DHC-3 Otter Archive Master Index

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX   click on arrows to navigate page by page

c/n 82

FAP-302 at Tocumen Air base, Panama.
Photo: LAAN © March 1978 - Karl E. Hayes Collection
The former 302 ready for a serious restoration at Campbell River, British Columbia.
Photo: Steve Crerar © 06 November 2017
Progressing along.
Photo: Dirk Septer © 30 August 2018

c/n 82

55-3244

FAP-302

X

• 55-3244 United States Army. Delivered 21st January 1956.

937th Engineer Company (Aviation) for use on the Inter American Geodetic Survey (IAGS) at Howard AFB., Panama.

IAGS Colombia Project, based at Guayamaral airfield near Bogota 1963. During Jul / Aug-1963 it was deployed to a base at Candilejas, one hundred and forty miles southeast of Bogota in the Llanos Orientales. It continued to operate as a survey aircraft through Apr-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.

Army's Golden Knights parachute team. November 1970, Fort Bragg, NC.

Logistics Support Command in Panama who prepared it for service with the Panamanian Air Force, to whom it was to be transferred under a Military Aid Program.

 • FAP-302 Fuerza Aérea Panameña.

Accident: Details unfortunately unknown.

• Arrived in Campbell River, British Columbia - ready for total rebuild to a PT6-140 powered Turbine Otter by Aerotech Industries.

On rebuild

x

Otter 82 was delivered to the United States Army on 21 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 1956 in “Operation Trade Wind”, all six Otters were delivered together. After leaving Downsview on 21 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. 53244 was assigned initially to the Peru Project, based at Lima, where it flew during 1956.

It is not known in what countries 53244 served after that, but by 1963 it was with the IAGS Colombia Project, based at Guayamaral Airfield near Bogota. During July / August 1963 it was deployed to a base at Candilejas, one hundred and forty miles south-east of Bogota in the Llanos Orientales (Great Plain) region of the country. Here it supported IAGS mapping activities, collecting drums of gasoline from Villavicienco 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 May 1970, being the last Otter to support the IAGS, when it was placed into storage in Panama. In November 1970 it was flown to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where it served with the US Army’s Golden Knights parachute team. In June 1972 it 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 donated under a Military Aid program. In September 1972 it was one of five Army Otters handed over to the Fuerza Aérea Panameña (FAP). 53244 became FAP-302, its new military serial. In Panamanian service the Otters were painted in an all grey scheme with ‘Fuerza Aérea Panameña’ titles on the fuselage, a red band around the rear fuselage, red wing tips, serial on the rear fuselage and the national colours of red, white and blue on the rudder. The five Otters were based at Tocumen Air Base, co-located with Tocumen International Airport near Panama City, and were used in the transport role.

Information concerning the use of these Otters in Panama is hard to come by but by June 1974 according to official documents there were three Otters still in the FAP inventory (302, 303 and 304), two others having crashed (301 and 305). Negotiations took place in 1977 for the purchase of Embraer Bandeirantes to replace the Otters as well as some Douglas C-47s but fell through for lack of finance. The leftist leanings of General Omar Torrijos, commander-in-chief of the Panamanian armed forces, were also a disincentive for further American assistance. The three Otters soldiered on and all three were noted at Tocumen in March 1978.

Again according to official documents, there were only two Otters (302 and 303) in the inventory by 1980, one (304) having crashed. General Torrijos was killed in the crash of DHC-6 Twin Otter FAP-205 in Panama in August 1981 and was succeeded by General Manual Noriega.  The two Otters remained in service until they were sold in the mid to late 1980s. First to be sold was FAP-303 in 1986. It was still flyable at that stage and was registered as HP-1070 to the Minister for Civil Aviation in Panama in April 1986, in connection with its sale to the United States the following month as N254A. That left only FAP-302 in service with the FAP and it was noted at Tocumen in October 1987, used for parachuting.

That year, 1987, the US government suspended military aid and maintenance support to the FAP in response to growing popular objections to the excesses of General Noriega’s regime. The Otter was still active in 1988 but appears to have been withdrawn from use that year. The Fuerza Aérea Panameña ceased to exist after “Operation Just Cause”, the 20th December 1989 invasion of Panama by the United States military to capture General Noriega, who was subsequently imprisoned in the United States for his drug smuggling activities.

There is some uncertainty as to how exactly FAP-302 arrived in the United States. In April 1984 Dodson Aviation of Rantoul, Kansas, a supplier of aircraft parts, had applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for an N number reservation for the aircraft, but this did not proceed and no N number was ever allocated by the FAA. This may have been in connection with a proposed purchase of the aircraft by Dodson Aviation, which fell through. Newcal Aviation of Little Ferry, New Jersey, a company which supplied parts for DHC aircraft, were involved with this Otter and it would appear that it was Newcal Aviation which imported the Otter around 1989 or 1990. It was no longer airworthy at that stage and was shipped to the United States in a dismantled state, with the wings removed from the fuselage.

The Otter was subsequently sold to Jay Tex Aviation, a supplier of aircraft equipment and parts, based in Mount Pleasant in north-east Texas, and was trucked from New Jersey to Mount Pleasant. It was stored in the company’s warehouse for the next ten years or so. Jay Tex had an association with another company called Regal Air, also a supplier of aircraft parts, particularly for DHC aircraft, and in the year 2000 the Otter was trucked from Texas to the Regal Air base in Fort Collins, Colorado. Here it was used as a training tool until 2007, when it was trucked back to Mount Pleasant, Texas and stored there again.

Based at Campbell River on Vancouver Island is Vancouver Island Air (VIA), who operate two turbine Otters. In 2017 VIA formed an associate company called AeroTech Industries, whose business would be to sell Otter parts to customers, and also to rebuild, repair and modify Otters. AeroTech Industries were looking for an Otter to rebuild and were introduced to serial 82 by Regal Air and an agreement was made to buy serial 82 from Jay Tex Aviation. Once again, the Otter was put on a truck and driven from Mount Pleasant, Texas to Campbell River where it arrived on 6 November 2017. It entered the AeroTech hangar where work started on the rebuild of the Otter and its conversion to a turbine.

On 31 January 2018 serial 82 was registered to Vancouver Island Air of Campbell River as C-GKIL, the first civilian registration ever carried by this 62 year old aircraft. The Otter is to be fitted with an 867 horse power P&W PT6A-140 engine and will become the first Otter to be powered by this particular engine. The rebuild and conversion continued during the year and were still ongoing in December 2018.

That then is the fascinating story to date of serial 82, an Otter which has been out of public view for three decades. It is a very well-travelled Otter, having been transported from Panama to New Jersey and then having criss-crossed the country by road several times, from New Jersey to Texas, Texas to Colorado, back to Texas and finally all the way from Texas to Vancouver Island. It is however a heart-warming story, whose conclusion will see the Otter fly again after some 30 years on the ground.

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.x