DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 143

No photograph available.

c/n 143



 55-3291 United States Army. Delivered 24-Jul-1956. Designated U-1A.

Assigned to 2nd Aviation Company, Fort Riley, KS.

Jul/Aug to Brookley AFB., Mobile, AL. Here the aircraft was loaded on board a ship serving with the Military Sea Transportation Service, which set sail for Bremerhaven, Germany arriving in Aug-1956.

2nd Aviation Company based at Illesheim, Germany until Jul-1959 when the unit moved to France.

The Company headquarters of the 2nd Aviation Company and one platoon were based at Orléans, a second platoon at Verdun and a third platoon at Poitiers. During its time in France the aircraft was either based at or visited all three locations for different levels of maintenance.

Jan-1962. At Coleman Barracks Depot, Mannheim, Germany.

May-1962. Overhauled by SABCA at its facility at Gosselies, Belgium.

Total time: 2,504hrs.

Jun-1962. 572nd Engineer Platoon (Topographic Aviation), Wheelus Air Base, Libya.

Also served in Iran with the Topographic Training Team.

Accident: Masjid-I-Sulaiman airfield, Iran 23rd April 1963. Crashed on take off in high and hot conditions and was unable to gain sufficient height to clear local topography. It stalled and hit the lip of the plateau breaking into two parts with the tail and cabin falling into the valley below.  Three crew suffered fatal injuries and the aircraft was completely destroyed.


Otter 143 was delivered to the United States Army on 24th July 1956 with serial 55-3291 (tail number 53291). It was assigned to the 2nd Aviation Company, Fort Riley, Kansas which later deployed to Germany, then France (as described in relation to Otter 124). 53291 was noted visiting London's Croydon Airport on 13th March 1958. The 2nd Aviation Company deployed to France in 1959 and by January 1962 53291 was at Coleman Barracks, Mannheim, Germany as a maintenance float. It was overhauled by SABCA at its facility at Gosselies, Belgium in May 1962, at which stage it had 2,504 hours on the airframe and the following month was assigned to the 572nd Engineer Platoon (Topographic Aviation), based at Wheelus Air Base, Libya. The 572nd Engineer Platoon was also supporting survey work in Iran, and 53291 was sent to Iran, where the operating unit was known as the Topographic Training Team.

As well as two Otters it also had some U-6A Beavers and UH-19D and OH-23D helicopters. 53291 continued flying in Iran until it was destroyed in an accident there on 23rd April 1963, sadly with the loss of life of the three crew on board. Captain Patton was newly assigned and this was his first flight with the unit. Captain Mollnhauer was acting as Instructor Pilot on the flight. The crew chief was Carl Bell. The Otter departed from Qualeh Morghi airfield, Tehran at 07:42 hours that day, en route to Masjid-I-Sulaiman airfield, which was located in mountainous terrain, to pick up an OH-23D engine and transmission. After arrival, the Otter was refuelled, the cargo loaded and at 0842 the aircraft called for taxi and was given runway 07 for departure. The runway was 3,550 feet long and upon passing the departure end of the runway, the Otter was at 50 feet, airspeed was 60 knots and it had take-off flap deployed. It made a 20 degree turn and flew into a rocky valley that was rising steadily to one thousand feet in four miles.

The Otter was unable in the 'hot and high' conditions to fly out of the valley, due to the turbulence and downdrafts. The Instructor Pilot attempted to execute a right turn to reverse course. As the aircraft was banked to the right, with a relatively low airspeed, maximum power and take-off flap it stalled, striking the lip of a plateau. Upon initial impact it broke in half, rupturing the fuel tank. The forward fuselage continued onto the plateau, engulfed in flames. The rear fuselage, into which the crew chief had been thrown, fell back into the valley. An F-27 Friendship of the National Iranian Oil Company departing from the airfield pinpointed the crash site. An oil company helicopter was summoned and evacuated the two injured pilots to hospital, where sadly they died some days later of their injuries. The crew chief had been killed in the crash. The Otter was totally destroyed in the crash.

Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).