DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

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c/n 128

N5322G awaits a new role at Anchorage, Alaska.
Photo: John Kimberley © June 1979 - Aird Archives
Photo: G.G. © 05 September 1981 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
N5322G parked on her usual spot, at Dillingham - PADL, Alaska.
Photo: Photographer unknown © Date unknown - Ruben Husberg Collection
N5322G a very recent shot, well anchored, at the same spot!
Photo: Kyle G. Cameron © 05 July 2021 - Aird Archives

c/n 128




• 55-3280 United States Army Delivered on 20th June 1956.

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

April/May 1957 to Brookley AFB., Mobile, AL. Here the aircraft were loaded on board the 'USS Tripoli', an aircraft carrier then serving with the Military Sea Transportation Service, which set sail for Bremerhaven, Germany arriving on 16-May-1967.

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 Allocated to Southern European Task Force (SETAF) Vicenza, Italy.

Accident: Boscomantico AAF, Spring-1965. Damaged in a hard landing during a “heavy loads landing training detail”. Repaired and returned to service.

Nov-1967 at Coleman Barracks Depot, Mannheim, Germany and from there transported to the USA

May 1968. 388th Transportation Company, Vung Tau, Vietnam.

Oct-1968. To the 244th Aviation Company.

Jan-1969. 388th Transportation Company, Vung Tau, Vietnam awaiting disposition, and was then returned to the United States.

Aug-1969. Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, CA in August 1969 and was placed into storage there

Aug-1971. 12th Aviation Company, Fort Wainright, Fairbanks, AK. The unit was disbanded in Jun-1973 and it was put up for disposal as military surplus.

• N5322G Civil Air Patrol, Alaska Wing, Elmendorf AFB., Anchorage, AK. Regd circa 1974.

Airworthiness date 02-Jul-1974 Category Standard – Normal.

• N5322G Robert G. Sholton, Anchorage, AK. (One of Northern Air Caro’s founders).

• N5322G Northern Air Cargo Inc., Anchorage, AK

• N5322G Donald E. Darden, dba Alaska Cargo Service, Dillingham, AK. Regd 24-Jul-1982.

Accident: King Salmon, AK, Regd 22-Sep-1990. During the take-off roll, the pilot lost control of the aircraft which exited the departure end of the runway and ended up in the tundra. Repaired by Harold J. Hansen of Seattle and returned to service.

Image: Google Earth © 16 July 2016



Otter 128 was delivered to the United States Army on 20 June 1956 with serial 55-3280 (tail number 53280) and was assigned to the 2nd Aviation Company, Fort Riley, Kansas. This unit was destined for service in Europe after it had received its full complement of Otters and its personnel had been trained on the new type. During April / May 1957 the 2nd Aviation Company flew its Otters from Fort Riley to Brookley AFB., Mobile, Alabama. Here the Otters were loaded on board the ‘USS Tripoli’, an aircraft carrier then serving with the Military Sea Transportation Service, which set sail for Bremerhaven, Germany arriving on 16 May 1957. Here the Otters were re-assembled and flown to their new base at Illesheim, Germany.

53280 continued to fly for the 2nd Aviation Company for some years. It was noted visiting Gatwick Airport, London on 7 July 1960. By January 1962 it was at the depot at Coleman Barracks, Mannheim, Germany and in May 1962 it was allocated to SETAF (Southern European Task Force)  in Italy where it was to serve for the next few years. One of its annual tasks was to fly Army special forces to the missile ranges on Benbecula and it was noted visiting Edinburgh and Renfrew on 7 July 1962, having come from Benbecula. It was also at Renfrew on 14 July and at Prestwick on 15 July 1962. In the spring of 1965 it was damaged in a hard landing at Boscomantico AAF., Italy during a “heavy loads landing training detail” but was repaired and returned to service. It was a visitor to Rhein-Main Air Base 10 September 1965. It was one of two Otters to continue in service with SETAF until November 1967, the other being 53297 (150).

In November 1967 both of these Otters went to the depot at Coleman Barracks from where they were transported via the United States to Vietnam. 53280 arrived with the 388th Transportation Company, Vung Tau in May 1968 and was allocated in October 1968 to the 244th Aviation Company. By  January 1969 it was back with the 388th Transportation Company at Vung Tau awaiting disposition, and was then brought back to the United States where it arrived at the Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, California in August 1969 and was placed into storage there.

In August 1971 it was allocated to the 12th Aviation Company, Fort Wainright, Alaska. It was a replacement for 76108 (226), which a crew from the Company flew down to Stockton and then picked up 53280 and flew it back to Fort Wainright. It continued flying for the 12th Aviation Company until the Company was disbanded in June 1973 and was then put up for disposal as military surplus. It was transferred to the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) on 17 June 1974 and registered as N5322G on 20th June, one of three Otters registered to the CAP’s Alaska Wing at that time, the others being N5321G (362) and N5323G (91).  N5322G received its Certificate of Airworthiness on 2 July 1974, total airframe time 4,085 hours. The Otter was flown by  the CAP in Alaska over the next few years, based at Elmendorf AFB, Anchorage but in summer 1977 it was put up for sale by auction by the General Services Administration of the US Government.

By Notice of Award dated 13 September 1977 the buyer was declared to be Robert G. Sholton, a famous Alaskan aviator.  He paid $65,500 for the Otter, which at that time had 5,191 hours on the airframe. The Otter was registered to Robert Sholton on 20 January 1978 as N5322G.  It was to be seen flying from Anchorage in 1978, still in its Army olive drab scheme but carrying the marks N5322G. Robert Sholton was one of the founders of that famous Alaskan airline, Northern Air Cargo, with its fleet of C-82s and DC-6s, and by Bill of Sale 1 June 1981 the Otter was transferred to Northern Air Cargo, still based at Anchorage. The following year, by Bill of Sale 21 May 1982, the Otter was sold to Donald E. Darden and moved to its new base at Dillingham, Alaska.

Donald “Bo” Darden is a long-time and well known flier around the Bristol Bay area of Alaska and his company is called Alaska Cargo Service.  The Otter was painted into a maroon colour scheme but does not carry titles. Alaska Cargo Service provides a full range of services with the Otter, its only aircraft, serving the region around Dillingham. It is flown on wheels during the summer and wheel-skis in winter. It flies fuel and supplies to the surrounding villages, fuel for helicopters and exploration support, fuel in barrels, and also the usual tourists, hunters and fishermen in summer.

One incident was recorded, on 22 September 1990 at King Salmon Airport. During the take-off roll the pilot lost control of the airplane. The Otter exited the departure end of the runway and ended up in the tundra, sustaining damage to the tail area, the rear fuselage and the left wing. The damaged Otter was taken by ship back to Dillingham where it was repaired by Jim’s Aircraft Service. The repairs included removing the damaged rear fuselage and replacing it with a serviceable unit taken from another Otter.  Its total time had increased to 7,855 hours by that stage. Repairs were completed by 30 August 1992 and the Otter resumed service with Alaska Cargo Service. A minor incident was reported on 30 June 2005. The Otter had flown from Dillingham to Clark’s Point. While departing the apron at Clark’s Point, due to a crosswind it struck a parked vehicle with the left gear, according to an FAA report. It was soon back in service.

At this stage, N5322G has flown for Alaska Cargo Service out of Dillingham for a truly remarkable 39 years and is still going strong, one of the few piston Otters still flying in Alaska, most of the others having converted to turbine. If anyone has information on owner Donald Darden and current plans for N5322G, let us know please.

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.