Otter 85 was delivered to the United States Army on 21st January 1956 with serial 55-3247 (tail number 53247). It was one of the 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), as explained in relation to number 82. 53247 was assigned to the IAGS Brazil Project, based at Recife. On 3rd February 1957, the Otter took off from Recife at 04:30 hours and arrived at Santos Dumont Airport, Rio de Janeiro at 16:30 hours that afternoon. The Otter was parked on the military ramp, rudder and aileron locks inserted, chocks placed under all wheels, parking brakes set and the aircraft secured for the night. There were no tie-down facilities available, nor were there any storm warnings in force. At 17:15 hours the crew left the airport for their hotel.
The following statement of an airport official explains what happened next:”About 17:45 hours on 3rd February 1957 I noted that a strong wind was blowing at the airport. The intensity of the wind increased dangerously, giving the impression of a hurricane. I noted that all the aircraft on the airfield were being carried and shaken dangerously. In order to avoid damage and worse disasters, I ordered my men to do all possible to secure the aircraft that were moving in all directions with risk of colliding into one another. I noticed that the Otter 53247 was being shaken violently by gusts of strong wind, which caused the aircraft to jump repeatedly on its own wheels. Suddenly, the Otter began to run over the field, two thousand feet in a southwest direction until it reached a point in front of the control tower. I ran to it and with the help of my men made it stop, apparently without damage, near a Douglas C-47 of Transportes Aereos Catarinense SA, which was parked in the area facing theadministration building of the airport”.
“At that moment, the wind blew with incredible velocity and all the aircraft that had been parked in order on the field were in great confusion, being thrown one into another. Then we noticed that in our direction a C-46 Curtiss Commando cargo plane, which had been impounded by the authority of this airport, completely loaded, was approaching, blown by the hurricane. I immediately ordered that everything be done to stop it, as I realized that a tremendous collision would take place, resulting in complete losses. Regardless of all efforts made, taking advantage of all the resources we had, that is 40 or 50 men, there was no way of keeping the C-46 back. It hit the Otter violently under the wing, throwing it against the Transportes Aereos Catarinense C-47. The Otter, taken by the force of the hurricane, turned on its side after the violent blow received by the C-46. I picked up several objects, such as parachutes and other equipment, which fell from the Otter when it over-turned and which I delivered to the Captain of the Day. This hurricane lasted more or less ten minutes and passed over the airport with a velocity of 160 kilometres an hour”.
The Otter had been crushed and was a complete wreck. It had flown 422 hours at the time of its destruction. The wreck was taken to the USAF hangar on the airfield and remained there for some years until disposed of as scrap.
Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).