36 -  3678


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Otter 36 was delivered to the RCAF on 7th February 1954 with serial 3678. Its initial posting was to 408 Squadron at Rockcliffe, with whom it was to remain until that unit relinquished its Otters in 1957, and it was throughout that period a most active member of the squadron. 3678 was deployed from Rockcliffe to Goose Bay along with 3661 and 3679 during summer 1954, supporting the Squadron's Lancasters on their mapping flights. On 26th May 1977 3678 departed Rockcliffe on wheels arriving Grand Prairie, Alberta on 1st June. The main function of the Otter was carrying men and equipment, including the Officer Commanding Mid Canada Line Western Sector into points that were too small for the Squadron's Canso (11042) such as Lesser Slave Lake, Wabaasca and McLennan. 3678 also made trips to Dawson Creek and Fort McMurray. It was not practical to use an Otter on wheels beyond Fort McMurray, so 3678 was released from the operation on 25th June 1955 and returned briefly to Rockcliffe before setting off again for Moosonee, Ontario where it was engaged for the rest of the summer on fire fighting duties.

In January 1956 3678 (and 3679) deployed from base at Rockcliffe to Knob Lake, Quebec to support the helicopters of 108 Communications Flight on the Mid Canada Line. On 29th January '56, H-19 VC9626 ran short of fuel and set down, unsure of its exact location. The two Otters were dispatched and located the helicopter just before dark. 3678 brought in fuel for its return to Knob Lake, landing on a lake beside the helicopter and pumping fuel on board, and escorting the H-19 back to Knob Lake. On 16th February '56 both Otters returned to Rockcliffe for modifications. 3678 continued in service with 408 Squadron until April 1957, just before the Squadron withdrew its Otters from service. Its next posting, in June 1957 was to 102 Communications & Rescue Flight at Trenton for a brief period, until September '57 when it was placed into storage with No.6 Repair Depot as a reserve aircraft.

In November 1958 Otter 3678 was selected for duty with 115 Air Transport Unit (ATU), part of the United Nations Emergency Force policing the Egyptian/Israeli cease fire. According to the DHC paint shop records dated 26th November '58, the aircraft came into the paint shop at Downsview, was stripped, primed and painted white, then United Nations markings were added. It was dis-assembled and loaded on board two C-119s of 436 Squadron, and on 3rd December '58 the two Boxcars left Downsview to deliver the Otter to its new base at El Arish, Egypt. One of the two C-119s involved was 22128, which crashed on the return journey back to Canada. It took off from Athens headed for Pisa, but encountered a severe storm and was forced down due to heavy icing, crash landing near the Italian village of Minozza. Fortunately none of the seven on board were injured, but the C-119 was wrecked.

3678 was to serve with 115 ATU for the next seven years. On 8th May 1959 it took off from its base at El Arish at 0630 hours with two crew and three passengers en route to Cairo. It had to make a forced landing due to engine failure, an incident described in a local Egyptian newspaper, which translates into somewhat amusing English: “Fifteen minutes before landing the pilot suddenly discovered that the only one motor of his plane ceased to function, and after he had examined thoroughly all apparatuses, it was found useless. The situation started to be a critical one and the plane was shaking strongly. The pilot gave orders to his assistant to keep the passengers cool and to see that they were tied to their seats. The aircraft landed on a narrow piece of land at Barhamtush, cultivated with cotton, narrowly missing a group of trees. The villagers believed the plane was carrying spies and rushed to arrest them. One of the passengers convinced the villagers that they were from the UN. They were then made guests of the chief of the village, who offered them native pie”. A repair crew was dispatched and the engine was repaired and the Otter continued on its way.

On 15th July 1961, 3678 was flown from El Arish to the UK, to the RCAF depot at 30th AMB, Langar for overhaul, the work being performed by 3142 Technical Services Detachment. After
overhaul at Langar, the Otter was flown back to El Arish on board an RCAF C-130 on 25th July '62, which then took on board Otter 3745 and flew it back to Canada via a stop at Langar. During 1963/64, Otters 3677 and 3678 served with 115 ATU, along with Caribous 5320 and 5321 and Dakota 511. Otter 3678 continued to fly with 115 ATU until it was destroyed in a crash at El Kuntilla, Egypt on 25th April 1966.

To quote from the accident report: “Due to a minor change in schedule, the Otter was incorrectly loaded for a routine transport mission to two bases. Consequently, on arrival at the first base (El Kuntilla) the freight that was to be unloaded was inaccessible. The captain thereupon decided to continue to the second stop (Ras El Naqb), unload the freight for it, then return to El Kuntilla. The aircraft was loaded to 98% of its limit weight. The field elevation was 1,700 feet MSL and the temperature 98F. The combination of these factors rendered the aircraft sluggish in the air immediately after take off. The pilot proceeded to adjust the flap from the take-off to the climb position. He apparently performed this operation in a mechanical manner, which induced the aircraft to sink. He attempted to counter this by pulling back on the control column, which only aggravated the situation and the Otter struck the ground heavily.

The pilot persisted in his attempt to take off and the aircraft bounced twice more before finally coming to rest and bursting into flames. Three of the occupants escaped but two were severely burned and died later. The Otter was destroyed”.

History courtesy of Karl E Hayes from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005)