Flight Review: Harbour Air DHC-6 Twin Otter from Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour

Flight Review: Harbour Air DHC-6 Twin Otter from Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour

Flight Information
Date
: May 19, 2018
Flight No.: H32060
Route: Victoria Harbour to Vancouver Harbour
Airline: Harbour Air
Type: de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter
Registration: C-FGQH

To get back to Vancouver from Vancouver Island after flying to Nanaimo with Seair Seaplanes and then taking a bus to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, Philippe and I used Harbour Air.

Harbour Air is world’s largest operator of scheduled seaplane flights and uses a fleet of Cessna and de Havilland Canada aircraft. While we would have loved to fly on the classic DHC-2 Beaver, our flight from Victoria to Vancouver Harbour that I will talk about below was operated by a DHC-6 Twin Otter.

Checking-in at Victoria Harbour Airport

After checking out from our hotel, we took one of the public bus lines in the city to Douglas at Fort stop which is just a short walk away from Victoria Harbour Airport.

Besides Harbour Air’s flight to Vancouver Harbour which is one of the busiest Canadian domestic routes in terms of weekly flights and to Pitt Meadows, there are also Kenmore Air flights to Seattle operating out of the airport.

Victoria Harbour Airport
Victoria Harbour Airport terminal.

The terminal itself is fairly compact, and looks more like a small airport lounge than an airport. It’s equipped with a couple of check-in desks, as well as rows of sofa chairs for passengers to relax on before their flights.

Not only that, but there is also a small “cafe” corner where passengers can get complimentary coffee and tea, as well as some fruits and cupcakes.

Victoria Harbour Airport Interior
Inside, Victoria Harbour Airport looks like a small airport lounge.
Harbour Air Cafe Corner in Victoria
Free coffee, tea, fruits, and cupcakes inside the terminal.
Harbour Air Gift Shop
Gift shop with models, shirts, etc.

After taking a look around the terminal, we headed to the check-in desks to drop off our bags and, in this case, to also get generic boarding passes for the flight that we later handed back to the staff. (The airline color codes the boarding passes as there are multiple flights departing one after another and there is only one “gate.”)

We also had to pay for the tickets as it turned out the amount was blocked but not charged upon booking, and we had to pay extra for our luggage since it was heavier than the fare we purchased allowed for.

Harbour Air Check-in Counter at Victoria Harbour Airport
Harbour Air check-in desk.
Harbour Air Check-in in Victoria
Earplugs and post cards were available at the check-in counter.
Harbour Air Boarding Pass for Flight No. 2060
Boarding passes for the flight.

Getting Onboard a Harbour Air DHC-6 Twin Otter

Boarding started at 9:28AM, two minutes before the scheduled departure time, when passengers taking flight 2060 – passengers with yellow boarding passes – were called to the gate and walked over to the aircraft.

Boarding Gate at Victoria Harbour Airport
Boarding gate.

Our ride for the short hop was C-FGQH, a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, equipped with 19 seats in a 1-2 configuration and operated by a flight crew of two.

Harbour Air de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter
Boarding the Harbour Air de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter.
Harbour Air de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter Cabin
The aircraft was equipped with 19 seats.
Harbour Air de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter
The single seats on the left side of the aircraft could be reserved in advance for an extra fee.

Since the seats on the flight weren’t assigned (although Harbour Air seems to sell seat assignments), I took the opportunity to sit in row one to have a nice view of the cockpit. Just like with other small commuter planes, there was no cockpit door and so I could observe the pilots throughout the flight.

While based on a sheet that I noticed in the cockpit later, the inbound flight was completely full, there were only six of us on the flight to Vancouver. And, as soon as everyone found a seat for themselves, the pilots welcomed us and mentioned that we would be flying for about 30 minutes.

Then, one of the pilots started a safety video on his tablet and put it in a holder installed on the aircraft’s wall for everyone to watch.

Harbour Air de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter Bulkhead
Legroom in the first row.
Harbour Air Twin Otter Safety Card
Safety card.
Harbour Air Safety Video
Safety video.

Taking Off from Victoria Harbour

With the light load, all of the above didn’t take too long and so, in spite of the rather late boarding, the cockpit crew was able to start the engines up at 9:33AM and taxi out two minutes later, with just a five minute delay.

Taxiing Out
Taxiing for take off.
Taxiing Out
Almost in a spot from where we can take off.

Taxiing took several minutes since before starting the take off run, we had to get out of the wharf to have enough space. Soon enough, though, both of the pilots put their hand on the overhead thrust levers and, after a much bumpier take off run than on our previous flight, we took off at 9:42AM.

Taking Off from Victoria Harbour
Ready to take off from Victoria Harbour.
Take Off
Shortly after take off.
Checklist
Checklist.

Arriving in Vancouver Harbour

The flight, while short, offered some excellent views along the way which included some of the smaller islands scattered between Vancouver Island and Vancouver, as well as the point where Fraser River meets Strait of Georgia.

The latter is one of my favorite views I had out of an aircraft – it was incredible seeing the river and sea water be very clearly separated. (Here is a video of the same phenomenon someone took from the ferry connecting Vancouver with Vancouver Island.)

Vancouver Islands
Small islands along the way.
Fraser River and Strait of Georgia
Fraser River (left) meets Strait of Georgia (right).

Not long after that, we passed by Vancouver International Airport, flew over Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver, and made a turn which seems much sharper when seen from the outside than when onboard.

Right after making the turn, at 10:12AM, we landed in Vancouver Harbour.

Stanley Park and Vancouver
Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver.
Approaching Vancouver Harbour Airport
Making final turn before landing in Vancouver Harbour.
Approaching
Seconds before lading.
Landing in Vancouver Harbour
Splash!

We taxied for three more minutes, and came to a full stop at a large parking spot dedicated to the DHC-6 at 10:15AM, ten minutes behind schedule.

Vancouver Skyline
Vancouver Skyline seen during taxiing.
Harbour Air de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter
The Twin Otter that brought us from Victoria to Vancouver.

Harbour Air DHC-6 Twin Otter Summary

If you need to get between Victoria and Vancouver (or vice-versa), I can only recommend taking Harbour Air. While most of the flights seem to be operated by the single engine DHC-3 Turbo Otters, if you prefer larger aircraft, you can catch one on the DHC-6 like I did.

While there is (understandably given that it’s just a short commuter flight) no service onboard, it is nice of Harbour Air to offer free refreshments in its Victoria Harbour Airport terminal.

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