Otter 82 was delivered to the United States Army on 21st January 1956 with serial 55-3244 (tail number 53244). It was one of a batch of six Otters (tail numbers 53244 to 53249 inclusive) delivered that day to the 937th Engineer Company (Aviation) for use on the Inter American Geodetic Survey (IAGS). Being intended for use on survey work in jungle areas, these six Otters were painted in a white colour scheme with bright red wingtips and tail. In January '56 in “Operation Trade Wind”, all six Otters were delivered together. After leaving Downsview on 21st January, the six Otters flew south to Fort Belvoir, Virginia and then via Savannah, Georgia to Miami. They continued on to make a goodwill tour of the Caribbean and Central America, routing via Havana, Cuba-Cozumel, Mexico- Belize, British Honduras-Guatemala City-Managua, Nicaragua and San Jose, Costa Rica before arriving at Howard AFB, Panama, the 937th Engineer Company aircraft base. From there, the Otters were assigned to individual country Projects.
It is not known in what countries 53244 served in its early years, but by 1963 it was with the IAGS Colombia Project, based at Guayamaral airfield near Bogota. During July/August '63 it was deployed to a base at Candilejas, one hundred and forty miles southeast of Bogota in the Llanos Orientales (Great Plains) region of the country. Here it supported IAGS mapping activities, collecting drums of gasoline from Villavicencio and Cucuta and flying them to strips out in the bush where OH-23F helicopters were working. This work continued until April 1964 when the Project moved to Bahia Solano on the west coast, then back to Candilejas for a time, then onwards to Arauca on the Colombia/Venezuela border.
53244 continued to fly for the IAGS until July 1970, when it was placed into storage in Panama. In November 1970 it was flown to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where it served with the Army's Golden Knights parachute team. In June 1972 it was returned to Panama, into the custody of the Logistics Support Command who prepared it for service with the Panamanian Air Force, to whom it was to be transferred under a Military Aid Program. In September 1972 it was one of five US Army Otters handed over to the Fuerza Aerea Panamena. 53244 became FAP-302 with the FAP. It crashed and was written off in FAP service, details unfortunately unknown.
Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).