Yellowknife 440 “Vampire” Squadron Twin Otters Celebrate Milestone

15 02 2011

A CC-138 Twin Otter aircraft from 440 (T) Sqn sits on the sea ice near Eureka, Nunavut during Op NUNALIVUT 08. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Source: Canadian Army News

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories — Nine CC-138 Twin Otters have served with the Canadian Forces (CF) since 1971. In 1994, 440 Transport and Rescue Squadron was renamed 440 Transport Squadron (440 (T) Sqn), its fleet was reduced to four aircraft and the squadron relocated to Yellowknife, where it remains today.

“[The Twin Otter] has supported a wide number of roles while supporting Canada, the Canadian Forces and Canadians,” explains Lieutenant-Colonel Dwayne Lovegrove, Commanding Officer, 440 (T) Sqn, “so it’s worthy of a little bit of celebration.”

A Twin Otter from Yellowknife's 440 (T) Sqn lands on a frozen lake near Yellowknife, NWT. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Long history of service
The Twin Otters have had a long history in the CF. They were used in the 1976 Olympics, as well as during the recent games in Vancouver. From 1971 to 1994, the Twin Otters of 440 (T) Sqn flew out of Namao, Alberta, north of Edmonton, along with 418 Search and Rescue Squadron. During this time, 440 (T) Sqn also maintained a small detachment in Yellowknife called 440 North.

Only two aircraft have been lost during their 40 years of service. One Twin Otter, after flying all the way to Pakistan, was destroyed by a bomb from an Indian air force Hunter aircraft in December 1971 as part of a UN Military Observer Group. A second aircraft was lost on a search and rescue mission near Calgary in 1987.

The role of the Twin Otter today is to provide an air transport capability to Joint Task Force North (JTFN) and the Canadian Rangers. “We are the physical expression of Canada maintaining sovereignty over the North,” LCol Lovegrove explains.

One of 440 (T) Sqn's four Twin Otters is positioned for General Walt Natynczyk's visit to Yellowknife. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Tough, reliable bush plane
“Don’t let its pretty looks fool you,” says Master Warrant Officer Jacques Lamarche, the squadron warrant officer. “This is a tough and reliable aircraft. It’s purposely made [as] a bush aircraft … so it doesn’t break, and at -50°C and such, we’re still operating in this aircraft in the middle of nowhere.”

The Twin Otter offers short takeoff and landing, taking off in an impressive 1,200 feet. It can also land on many types of terrain, from tundra to rocky beaches and even sea ice, when fitted with skis. “Anybody who’s flown with the skis and landed on sea ice [knows] it’s a violent landing,” says aviation technician Master Corporal Christian Barbier, who has 15 years on the aircraft. “It’s very, very rough.”

The Twin Otter is a very hands-on, unpressurized aircraft. “I love the Twin Otter,” says Captain Winston Ernst. “It’s a great fun airplane – hands and feet flying all the time. With new wing boxes and keeping up with regular maintenance, it should be good for another 40 years.”

The yearly flying requirement for 440 (T) Sqn is 2,100 hours, but it has flown as much as 2,500 hours. “From Whitehorse, all the way across to Northern Quebec, Baffin Island and Alert – we cover all that space,” Capt Ernst says, noting 440 (T) Sqn is the only CF squadron north of the 60th parallel.

With its four CC-138 Twin Otters, 440 (T) Sqn is the smallest squadron in the CF that maintains its own aircraft; yet its crew of 51 personnel covers one-third of Canada’s land mass: four million km2. The aircraft are often serviced by the aircrew, which carries out fueling and towing duties.

There are only 12 maintainers—aviation and avionics technicians—who repair and maintain the aircraft, and conduct major inspections. Everybody in this squadron pitches in. The same rules apply here as any in squadron down south, and most people wear two or three hats.

Plans to celebrate the Twin Otters this summer are in the works. LCol Lovegrove did have one tidbit to share. “There will be a little bit of nose art coming soon on the Twin Otter.”

A Twin Otter from Yellowknife's 440 (T) Sqn takes flight after landing on a frozen lake near Yellowknife, NWT. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Article:  MCpl David McVeigh, Army News Wainwright
Photos: MCpl Kevin Paul and MCpl Holly Cowan




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