Otter number 20 was one of the first six of ten DHC-3 delivered to the
Royal Norwegian Air Force, as explained in relation to number 18. The batch
of six were delivered in crates by ship and formally handed over on 2nd
March 1954, arriving Oslo Harbour 8th April '54, being assembled at Kjeller
Air Base near Oslo. The Otter took serial 5320. In May '54 the Otter was
assigned to the Air Force Flying School at Vaernes Air Base for the training
of pilots and mechanics. In July '54 it was with the Communications Flight
at Vaernes and on 15th November '54 it moved north to the Communications
Flight at Bodo Air Base, which became designated as 7193 Stotteving (Support
Flight). It was to remain based at Bodo for the rest of its military career
with the Royal Norwegian Air Force, with periodic visits to the Horten
Marine Base for maintenance.
In July 1960 it was allocated, together with Otter 21, for duty with the
United Nations in the
Belgian Congo. It was painted white with titles “United Nations/Nations
Unies” in blue on each side of the fuselage and the UN flag on the tail fin.
At this stage, the Otter had total time on the airframe of 2,975 hours. On
24th July 1960 it was flown from Bodo to Gardermoen Air Base, Oslo and on
30th July '60 was airlifted from there to Leopoldville in the Congo on board
a USAF C-124 Globemaster.
Having arrived in the Congo, the Otter joined the UN Air Wing, Support
Squadron, being allocated serial 303. It was one of a number of Otters with
the Squadron, which was based at N'djili United Nations Air Transport Base,
Leopoldville but the aircraft were regularly detached to other airfields in
support of UN operations. The Otters, flown and maintained by Swedish UN
personnel, were used as general support aircraft and for reconnaissance,
supply and evacuation missions.
In May 1964 Otter 303 was temporarily based at Kamembe airfield, Bukavu.
Some 100 kms south of Bukavu was a Swedish missionary station named Lemera,
where 20 Scandinavians lived and worked with hundreds of young African
students. The station was surrounded by rebel troops but guarded by
Congolese National Army soldiers. On 12th and 13th May, a 100 hour
inspection was carried out on 303 at Kamembe airfield, after which it flew
some visual reconnaissance missions.
Frequently, people were seen firing at the Otter from the ground. On 22nd
May '64 the Scandinavian personnel at the Lemera mission station were to be
evacuated by an army convoy of trucks coming from Bukavu. The Otter was
tasked with overseeing the operation from above. 303 took off, piloted by
Gunnar Elg, with Gosta Kersmark as flight engineer in the right seat and
four passengers (one radio operator and three observers) in the cabin. They
followed the road southwards at an altitude of 1,200 feet, which they
believed to be a safe height. They overflew Luvungi airstrip, and five
kilometres further on were taking a look at a parked lorry when one of its
occupants took a shot at them with an automatic weapon. The bullet struck
the Otter with a loud bang and seemingly severed an oil line, as the oil
pressure fell to zero. The engineer throttled back but the RPM remained the
same, indicating that the oil pressure system connected to the propeller
adjustment had been affected. As the Otter had a hydromatic propeller, he
could neither reduce the RPM nor stop the oil leak. They headed down
following the road, which was straight but narrow. The pilot decided he
would try and land on the road. After some two minutes, the engine failed,
accompanied by violent vibrations. They were then 30 feet over the road.
Take-off flap had been selected during the descent, but just before landing
the pilot pumped the flaps to the landing position. The Otter touched down
on the road at a speed of 70 knots and rolled about 150 feet until the
starboard wing was torn away on striking a tree. The aircraft left the road
and lost the landing gear going over a ditch, before coming to rest. The
engine was knocked off and thrown thirty feet forward. 303 was a complete
wreck, but its occupants miraculously escaped with only a few cuts and
bruises. The six crew congregated on the road and then set off at a brisk
pace towards the convoy. The group was over-flown by a Piper Apache
aircraft, whose pilot waved and notified Kamembe Tower of the mishap. At
times, the six hid in the undergrowth when rebel troops were encountered.
Eventually they met up with the convoy and were taken to safety, after a
most frightening ordeal.
At the time of the crash, the Otter had 4,389 hours on the airframe. On 25th
May '64 United
Nations C-47 serial 215 took off from Bukavu and flew over the downed Otter,
which was judged to be beyond economical repair. A salvage attempt was not
made due to the presence of hostile forces in the area. The Board of Inquiry
into the incident recommended that the Otter be written off the UN inventory
and the remains handed over to the Congolese government.
History courtesy of Karl E Hayes from DHC-3
Otter: A History (2005)