschmitts for the film '633 Squadron'. They had already experienced difficulty and become lost, having to be found and escorted by a USAF Rescue C-54 from Goose Bay. F-BGVU lost oil pressure and had to force land on the island. The Otter located the downed aircraft but due to darkness and slush was unable to land. The pilot was picked up by helicopter the next day. The aircraft was abandoned on the island. The other Nord F-BFYX continued on to the United States here it became N108U. 3681 continued flying from Goose throughout 1964, on general utility tasks, SAR, medevacs and forest fire support. Between 4th and 22nd December '64 it flew on the annual Christmas Drop - 4,600 pounds of toys and clothing were flown to children in Postville, Nain, Makkovik, Davis Inlet and Hopedale. 3681 soldiered on at Goose until September 1965 when, after nearly nine years of service there, it left Goose and flew south to No.6 Repair Depot at Trenton, continuing on to Camp Borden, Ontario where it arrived on 1st October 1965.

3681 remained at Camp Borden from October 1965 until 14th March 1966, used for the ground training of Tanzanian Air Force personnel, who were about to take delivery of eight Otters from the Canadian Government. 3681 then went back to No.6 Repair Depot, Trenton for an overhaul and repaint, and the installation of floats. It then flew back to Goose Bay, where it was again stationed, on floats for the summer of 1966, from May to October. It then left Goose for the last time, on assignment to 401 Squadron at St.Hubert, Montreal, which it joined in January 1967. A minor “C” category incident was recorded on 5th August '67 at St.Hubert. The tailwheel struck an unmarked hazard while moving rapidly over uneven ground during a short radius starboard turn while taxying for take off. The exterior skin was wrinkled on the starboard side of the fuselage. The Otter went to Downsview for repair and then back to 401 Squadron, St.Hubert in February 1968.

3681 spent from February to May 1969 undergoing work at the AMDU, Trenton, again returning to 401 Squadron St.Hubert with whom it continued to serve until December 1975 when it was flown to the AMDU Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and handed over to the Crown Assets Disposal Corporation for disposal, its military career over. The Otter remained in storage at Saskatoon until April 1977 when, as explained in relation to Otter number 35, it was one of seven ex Canadian military Otters transferred to the Province of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources. All seven were flown to the Ministry's base at Sault St.Marie, Ontario where they were completely rebuilt and modernised, and repainted in the Ministry's yellow and black colour scheme. Otter 39 was registered to the Ministry in April 1978 as C-GOFB and entered service.

For the next eight years, OFB flew the length and breadth of Ontario on the many diverse tasks of a hard-working Provincial Government bush aircraft. During the mid eighties, the Ministry sold off its Otter fleet, and C-GOFB was sold to Expressair R.L. Inc of Gatineau, Quebec in July 1985. The president of this company was Roger Lachapelle, and in July 1986 the Otter was registered to Roger Lachapelle Pontiac Buick Ltee, based at Danford Lake, Quebec. This company and Expressair R.L. Inc acted as sales agents for aircraft and automobiles.

C-GOFB was eventually sold to Watson's Algoma Vacations Ltd, trading as Watson's Skyways of Wawa, Ontario to whom it was registered in May 1992. It suffered a minor incident at Kabinakagami Lake, Ontario on 28th August 1994. While commencing a crosswind take-off from the lake in gusty wind conditions, the Otter encountered a strong gust which lifted the right wing. The pilot aborted the take-off and during his attempt to regain control, the left wing contacted the water. The aircraft was taxied to the shore with its left aileron torn from the outboard hinge and folded back over the wing. The damage was repaired.

The following year, C-GOFB was joined by Otter C-GPPL (7) in Watson's Skyways service, and the activities of this company have already been described in relation to number 7. C-GOFB continued in service until the end of the 1999 summer season, when it was decided to convert the aircraft to a Vazar DHC-3T with a PT-6 turbine engine. The conversion was undertaken over the winter of 1999/2000 by Skyservice at its Echo Bay, Ontario facility and following completion of the work, the Otter was registered to Watson's Skyways Ltd on 6th March 2000. In April 2000 C-GOFB undertook a lengthy training detail to familiarise the crew with the new turbine, routing Echo Bay- Sault St.Marie-Harlan, Kentucky-Lakeland, Florida where it partook in the air show at Lakeland, before returning to service with Watson's Skyways, based out of Wawa. By October 2000, OFB had some 13,000 hours on the airframe and was placed into winter storage at Bar River, Ontario, resuming flying the following May. The Watson's Skyways operation is summer only, their aircraft being put into storage each winter.

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