• 55-2978 US Army handed over to the Army at a ceremony at Downsview on 25th January 1955. Joined 521st Engineer Company at Crissy AAF base, San Francisco, CA. Feb-1966 it was transported to Vietnam and joined the 54th Aviation Company. In Jan-1971 it was assigned to the 56th Transportation Company awaiting disposition and the following month went into storage with the 388th Transportation Company at Vung Tau, along with all the other Army Otters in Vietnam.
• 52978 Cambodian Air Force, Sep-1971, as part of a Military Assistance Program. Presumed withdrawn from use and scrapped by 1975.
Otter number 51 was one of a batch of the first six Otters delivered to the US Army, an “off-the-shelf” purchase of Otters urgently required for a survey of Alaska. It was in fact the first of the batch to be handed over to the Army, at a ceremony at Downsview on 25 January 1955 and was allocated serial 55-2978 (tail number 52978). It remained at Downsview while the other five were completed, and while the pilots and maintenance personnel received training from DHC. All six Otters set off together from Downsview on 14 March 1955 on delivery to their unit, the 521st Engineer Company at Crissy Army Airfield (AAF), San Francisco. The six Otters then took part in the survey of Alaska during summer 1955, returning to Crissy AAF., in September that year. The following month the unit relocated to the Sharpe General Depot at Stockton, California. The Otters remained in service with the 521st Engineer Company on other survey duties until the unit was disbanded in June 1958 and the Otters re-assigned to other units.
52978 was then assigned to Fort Hood, Texas as an operational support aircraft and in October 1962 joined the 57th Aviation Company at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In February 1963 it returned to Fort Hood where it served until February 1966, when it was transported to Vietnam and joined the 54th Aviation Company. It continued to fly for the 54th until January 1971, when the use of the Otter in Vietnam by the Army was coming to an end. In January 1971 it was transferred to the 56th Transportation Company awaiting disposition and the following month went into storage with the 388th Transportation Company at Vung Tao, along with all the other Army Otters in Vietnam.
52978 was one of 18 Otters handed over to the Khmer Air Force (the airforce of Cambodia) in September 1971, as part of a Military Assistance Program known as “Project Flycatcher”. All these Otters were flown from Vung Tao to Pochentong Air Base, Phnom Penh, Cambodia where they were based. The operation of the Otters by the Khmer Air Force did not last too long and by all accounts was not very successful. 52978 is recorded as having an accident on 15 March 1972 and did not fly again after that. The whole Cambodian Otter program was “unoperational” by July 1973 due to a lack of support and spare parts and a general inability to operate the aircraft. By July 1973 these Otters were all derelict at Pochentong. The air base was over-run by communist forces in April 1975 and what was left of the derelict Otters were scrapped.
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.