Otter 241 was delivered to Qantas Empire Airways Ltd on 13th February 1958, registered VH- EAW. It was the first of four Otters delivered to the Australian national airline, all of which were packed into crates at Downsview, shipped to Australia and re-assembled at Bankstown, these deliveries taking place during February/April 1958. That month, Qantas traded in its four Beavers to De Havilland (Australia) in part exchange for the four Otters, which had been acquired to operate services in the remote and mountainous territory of Papua New Guinea. Of the four Qantas Otters VH-EAW (241) was on amphibious floats, and the other three (247, 253 and 258) were landplanes.
After re-assembly, VH-EAW joined the Qantas fleet on 27th May 1958, named “Kikori”. The territory of Papua New Guinea (PNG) comprised the eastern half of the large island of New Guinea, the major islands of New Britain in the Bismarck Archipelago and Bougainville in the Solomons and several smaller volcanic or coral islands. The territory was predominantly hot, humid and wet, with mangrove swamps and coastal plains rising to tropical forests in the Bismarck and Owen Stanley mountain ranges. Most of the territory was inaccessible except by air.
VH-EAW was based at Port Moresby, the capital of PNG, and used on services along the southern coastline, to such places as Daru, Balimo, Esa 'Ala and Samarai. The three landplane Otters were based at Lae and operated services into the highlands. Qantas continued with these services in PNG until September 1960. The Federal Australian government granted the application of mainland airlines to take over these services, thus leaving Qantas free to concentrate on international routes. Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) took over the four Otters from Qantas, as well as six DC-3s, and commenced operations in PNG with these aircraft with effect from 1st September 1960.
The four Otters were repainted into TAA colours and re-registered, the amphibian VH-EAW becoming VH-SBQ, joining TAA's 'Sunbird' fleet. It did not carry a name in TAA service. The Otters competed with twin-engined Italian-built Piaggio P166s operated by Ansett-Mandated Airlines. VH- SBQ was configured to carry ten passengers or as a straight freighter. TAA flights MK80/81, MD82/83 and MK84/85 operated between Port Moresby, Yule Island, Ihu, Kerema, Baimuru, Daru and Kikori and flights MS87/88, MS89/90 and MS91/92 between Port Moresby, Abau, Samarai and Esa 'Ala. The fare from Port Moresby to Yule Island for the 45-minute flight MK80 was a princely three pounds thirteen shillings.
VH-SBQ continued in service until it was destroyed after a forced water landing due engine failure near the coastal town of Samarai on 14th August 1961. There were seven passengers and two crew on board the scheduled flight, but fortunately there were no injuries. As the accident report summarises “Engine lost power due to cylinder failure and the pilot made a safe emergency landing on the sea. The aircraft subsequently drifted onto rocks and was destroyed”.
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)