Otter 330 was delivered to the United States Army on 9th June 1959 with serial 58-1713 (tail number 81713). It was first assigned to the 18th Aviation Company, Fort Riley, Kansas and travelled with the Company in January 1962 to Vietnam. It was named 'Juanita'. It met with an accident at Ca Mau, Vietnam on 8th December 1962. Both sides of the airstrip were lined with H-21 helicopters on stand-down between missions. On take-off, a sudden gust of crosswind caught the Otter, causing it to drift into the row of helicopters, clipping and damaging rotor blades. It ended up ploughing into a marsh at the end of the runway.
Recovery of the Otter was assigned to the 611th Transportation Company, and was carried out between 9th and 12th December 1962. The wings were taken off with help from local Vietnamese workers. A make-shift hoist was used to lift the fuselage onto a truck and it was driven to Vung Tau for re-build. In February 1963 the Otter was with the 339th Transportation Company as a maintenance float, and then with the 45th Transportation Battalion at Tan Son Nhut, serving as a staff transport (replacing Otter 53272) until the Battalion was inactivated in September 1963. It then re- joined the 18th Aviation Company in October 1963 and continued to fly for the Company for the next three years, until transported back to the United States in October 1966, arriving at the ARADMAC Depot, Corpus Christi, Texas. It was taken from there the following month to the Sharpe Army Depot, Stockton, California for depot level overhaul, when fixed wing overhaul was discontinued at Corpus Christi and Stockton became the designated depot for Otters destined for Vietnam. When the overhaul was completed in November 1967, 81713 returned to Vietnam and again flew for the 18th Aviation Company. This continued until May 1969, when it was taken in charge by the 79th Transportation Company and shipped home, arriving back at the Sharpe Depot, Stockton, California in August 1969.
It was overhauled at Stockton and in June 1970 assigned to an Army National Guard unit, along with 81712 (329), another former 18th Aviation Company Otter also returned from Vietnam to Stockton. Both of these Otters then returned to the Stockton depot in November 1970 for storage. In May 1971 both Otters headed north for Alaska, to continue with their Army careers, although they served with different units. 81713 joined the Army National Guard based at Nome, as a combat support aircraft. It met with an accident on 20th December 1973. An electrical generator failed in flight, resulting in electrical failure. The pilot attempted to proceed to the nearest airfield. The windshield frosted over due to the lack of heater operation, forcing the aircraft to land in the remote Alaskan outback and forcing the occupants to spend an uncomfortable night in the frozen wilderness, according to the accident report.
Bill Ipock was the pilot, and explains what happened when he was forced to land on the tundra: “The generator drive failed and left us only with the battery for power, which was not sufficient to keep the heater going to de-ice the windshield. When I landed, there was only about a hole the size of a half dollar to see through. With that and the side window open, we managed to get the aircraft down without damage. My crew chief was Art Johnson. His brother flew a Cessna 180 onto a nearby lake the next day and flew us back to Nome. It was a very cold night! We had been en route from Nome to Kivalina to deliver clothes and toys to the village as part of the National Guard 'Christmas Toys for Tots' program. We came down on the tundra about 60 miles southwest of Kotzebue. We took one of the parachutes and tied the apex to the tie-down ring under the left wing. Art had a small tent in his survival gear which we erected under the parachute. This gave us double protection, such as it was, from the blowing snow”.
“We were initially located by an Air Force Boeing EC-135 from Eielson AFB., and covered by a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules until Art's brother arrived. The Otter remained out on the tundra for a few weeks until arrangements could be made to recover it. The Nome-based National Guard UH-1 Huey helicopter flew out to the Otter, and a new battery was installed. After pre-heating the engine, we got it started and flew 81713 off the tundra. We were flying in company with the UH-1 and again encountered very restricted visibility which forced us down on Salmon Lake, which is north-east of Nome. We flew the UH-1 back to Nome on instruments, returning in better weather to finish the recovery. Once we had the Otter back in Nome, we replaced the generator drive and returned the aircraft to service”.
