Best Of The Web: Ode To An Otter


I’ve got a little stick time in a Twin Otter, throwing skydivers out the back door. I’ve got a lot more time sitting in the back waiting to be tossed out, a task for which the DH6 Twin Otter is perfect. And this humorous rap video by Buz and Dorothy Andrusiak show how perfectly DeHavilland got the Otter for its intended purpose: Haul a lot of stuff almost anywhere you think you might need to go where there’s not much of a runway or no runway at all.

The airplane is built hell for strong, with high-aspect wings supported by beefy struts tied to robust fixed landing gear. For power, DeHavilland picked the Pratt & Whitney PT6 which, in subsequent years, got more powerful variants to improve performance. When it first appeared in 1965, the airplane found a ready market in the burgeoning commuter airliner industry. The Otter was perfectly suited for a full cabin and short stage lengths to small airports. It could also be fitted with skis and floats, making it ideal for transport to unimproved parts of the far north. It was designed for easy maintenance, especially the engines, and with tanks in the belly, it could easily be safely hot fueled without shutting down in deep sub-zero weather.

Fifty-eight years after its first flight, the DH6 soldiers on around the world in jobs that no other airplane can quite do. DeHavilland built 844 Twin Otters and Viking, which acquired the type certificates in 2006, has built a respectable 141. For skydiving, the Otter’s days may be numbered. They’re getting increasingly expensive to maintain and Garrett-equipped single-engine Caravans get to altitude quicker on less fuel.

Sigh. I’ll continue to jump the DH6 until they drag me kicking and screaming from its warm embrace.


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  1. I also have some time in the DHC6, along with plenty of jumps out of one. Another issue that made the plane useful for the early regionals is that even though a normal category plane it could actually climb with one engine out with reasonable pilot skill. Always loved the runway performance and C172 landing speeds. Not sure I agree about “safely” hot fueling the forward tank. You have to keep a body part in contact with the fuselage when doing that to stay out of the prop arc. Speaking of which an owner I know told me that the Twin Otter has the worst record of people walking into a spinning prop with the usual result. About 10 years ago a manifest person at the drop zone I was flying at walked into one while trying to get a meal request for the pilot. She was just 23 years old. Maintenance costs on any twin are high, the Otter has to be even higher with some of the AD mandated maintenance. The wings also have a 49K hour limit with the mod that increases wing life. I am happy jumping out of a Caravan since it has plenty of room in the B models.

  2. Made many jumps from the Twin Otter during my skydiving career. When it came out for jumping years ago it was THE go-to turbine platform for the sport. Don’t jump anymore but will fondly remember climbing to altitude AND exiting from these.

  3. Don’ch’ya just know this’ll be part of every Tw’Otter ground school from this point forward.
    Furthermore . . . now I’m start’n to like rap. Most excellent!

  4. My first turbine jump was an Otter at The Herd Boogie.
    Out of my 4,000 jumps, 2500+ are out of Otters.
    At Elsinore in the 90’s the port engine puked on the takeoff roll.
    Pilot got her shut down on the remaining runway.
    Other than that never witnessed a mechanical difficulty
    With an Otter in my skydiving career.

  5. I have about 3,000 takeoffs in back of a Twin Otter, and about 10 landings. Some even along with Paul B.

    Great aircraft, only type ever to round trip to the south pole base in winter.

  6. Caravans were powered by Garrett turbines during what years? I thought that Cess-ner (Brit pronunciation) has always installed PT-6 (lower noise) reliables. Interesting.
    Fuel? Expensive? What about Hybrids in Aviation and Motorcycling? Siemens electric motors powered by LiPO battery banks charged from Honda generators. Oh, wait, I must have dozed off there for a few minutes and dreamt about (comparatively) Quiet, Fuel-efficient, Lightweight (sorta), Reliable (Honda, Siemens) aviation ! Dress me up and send me to an Optimists Club luncheon!

    • Cessna never did have Garrett engines installed at the factory. There are several aftermarket companies that have STC installation which do have increased power available.