Sunday, April 29, 2007


Steve's "Otter Of The Week"! Karl E. Hayes

"No. 99" has forever been recorded in the "history books" as the number of the most "prolific athlete" and "hockey player" ever to live, good "Canadian Boy" Wayne Gretzky. By the way, Gretzky is not like your normal "spoiled child" athlete, and is actually a "credit to his parents". Anyways, before Gretzky, there was another "99" that has been recorded in history, serving her country well. Stationed in Vietnam, "Otter 99" served well, returned to the U.S. for "surgery", returned to Vietnam, "served well" again, and "laid down her life". Read on..................

All information is from Karl Hayes' "masterful" CD entitled:

De Havilland Canada


Otter 99

Otter 99 was delivered to the United States Army on 12th March 1956 with serial 55-2357 (tail number 53257). It was allocated to the 14th Army Aviation Company, Fort Riley, Kansas. In August '56 the 14th was re-designated the 1st Aviation Company and moved to Fort Benning, Georgia where it continued to fly the Otter until 1961, when it converted to the Caribou, relinquishing its U-1As to other units.

53257 was then assigned to the 2nd Missile Command, Fort Carson, Colorado where it served until May 1962, then joining the 24th Aviation Battalion. In July 1962 it arrived at the Atlanta Army Depot, Atlanta, Georgia where it was overhauled and from where it was transported to Vietnam, being assigned to the 611th Transportation Company based at Vung Tau. This was a maintenance unit providing support for other Army units. As well as the Otter, it also flew a U-6A Beaver (tail number 41727) and three CH-37B Mojave helicopters, all attached to the unit's Recovery Platoon. A large drawing of an eagle was painted just behind the pilot's door on the Otter by a talented artist. In addition to its direct support of aviation units in the Mekong Delta, the 611th also backed up other maintenance units, either sending repair teams to help those units, or bringing the damaged aircraft to Vung Tau for repair. It also mounted recovery missions for downed aircraft.

In May 1965, 53257 crashed into the bush just after take-off from Vung Tau as a result of a cracked cylinder block. It was hoisted back to the airfield by 50623, one of the 611th Transportation Company CH-37B helicopters, and repaired. It continued flying for the 611th until February 1966 when it was assigned to the 54th Aviation Company. In July '66 it was returned to the United States for depot level maintenance at the ARADMAC Depot, Corpus Christi, Texas and arrived back in Vietnam in November '66, being assigned to the 18th Aviation Company. It continued flying for the 18th Aviation Company until destroyed in an accident in July 1968, then serving with the Company's 1st Platoon based at Da Nang.

To quote from the unit history: “Forced to fly low because of weather, Captain Kenneth Waldrop and CWO Clark along with crew chief Robert Christiansen were eight miles east of Hue Phu Bai, flying the morning courier run, when the aircraft was raked from front to rear by automatic weapons fire. The burst caused partial power failure and a "Mayday" call was transmitted. The windows were shot out but the three crew and eight passengers escaped injury. Approximately a quarter mile later, another machine gun opened up and smashed into the engine compartment, causing the faltering engine to quit. The aircraft then crash landed into a rice paddy five miles from Phu Bai. As the Otter careened along the ground, a third burst from another automatic weapon ripped open the fuel tanks, but they failed to ignite”.

“Passengers and crew were able to make their way from the aircraft for about ten yards when machine gun fire pinned them down in the mud. For the next twenty five minutes the survivors received intense fire from a nearby treeline. Hugging the ground, they heard the voices of approaching enemy soldiers. Captain Waldrop, the only one of the group who was armed, readied his .45 pistol and aimed at a trio of enemy troops closing in fast. His aim was good and down went one of the enemy. The other two withdrew. A few minutes later, Marine helicopter gunships answering the "Mayday" arrived on the scene. Machine gun and rocket fire blasted the enemy positions while a rescue ship whisked all the survivors away to safety”.

A short while later an Army CH-47 Chinook attempted to sling out the stricken Otter but had to abort because of heavy ground fire that ripped the Otter apart as it was being lifted. 53257 was officially deleted from the Army inventory the following month, August 1968.

- by Karl E. Hayes

Unbelievable, maybe "flying the bush" in Canada was a safer occupation. Anyway you read it, the Otter has a history like none other, and like Wayne and his parents, the Otter is a "credit to the de Havilland designers". Great info, Karl, "Thanks"!


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