Otter number 159 was delivered to the United States Army on 28th September 1956 with serial 55-3302 (tail number 53302). It first served with the 3rd Aviation Company at Fort Riley, Kansas and moved with the unit when it deployed to Germany in July 1957, establishing at Illesheim. The Otter was noted visiting Birmingham Airport, England on 1st September 1958. When the Company disbanded in November 1959, 53302 was assigned to the 2nd Aviation Company, based at Poitiers AAF, France.
In July 1960, 53302 was one of two Otters (the other was 53305) selected for deployment to the former Belgian Congo, to join an Army Task Force which was hurriedly formed to rescue US citizens, mostly missionaries, who were caught up in the fighting in the Congo. The two Otters were flown to Rhein-Main Air Base, Frankfurt, Germany where they were loaded into C-124 Globemasters of the USAF, and flown via Wheelus Air Base, Tripoli, Libya to Brazzaville. The Task Force also had four L- 20 Beavers and some Choctaw helicopters, all of which were used to rescue the missionaries from the bush and fly them to Brazzaville and Leopoldville, from where they were taken home by the USAF.
This task was completed in a few weeks, but by then the United Nations had become involved, and had formed its own Air Wing Support Squadron, based at Leopoldville. The US government agreed to transfer the aircraft it had sent to the Congo to the United Nations Air Wing, including the two Otters. They were painted all white with UN markings, and 53302 received the UN serial 302, which happened to be the 'last three' of its Army tail number. The other Army Otter 53305 became UN serial 301. The Royal Norwegian Air Force also transferred two of its Otters to the United Nations, which were flown from Oslo aboard USAF C-124s, and these took UN serials 303 and 304. The four UN Otters were flown and maintained by Swedish personnel attached to the United Nations. Subsequently, the UN itself purchased four more Otters from DHC, which were given serials 305 to 308 inclusive.
302 continued in use in the Congo until December 1964. It was mentioned in dispatches and its pilot, Lt. T. Glantz received great praise for a rescue operation in Kwilu Province in January 1964: “It is my pleasant duty and great honour to bring to your attention the outstanding bravery and conduct of Lt. Glantz, the pilot of the Otter aircraft. It was his task to carry out the close reconnaissance of each target area before the main helicopter force arrived, to locate the people to be rescued and to thus prepare the rescue force for all eventualities. Lt Glantz carried out his task not only with brilliant skill and determination, but also with courage. His devotion to duty, his fearlessness under heavy fire and his resourcefulness were the principal reasons for the success of the operation”.
“Over Kilembe, where his task was to locate the missionaries and reconnoiter the area, his Otter (302) came under extremely heavy and accurate fire from rifles and an automatic weapon. Glantz was nevertheless quick to realise that his duty was to keep the terrorists busy and prevent them from going to the actual mission area some 400 metres away where the helicopters would be arriving. For ten minutes until the helicopters arrived at the mission and then for a further ten minutes while they carried out their work, Glantz kept flying over the terrorists at tree top level, drawing their attention and fire away from the mission and the helicopters. The Otter was hit 25 times and the fuel tank twice. Despite the heavy gun fire and the fact that gasoline fumes filled the aircraft, Lt Glantz repeated his low flights until the helicopters completed their task”.
Otter 302, together with 305 and 308, was operated in the Congo from 1st July to 30th December 1964 in support of the civilian assistance programme of the UN, being operated during this period by Transair Sweden under contract to the UN. This programme was terminated in December 1964 and these three Otters were then put up for sale by the UN. Two of them, 302 and 305, were purchased by Frank Ferrer of Miami, who was actively dealing in Otters and returning them home to Canada from abroad (as described in relation to Otter number 2). The two Otters were registered to Mr. Philip Mann of Miami, an associate of Frank Ferrer, 302 becoming N12665 in October 1965 and 305 becoming N12533. The two Otters were flown across the South Atlantic to South America and on to Miami. They were then advertised for sale and N12665 was sold in April 1966 to Ben Ginter Construction Company of Prince George, BC., registered CF-UJM.
Ben Ginter was a well-known businessman with varied interests including brewing (Uncle Ben's Beer) and construction. The Otter was to fly for him for some years. It met with an accident on 24th September 1971 at Forbidden Plateau, BC., the report summary being: “Engine failure, fatigue fracture; substantial damage”. After repair, the Otter was parked at Vancouver and was intended to be operated by Tyee Airways for the summer of 1976, but this did not happen and it remained stored at Vancouver until put into service by West Coast Air Services Ltd of Vancouver, starting on 26th April 1977, as an amphibian. It was then registered C-FUJM. For the next twenty years 'UJM was to serve the BC Pacific Coast with a number of operators, becoming one of the West Coast's best known and long-serving aircraft as it flew between the many logging camps and coastal communities. When the Pattison Group took over West Coast Air Services, from April 1980 the Otter flew on Airwest services, until registered to Air BC in December 1980. Air BC was the company into which the Pattison Group were amalgamating all the airlines they were purchasing, to build a strong regional carrier. UJM remained with Air BC until October 1986, when it was transferred to Trans Provincial Airlines at Prince Rupert. In December '87 it was sold to Pacific Coastal Airlines at Port Hardy, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, with whom it was to serve for the next ten years.
In September 1997 the Otter was acquired by aircraft broker Glen W. Ernst of Temecula, California and registered to him as N67KA. It was advertised for sale the following month as having 16,200 hours’ total time, eleven passenger seats, a cargo door, 3,000-pound useful load. It was “ready to go” and had an asking price of $350,000. The Otter was sold to leasing company Pantechnicon Aviation Ltd., of Nevada, who registered it as N959PA on 17th November 1997 and it went on lease to Pro Mech Air of Ketchikan, Alaska having first been converted to a Vazar turbine Otter.
Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).