DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 253

VH-EAY at 1958 Tapini airstrip accident site.
Photo: Geoffrey Luck © 03 August 1958
VH-EAY at grassy Goroka, PNG.
Photo: Unknown photographer © 1959 - Ben Dannecker Collection

c/n 253




• VH-EAY Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., Bankstown, NSW. Regd 21-March 1958. Delivered to Australia in July-1958.

Kieta” named after a port town located on the eastern coast of the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

Note; Operated on wheels in Papua New Guinea, based at Lae, having taken over from the Company’s Beavers.

Accident: Tapini, PNG. 03-Aug-1958. It ran off the airstrip and hit an open drain. It was repaired and returned to service.

• VH-SBS Trans Australia Airlines (TAA), 01-Sep-1960.


Note: Continued to operate in Papua New Guinea.

Accident: Togoba, near Mendi, Mount Hagen, PNG. 02-Dec-1961. Substantial loss of engine power as the aircraft neared a ridge and in turning away towards lower ground, the aircraft struck a tree, crashed inverted and burned. Two crew killed.

Written off

Otter 253 was delivered to Qantas Empire Airways Ltd., on 21 March 1958, registered VH-EAY. It was one of four Otters delivered to the Australian national carrier for services in the Territory of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Otter was put in a crate and trucked to New York, from where it sailed on board the “SS Port of  Montreal” on 3 April 1958. On arrival in Australia it was re-assembled at the Hawker Pacific facility at Bankstown in May 1958 and joined the Qantas fleet in July, named “Kieta”. It was one of three Otter landplanes based at Lae (the fourth Qantas aircraft was an amphibian) and was used to operate services into the Highlands.

It was not long in service with Qantas when, on 3 August 1958, it suffered substantial damage on a flight which had departed from Port Moresby and was landing at Tapini, a jungle airstrip of grass surface in the mountains of central PNG, at an altitude of 3,100 feet. There was a difficult approach to the airstrip, which required flying up a gorge, banking hard to land over a hillock on the strip, which had an uphill slant of 15 degrees. As one commentator described: “Tapini airstrip is wedged onto a sliver of land at a right-angled bend in the canyon-walled Lova River Valley. The approach to Tapini necessitates a descending base leg into the canyon, with the aircraft headed straight for a mountain, before a last minute ninety degree left turn that brings the pilot onto a very short final approach segment”.

 The pilot was Ken Montagu, the Chief Pilot of the Qantas operation in PNG. There were three souls on board and the Otter was carrying lengths of railway line for a new sawmill. After a heavy landing, the Otter bounced up the strip before veering to port and plunging into a ditch. Its fall was arrested by a fence post. The starboard undercarriage came up through the floor, tearing the co-pilot’s seat from its mountings. The propeller hit the ground and folded the blades. There was a small fire which was extinguished. The Otter ended up precariously balanced on the edge of the ditch, rocking gently. It was secured with a rope. It was repaired at Tapini and then re-entered service with Qantas.

With effect from 1 September 1960 the four Qantas Otters were taken over by Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) and re-registered.  VH-EAY became VH-SBS with TAA named “Kerowahghl”. It continued in service until destroyed in an accident on 2 December 1961 at Togoba, near Mendi, Mount Hagen in the Whaggi Valley, sadly killing the two pilots. The Otter was on a charter flight at the time. According to the accident report: “Substantial loss of engine power as the aircraft neared a ridge and in turning away towards lower ground, the Otter struck a tree, crashed and burned”.

The following report from the Sydney Morning Herald: “The Otter crashed and burned on a mountain ridge in the Highlands. A ground party is making for the scene of the crash, about 40 miles from Mount Hagen. The Otter had taken off from Mount Hagen. It sent out a distress signal at about 10:35 when flying between Togaba and Mendi. At 11:00 am a search plane saw a burning wreck on top of an 8,000 foot ridge in the Highlands. The pilot of a Territory Airlines Dornier (Do 27 VH-GKE) saw the crashed aircraft 50 yards from a grass hut in a native village in the Nebiler Valley. Those killed were Captain Rinus Zuydam, a Dutch national who had flown in PNG for many years and had vast experience of the region. Also, First Officer Brian Badger, who was also an experienced Otter pilot. Some months ago he successfully crash landed an Otter float plane with seven passengers in the sea near Samarai, 250 miles south east of Port Moresby (a reference to VH-SBQ (241) which crashed on 14 April 1961 after engine failure)”.

To be updated shortly with additional notes from Geoffrey Luck.

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.