Otter 148 was delivered to the United States Navy on 9th October 1956 with BuAer serial 144669. It was one of a batch of six Otters delivered to the Navy during September/October 1956. All six were painted by DHC in a silver colour, with fin, rudder, horizontal tail surfaces finished in day-glo fire orange paint supplied by the Navy. All six were flown by Navy pilots to the Naval Air Station at Quonset point, Rhode Island which was home base at that time of their unit, VX-6 Squadron. With the squadron 144669 was coded JD-12. All six of these Otters were then transported to the Antarctic, some by ship and some on board USAF C-124 Globemasters.
144669 continued in service with VX-6 in the Antarctic for nine years, during which time it flew 477 hours. In November 1965 it was loaned to the Belgian Dutch Antarctic Expedition. The history of Belgian involvement with the Antarctic is told in relation to Otter OO-SUD (297). It had been operated between 1959 and 1961 by the Centre National Belge de Recherches Polaires, but when the Belgian government refused to provide any further funds for scientific research in the Antarctic, the King Baudoin base had been closed down and OO-SUD was returned to Belgium and was eventually donated to a museum.
Pressure grew on the government from the scientific community to resume Antarctic research, and the government eventually agreed, on condition that such research be carried on in conjunction with another country. This led to the formation of the Comite Antarctique Belgo Neerlandais or, to give it its Flemish title, the Belgische-Nederlands Zuidpool Expeditie, a joint Belgian/Dutch venture. This joint expedition returned to Antarctica for the southern summer of 1963/64. A new King Baudoin Station was constructed, a few hundred metres from the original one, which had by that stage collapsed under the weight of snow and ice. Cessna 180 OO-EXP, which had supported the previous expeditions, was registered to the Comite Antarctique and supported the new venture, as did Alouette II helicopter OL-A36, on loan from the Belgian Army, during the 1964/6 expedition.
In November 1965 the US Navy transferred Otter 144669 to the Belgian/Dutch joint venture on loan, and it was operated from the new King Baudoin base for the southern summers of 1965/66 and 1966/67. The King Baudoin base was closed down at the end of the 1967 season. The transfer of the Otter was made permanent and the aircraft was registered to the Comite Antarctique Belgo Neerlandais as OO-HAD on 6th November 1967. The Otter was returned to Belgium, and was the star attraction at the Brustem Air Show in Belgium in June 1968. Brustem, a Belgian Air Force base, was the base in Belgium of the Comite Antarctique. The Otter was at that stage painted in a mostly day-glo overall scheme, with silver upper fuselage. It carried the registration OO-HAD on the tail, but still had the US Navy BuAer number 144669 on the lower rear fuselage.
OO-HAD was then returned to the Antarctic. As the Belgian Antarctic exploration efforts were somewhat strapped for cash, it was judged cheaper to fly the Otter back to the Antarctic, rather than ship it by boat. Before it set off from Belgium, large 'Expeditions Antarctiques Belges' titles were painted on the fuselage side. Then, Otter OO-HAD in company with the Cessna 180 OO-EXP set off from Belgium for a marathon ferry flight to the tip of South Africa and onwards to Antarctica. This proved a most adventurous undertaking, including being detained en route in Mauritania by the authorities, and seventeen days under arrest in Nigeria, as they endeavoured to negotiate the African bureaucracies on their way south.
For the southern summers of 1968/69 and 1969/70, Belgian scientists worked with their South African colleagues at the SANAE (South African National Antarctic Expedition) base, which is where the Otter was based. OO-HAD was by that stage equipped for radio echo-sounding and photo- grametric work. The 1970 expedition ended in disaster when the Otter crashed on landing at SANAE Station on 9th February 1970. Fortunately, those on board got out, but the Otter burst into flames and was destroyed, as was all the expensive scientific equipment it carried. Some parts were salvaged and were used to restore OO-SUD for display in the Brussels museum. That incident however ended the Belgian government's interest in Antarctic research, and it would be another fifteen years before Belgian activities in the region were resumed.
Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).