After all this drama, 81713 continued to fly for the National Guard at Nome without further incident until September 1976, when it was withdrawn from use. It remained at Nome until December 1976 when it was deleted from the Army inventory. It was transferred to the Civil Air Patrol and initially taken on charge by the Alaska Wing of the CAP and parked at Anchorage. It was flown by CAP pilots to Seattle and later continued on to the Patrol's depot at Amarillo, Texas. It went into storage there and was never registered to or operated by the CAP. It was sold by the CAP to J.W. Duff Aircraft Company of Denver, Colorado by Bill of Sale dated 20th June 1979 and registered to the buyer as N212NY. It was sold on immediately, in June 1979, to Mr. Joseph Jacaruso, doing business as Joe Jojac Sales, also of Denver, Colorado.
That same month, Mr Jacaruso entered into a joint venture agreement with Mr Morley Wilson and his company, Wilderness Air Services Inc., of Boulder, Colorado pertaining to the Otter. Whatever they had jointly planned for the aircraft, they fell out and had to go to court to settle their differences. While this dispute was going on, there was a proposed sale of the Otter to Mike Hackman Aircraft Sales of Edmonton, Alberta in May 1981 and he reserved marks C-GSJY for the aircraft, but that transaction did not proceed. The dispute dragged on, until eventually in March 1983 the judge in the District Court, County of Boulder, Colorado, made an order on 24th March directing that title to the aircraft be transferred to Joseph Jacaruso. The Otter was then registered to him and at long last work commenced on the aircraft. It was ferried from Boulder, Colorado, where it had been parked, to Arlington, Washington, where it was converted to civilian configuration, and a Certificate of Airworthiness was issued by the FAA on 29th June 1983.
The Otter was painted in a most striking colour scheme - highly polished silver with a multi- coloured 'eagle' logo running the entire length of the fuselage sides. Over the next two years, it was to visit many points in western Canada, and was seen at Calgary and Watson Lake in October 1983. It eventually returned to Boulder, Colorado and was put up for sale. By Bill of Sale dated 1st October 1985 it was sold by Mr Jacaruso to Business Aircraft Sales Corporation, who sold it on by Bill of Sale dated 17th October 1985 to Donald C. Olson, whose company was Olson Air Service Inc., of Nome, Alaska. The following month, November 1985, Mr Olson collected the Otter at Boulder and flew it to Marin County Airport, San Francisco where it was overhauled and repainted. He kept the 'eagle' scheme but had the wings painted dark blue. He then flew the Otter to Seattle, where in February 1986 a SORM Industries 400 gallon bulk liquid tank was installed at Boeing Field. Finally, in March 1986, N212NY completed its delivery flight to the Olson Air Service base at Nome, Alaska. Interestingly, it had returned to the place where it had served the National Guard for over five years.
N212NY was used out of Nome on mail flights to outlying communities, for passengers and also to haul fuel to mining camps. One of these, at Garfield Creek, was so narrow that after landing a truck had to come out and help turn the Otter. It also flew to such points as Bluff and other locations on the Seward Peninsula. This pattern of operations continued for nearly five years, until an accident on 28th January 1991. The Otter, on wheel-skis, had taken off from the coastal town of Wales at 1pm for the short 25 mile flight to the Little Diomede island. There were eleven souls on board, the pilot and ten villagers returning home to Little Diomede. The pilot reported a loss of oil pressure and put out a mayday call. Following engine failure, he made a forced landing on the extremely rough terrain of the pack ice, fifteen miles northwest of Tin City in the Bering Strait. The Otter was badly broken, with the wings and tail falling off and the fuselage badly buckled.
An Evergreen Helicopters helicopter was in the area, heard the mayday call, and alerted the State Troopers. Other pilots who reached the scene dropped blankets and sleeping bags. The Alaska National Guard Huey helicopter set out from Nome with medics and State troopers, although there was a delay in launching the Huey, which had been in its hangar at Nome, and a considerable amount of snow had to be cleared from in front of the hangar to get it out. This was the second time the National Guard Huey had gone to this Otter's rescue, having previously done so in December 1973 when the Otter was flying for the National Guard, as already described. The occupants of the Otter were flown in the Huey to Wales, and then taken to hospital in Nome by aircraft from Olson Air Service and Bering Air. The pilot of the Otter and two of the passengers had been injured. The remains of the Otter were returned to Nome. The engine was sent for examination, which revealed that six of the link rods were broken at the master rod attachment end.
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)