DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 281

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c/n 281



• 57-6133 United States Army. Delivered 31-Jul-1958. Designated U-1A.

Initial allocation to 2nd Missile Command, Fort Hood. TX.

Jan-1992. 57th Aviation Company at Fort Sill, OK.

Oct-1963. re-assigned to the Aviation Section, Fort Ord, CA.

Nov-1963. 17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord, CA.

Jun-1964. Otter Transition School, Fort Ord. CA.

Accident Fort Ord, CA. May 1967 On take off, an elevator lock had been overlooked. Three occupants escaped before the aircraft was destroyed by fire. A more fulsome report is shown in the history below.

Destroyed by fire

Otter 281 was delivered to the United States Army on 31 July 1958 with serial 57-6133 (tail number 76133). It was delivered from Downsview to Fort Hood, Texas, one of four Otters delivered at this time to the 2nd Missile Command Flight Platoon at Fort Hood.  Flying at Fort Hood was mostly training, carrying soldiers into short, unprepared strips to secure missile sites and such like. The actual firing range for the Corporal Missile was at Fort Bliss, Texas to where the Otters frequently flew, landing at Biggs Army Airfield (AAF). They also ventured further afield, to the Green River Launch Complex in Utah and to Maryland on Missile Command business.

In Spring 1959 the Otters moved to Fort Carson, Colorado, flying from Butts AAF. They were assigned to the First Reconnaissance Squadron, 16th Sky Cavalry, Second US Army Missile Command to support Corporal missiles, and also the ‘Honest John’ missile. The Otters flew warheads, parts, supplies and troops to dirt strips in the Colorado high country in connection with the missiles, as well as serving other destinations such as Fort Bliss, Texas, as they had done from Fort Hood. There were also missions to the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico and to the Yakima Range in Washington State, so the Squadron’s Otters were well travelled. One mission however ended up in a court case.

On 5th May 1961 First Lieutenant Richard Ballweber was directed to fly a mission from Fort Carson carrying cargo to the Yakima Range in Washington, and then to return to Fort Carson. This was a long flight of 900 miles, going from Colorado through Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon to Washington State. He took off in Otter 76133 on 6 May, accompanied by two crew and flew directly to Walla Walla, Washington where they overnighted and then flew on to Yakima the next day. Having delivered the cargo, they did not return directly to Fort Carson, but flew the Otter in a south-westerly direction from Yakima some 300 miles to Florence, on Oregon’s Pacific Coast. En route they stopped at a remote sod airstrip belonging to Jack Lenhardt near Canby, Oregon and made arrangements that they could return from Florence to the Lenhardt airstrip that evening. The purpose of the visit to Lenhardt’s airstrip was to enable Lt. Ballweber visit his home, which was nearby and the purpose of the visit to Florence was to enable one of the crew visit his parent’s home. None of this was authorised by Lt. Ballweber’s orders for the mission. The Otter flew off to Florence and returned to the Lenhardt airstrip that evening of 7 May for an overnight.

The following morning the Otter made flights to other towns in the area and during the course of the day made many “touch-and-go” flights on the Lenhardt airstrip, some of these being training flights and others being “for the entertainment of non-military personnel”. None of this was authorised and the Otter crew were later found “to be on a lark of their own” and acting outside the course and scope of their employment with the Army. “Ballweber gave his superiors a false account for failure of the crew to return directly from Yakima; he did not report where the landings on 8 May were made and the flights on 7 and 8 May were not logged in his report and the deviations on those days were concealed from superior officers”. The crew however were not disciplined, as the Army realised that there was some training involved as well as “a natural desire to visit family homes”.

Unfortunately however in the course of these flights in and out of the Lenhardt airstrip, the Otter flew low over a mink ranch some four miles south of Canby, owned by Buck Witt, who for some years had been engaged in the commercial raising and marketing of mink. The noisy, low-flying Otter caused the deaths of many of the mink, and Mr Witt sued the United States Government for his losses. He lost the case and appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, but he lost there as well. The court ruled that it had been settled law in Oregon for many years “that an employer is shielded from liability where an employee steps outside the scope of his employment and commits an act to serve his own interest or to gratify his own desires”.  As an aside, the arrival of the Otter at his airstrip must have impressed Jack Lenhardt no end, as years later he bought former Navy Otter serial 77 out of the ‘boneyard’ at Tucson, Arizona and it was registered to Lenhardt Airpark Inc., Hubbard, Oregon as N1037G before being sold on.

To return to Otter 76133, it continued to fly for the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron until it was inactivated at Fort Carson in August 1961 and by January 1962 it was serving with the 57th Aviation Company at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In October 1963 it was re-assigned to the Aviation Section, Fort Ord, California. The following month it joined the 17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord and when that unit became a Caribou company and moved to Fort Benning in June 1964, 76133 was re-assigned to the Otter Transition School, remaining at Fort Ord with the School. 76133 continued to fly for the Otter Transition School until it was destroyed in an accident taking off from Fort Ord in May 1967. On board were an Instructor Pilot (IP), student pilot and a crew chief. The student needed one hour of night dual instruction before being assigned to Vietnam and accordingly the training detail was scheduled for very early in the morning, before sun up. The departure of the flight was delayed for various reasons, and in the rush to eventually get going, it was unfortunately over-looked to remove an external elevator lock.

The IP takes up the story:  “On take off all felt normal. The Otter broke ground and immediately nosed up. I delayed grabbing the yoke for a moment to ask the student pilot to lower the nose. As I watched the city lights disappear under the cowling, I grabbed the yoke to try to get us back in shape. It was a rock!  The nose still climbed. Out of the side window I saw we were close to vertical. One more second and we would loop at 500 feet over the runway. As I closed the throttle, I remember thinking that it sure was quiet. As the nose came down and through the horizon, I came back with full throttle and a second later we were racing toward the runway at max power. Again I closed the throttle and the nose came up to 22 degrees below the horizon. At least that is what the accident investigators told me”.

“We struck the ground near the runway at 22 degrees. The engine tore off and folded under the cockpit. The landing gear on my side came up through the floor, shoved my seat up and jammed my head against the cockpit roof. I saw the propeller blade sticking through the window, the tip six inches from my head. The only light came from flames that danced above where the windshield should have been”. The three on board got clear of the Otter before it erupted into flames and was completely destroyed, apart from the tail and wings. 76133 was officially deleted from the Army inventory in September 1967.

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.