DeHavilland Canada Twin Otter

EAA bought the first of its Twin Otters in 1966 with the first delivered in July 1967. They were to replace its sole remaining Dragon Rapide based at Dar es Salaam and used on the Mafia Island and Zanzibar routes. The Twin Otter with its Pratt and Whitney PT6A-27 turboprop engines, 210mph cruise and tricycle undercarriage was envisaged as a better aircraft for training future cadet pilots than the old DC3.

The initial purchase was for the 100 series with the short nose and the aircraft were well thought of by both passengers and pilots. Normally the aircraft was crewed by a Captain and an African cadet pilot, there were no cabin crew scheduled for these local flights of up to 30 minutes as seating capacity was restricted to 19 seats.

Such was the popularity of the Twin Otter that within a couple of years a further two were added to the fleet, this time the series 200 with an extended nose. They were used on the internal services of Uganda from Entebbe to Kasese and Murchison Falls, thereby releasing DC-3 capacity to other routes as this fleet was run down.

In order to increase utilisation, the Twin Otters were offered to BOAC Wing Safaris, and in between stints at the coast and up country in Uganda these aircraft were integrated into a three week safari. BOAC clients were met at Nairobi Embakasi on arrival and transferred directly to the Otter after customs and immigration clearance. A typical route follows, although there were variations over the years that the safari operated.

Thirty five minutes after leaving Nairobi, passengers would arrive at Nyeri airstrip to spend their first night at Treetops Hotel in the Aberdare Forest. A party dropped the previous day would then be emplaned for the thirty minute flight to Samburu Game reserve to the North of Mount Kenya. Here a similar exercise was carried out and the flight would then depart on the one hour forty five minute flight to Chobe Safari Lodge in Northern Uganda, here the crew and passengers stayed for two nights. The clients on these flights were obviously wealthy so we carried a courier in the right seat to administer to their needs during the flight, but during overnight stays the pilot and courier usually managed to escape to the bar after dinner as the clients retired early to await their call at 06.00 for a game drive.

Next departure was to Murchison Falls, just a little way down the River Nile and usually conducted at tree top level or below, drop off passengers, pick up the previous Safari and convey them to Keekorok in the Masaii Mara before returning empty to Nairobi, again usually at game viewing height. Meanwhile, a second Otter had set off from Nairobi to complete the second half of the Safari by picking up the previous clients who had spent three days in the Mara and flying on to Fort Ikoma, just a few minutes away in the Tanzanian game park of the Serengeti. A night stop here before continuing to Seronera in the heart of the Serengeti. Again passengers were exchanged and the flight continued on for an hour to Amboseli back in Kenya. A further sector was flown to Cottars Camp on the banks of the Athi River before the final leg on to Nairobi to complete the safari.

Needless to say, the most popular schedules on the Twotters were the Wing Safaris, but Dar es Salaam had a night club in the Kilimanjaro hotel where we stayed and frequently crews from other fleets were also night stopping, which made opportunities for parties and pranks that much easier. Night stops at the Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe on the Uganda services, were a little more fraught, as frequently groups of Idi Amin's troops would arrive at the hostel and demand service and alcohol unannounced. Here discretion more than valour was called for and a rapid withdrawal to our rooms frequently occurred. During their service with EAA, the routes flown were extended to Kilwa on the coastal routes and a complete circumnavigation of Lake Victoria from Entebbe via Bukoba, Mwanza and Musoma was added to the routes based out of Entebbe.

The Twotters finally departed to Canada on August 16th 1973 in the care of John Sparkes, Paul Dardenne, Tony Kennaway and a ferry pilot provided by the purchaser. Three of them arrived in Toronto on 22nd August and the fourth, Tony Kennaway’s aircraft, a week or so later having suffered an engine failure approaching Crete. Two of them, the 100 series short nose version were put onto floats and operated the Vancouver to Victoria Island shuttle for many years afterwards.

Courtesy of Captain Arthur Ricketts

Click to enlarge

Vital Statistics

Aircraft registered in Tanzania

Registration Aircraft c/n Previous Acquired Disposal Remarks
5H-MNK DHC-6-100 Twin Otter 40 - 1967 1973 Sold in Canada 1973. Later CF-GQE, C-FGQE. Sold to Air West, Air BC, West Coast Air. Withdrawn from use early 2013. Sold to Ithana Group as N902RT for parts recovery or rebuild.
5H-MNR DHC-6-100 Twin Otter 106 - 1968 1973 Sold in Canada 1973. Later CF-GQH, C-FGQH, 8Q-GQH, 8Q-MAF. Sold to West Coast Air as C-FGQH in 2003. Still in service as a floatplane.

Aircraft registered in Uganda

Registration Aircraft c/n Previous Acquired Disposal Remarks
5X-UVN DHC-6-200 Twin Otter 181 - 1968 1973 Sold in Canada 1973. Later CF-CQK, C-FGQK with Survair. Sold to Uganda Airlines in 1977 as 5X-UVW. Then Airkenya Aviation as 5Y-BEK in 1985. Since 2004 operated for ARKeX on worldwide geosurvey operations.
5X-UVP DHC-6-200 Twin Otter 182 - 1968 1973 Sold in Canada 1973. Later CF-GQL, C-FGQL with various operators in Canada. Sold to Unitair Cameroun as TJ-AHV in 1992 then P2-MFU in Papua New Guinea. Still operational.