DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 185

3744 on UNITED NATIONS duties, over the Sinai, Egypt.
Photo: Swedish Military Archives © 13 November 1957 - via Leif Helström

c/n 185

3744

x

 Royal Canadian Air Force. Delivered 20-Dec-1956.

Initially assigned to 115 Air Transport Unit, which was a UN support unit based at El Arish, Egypt.

Accident: Gaza, Egypt. 19-Sep-1958. On approach the aircraft stalled struck the ground on one wheel and collided with a pile of concrete pieces marking the airfield boundary. There were no injuries. Aircraft was a complete write-off.

Accident: Minozzo, Italy. 14-DEC-1958. See narrative below.

 Written off

Otter 185 was delivered to the RCAF on 20 December 1956 with serial 3744. It was one of three Otters delivered that day to the RCAF (the others being 3743 and 3745), which replaced three Otters which the RCAF had transferred to the US Navy in 1955 and which had been urgently required for work in the  Antarctic. These three Otters were prepared at Downsview for United Nations duties with the RCAF. They were delivered in an all metal scheme with large ‘United Nations’ fuselage titles, the serial on the tail, but devoid of any RCAF markings. They were assigned to 115 Air Transport Unit, which was a UN Support Unit to be based at El Arish, Egypt. The UN were supervising the withdrawal of British, French and Israeli forces from Egyptian territory in the aftermath of the Suez crisis.

The three Otters, 3743, 3744 and 3745, were flown from Downsview to Halifax, Nova Scotia where they were joined by 3675. The four Otters were loaded on board the Royal Canadian Navy aircraft carrier ‘HMCS Magnificent’ at Halifax, which sailed on 29 December 1956 and docked at Port Said, Egypt in mid January 1957. On 13 January maintenance personnel started assembling the four Otters and on 18 January 1957 they flew off the carrier to their base at El Arish. The Otters were used for transport, communications and general utility tasks, as well as for patrolling border areas.

3744 is mentioned in the Unit’s history several times. For example, on 17 December 1957 it was on a medevac flight from Quaisima to Gaza. During a recce flight on 11 February 1958 ten “suspicious vehicles” were spotted by the on-board observers, although they turned out to be Canadian vehicles. On 3 March 1958 3744 flew to Gaza and El Kuntilla to check on a new landing area at Kuntilla, which was found to be very rough. On 8 March it was unable to return from Cairo to base due to a bad dust storm. On 9 April an Egyptian Army truck drove onto the runway during a take-off by 3744 but the pilot managed to clear the obstacle. On 24 April 3744 is recorded flying to Quaisima and Ras carrying one thousand pounds of ice.

3744 suffered damage landing at the airstrip at Gaza on 19 September 1958, known as the El Tessaima Landing Ground. The second pilot made the approach at too low an airspeed, rounded out high and cut power early. The Otter stalled, struck the ground on one wheel and collided with a pile of concrete pieces marking the airstrip boundary. In the accident the Otter had only suffered minor damage, the starboard compression strut was bent, but it was no longer flyable and would have to be returned to the depot in Canada for repair. It was dis-assembled and with the wings removed was trucked to El Arish. On 6 November 1958 it was assigned to 12 TSU at DHC Downsview for repair.

In the meantime, Otter 3678 (36) had been selected as its replacement and had been flown out of Downsview on 3 December 1958, its fuselage loaded on board Fairchild C-119 serial 22128, its wings and other parts on a second C-119 serial 22118, both of 436 Squadron. After 3678 arrived in El Arish a few days later, it was re-assembled and entered service with 115 Air Transport Unit. The damaged Otter 3744 was then loaded on board the two C-119s, the fuselage into 22128 and the wings and tail into 22118 and the C-119s departed from El Arish on 12 December to return the Otter to DHC for repair. Most unfortunately, 22128 ran into great trouble on the journey.

First stop for the C-119 was Athens, where it over-nighted. On 13 December it took off from Athens headed for Pisa in Italy but encountered a severe storm, and was forced down in heavy icing. The crew became VFR in unknown territory with 800 pounds of fuel remaining. They elected to force land. They glided into a field near the village of Minozzo in the Reggio Emilia region, ripped down trees and just missed a church. They came down on very rough terrain. Fortunately none of the seven on board were injured, but the C-119 was wrecked, as was Otter 3744 inside it. The location was some 30 miles east of Pisa, in the foothills of the Appenine mountain range. These are the circumstances by which the final resting place of this RCAF Otter came to be a remote part of the Italian countryside.

As Ron Hutton, MWO with 436 Squadron, Downsview subsequently wrote:  “When an Otter crashed near El Arish it was decided to bring it back to Canada for repairs. It took two C-119 aircraft to bring it home, 22128 carried out the fuselage and I was on 22118 that brought the wings and tail. When we reached Athens to spend the night, I was awakened early in the morning to go to the airport and move our aircraft, as it was blocking someone. I did a preflight and refuelled. I thought while I had the fuel truck I might as well do 22128 and gave it full tanks, the same as we had. I had just started doing this when the crew arrived and said “we don’t need all that”, so I went off for breakfast. When we reached Italy the weather was awful, thunder storms and heavy rain. We found Pisa and landed, but 22128 was not so lucky. They got themselves well and truly lost and as they were nearly out of fuel did a forced landing on a hillside up near Bologna. The crew got out but they wrote off the two aircraft. I am convinced had the crew arrived at their aircraft in Athens 20 minutes later they would have had full fuel tanks whether they wanted it or not, giving them an additional 90 minutes of flying time and things may not have gone so pear-shaped for them”.

Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005), now with added and updated information which Karl has supplied for the benefit of the website.