When de Havilland Canada began design work on the "King Beaver" (the Otter's original name) in January 1951, it was trying to extend the company's line of rugged STOL utility transports that had begun with the Beaver. The single-engined, high-wing, propeller-driven DHC-3 Otter was conceived to be capable of performing the same roles as the Beaver, but was considerably larger, Using the same overall configuration as the earlier and highly successful DHC2 Beaver, the new design incorporates a longer fuselage, greater-span wings, a cruciform tail, and is much heavier. Seating in the main cabin is for 10 or 11, whereas the Beaver can seat six. Power is supplied by a 450-kW (600 hp) Pratt & Whitney R-1340 geared radial. The version used in the Otter was geared for lower propeller revolutions and consequently lower airspeed. The Otter can be fitted with skis or floats.