AIRCRAFT - Introduction



Twin Otter


North Star

Flying Boxcar



Sikorsky S-55
de Havilland DHC-3 (CC-123) Otter. Photograph courtesy of Canadian Forces.


de Havilland DHC-3 (CC-123) Otter

Most of the following information is based on the book "De Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter: A History" by Karl E. Hayes. For more information on this excellent Otter resource, contact Karl Hayes via the Old Wings web site.


Seven DHC-3 (CC-123) Otter rotated through 115 ATU. From Hayes:

The task of transporting the first four Otters for 115 ATU to Egypt was given to the aircraft carrier 'HMCS Magnificent', then in the final weeks of its service with the Royal Canadian Navy. It was about to be replaced by the 'Bonaventure', which was then being completed in Belfast. In October 1956 the 'Magnificent' sailed to Belfast carrying stores and equipment to be transferred to the 'Bonaventure'. It was then supposed to sail to Glasgow, Scotland to collect 50 Sabre Mark Vs for the RCAF, but was ordered instead to return as fast as possible to its home port of Halifax, Nova Scotia to load supplies for the United Nations mission. At Halifax, the 'Magnificent' was loaded with one hundred tons of supplies, 233 vehicles, one HO4S helicopter and the four Otters (3675, 3743, 3744 and 3745), which had been flown to Halifax. The 'Magnificent' sailed from Halifax on 29th December 1956 and docked at Port Said, Egypt in mid January 1957.

On 13th January, maintenance personnel started assembling the Otters, which had been carried as cargo below deck. On 18th January the four Otters flew off the carrier to their new base at El Arish. The Otters took off from the flight deck while the carrier rode at Anchor. One almost didn't make it. Immediately after becoming airborne, the right wing dropped and scraped along the deck before the Otter struggled off the end of the carrier. The damage was repaired on arrival at El Arish. Ironically, the last fixed wing aircraft to take off from 'HMCS Magnificent', after thousands of naval aircraft sorties, were the four RCAF Otters! The 'Magnificent' departed Port Said on 20th January '57, arriving at Glasgow via Naples on 2nd February, where the 50 Sabres were at last loaded on board. Many of the crew and the helicopter were transferred to the 'Bonaventure' and the 'Magnificent' returned to Halifax with the Sabres. That was its last mission and the carrier was subsequently scrapped. Meanwhile, the four Otters had arrived at El Arish where they were joined by two RCAF Dakotas and 115 Air Transport Unit became operational.

The Otters were used for transport, communications and general utility tasks, as well as for observing and patrolling border areas, particularly the 59 kilometre Demarcation Line in the Gaza Strip and the 209 kilometre frontier between the United Arab Republic and Israel, and also observing shipping going through the Strait of Tiran at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The first operational mission with an Otter took place on 22nd January '57, a road recce in the El Arish area.

In an Air Transport Command briefing at Trenton in November 1966, the Unit's operational scenario was reviewed, which describes the work these Otters performed: “The reconnaissance task principally involves flights along the Egyptian side of the International frontier between Israel and Egypt, which extends south from the south-east corner of the Gaza Strip, a point commonly referred to as Rafah Corner, to the top of the Gulf of Aqaba and the UN outpost as Ras Al Naqb. Less frequent recce flights are carried out along the still-disputed Armistice Demarcation Line marking the boundary between the Gaza Strip and Israel and along the Gulf of Aqaba to the UN outpost at Sharm El Sheikh at the top of the Red Sea and the southern extremity of the Sinai Peninsula”.

“The Armistice Demarcation Line (ADL) and the first forty miles of the International Frontier (IF) lies in relatively flat, low-lying land covered only with very sparse vegetation and nearly all of that on the Israeli side. The area is for the most part an area of shifting sand dunes. The ADL is well marked by a road and frequent UN observation posts. The first part of the IF is marked by a road and along the former Canadian sector by forty gallon drums mounted on cement pillars and painted blue and white. The remaining odd ninety miles to the end of the IF at the top of the Gulf of Aqaba is rough and forbidding, marked with frequent rocky hills and mountains rising as high as 2,800 feet and with only sparse vegetation and the odd small oasis. Generally the terrain is favourable to air reconnaissance. However, this is true only of the daylight hours. During the hours of darkness, air reconnaissance is not available. The weather is nearly always suitable for visual flight. There are however periods of early morning fog and sandstorm activity which at times restrict and occasionally cancel out flying activity”.

115 ATU's Otter operations continued until early January 1967.

The first four Otters delivered HMCS Magnificent were:

  • 3675 (cn 33) - from Hayes: "destroyed when it crashed on landing at a desert airstrip near Rafah on 15th April '57, fortunately with no injuries. The extreme heat resulted in a loss of power when the pilot attempted an overshoot"
  • 3743 (cn 183) - from Hayes: "withdrawn in December 1960 and airlifted back to Canada by Hercules, which arrived 21st May 1966"
  • 3744 (cn 185) - from Hayes: "crashed at Gaza Strip on 19th September 1958 and was also a write off"
  • 115 ATU de Havilland DHC-3 (CC-123) Otter. Photograph courtesy of Robert Coulter.
  • 3745 (cn 188 - see photo at right) - from Hayes: "airlifted out by RCAF Hercules (January 1962) and was "off-loaded at 30 AMB, Langar (an RCAF base in England) for five weeks storage before continuing airlift back to 6 Repair Depot, Trenton, 'where damage occasioned in transit was repaired'".

Three additional Otters rotated into theatre:

  • 3677 (cn 35) - from Hayes: First replacement (for 3675), "and was flown from Canada to El Arish on board an RCAF C-119, arriving on 11th May '57". This aircraft made the last Middle East RCAF Otter trip, a training flight to Aswan. It was then subsequently dismantled and flown home on 15th January (1967) by Hercules to 6 Repair Depot, Trenton where they (3677 and 3696) were overhauled before being assigned to other units. Current located in New Zealand with Volcanic Air Safaris
  • 3678 (cn 36) - from Hayes: replacement aircraft which was flown from Canada to El Arish on board two C-119s, arriving early December '58. This aircraft crashed at El Kuntilla on 25th April 1966, sadly with loss of life. F/O Paul M. L. Picard and F/O Richard V. Edwards both died as a result of this aircraft while on a "a routine transport mission to two bases". For a brief overview of the incident, click on the following link (report requires Adobe Reader to view): OCCURRENCE REPORT for 25 April 1966 Air Accident (courtesy of the NDHQ Directorate of Flight Safety)
  • 3696 (cn 63) - from Hayes: "Third and final replacement (for 3678)." Subsequently "dismantled and flown home on 15th January (1967) by Hercules to 6 Repair Depot, Trenton where they (along with 3677) were overhauled before being assigned to other units."

A Mystery! - following photos were taken by Rene Gauthier in El Arish around 1957/58. We initially believed they were of 3677 or 3678 - both were replacement Otters delivered in 1957/58 by CC-119 (see above for details). But the sixth photo (far right, second row) shows "44" on the removed cowling which suggests it is Otter 3744 which "crashed at Gaza Strip on 19th September 1958". As 3744 was delivered by HMCS Magnificent - it is not clear why it is being loaded/unloaded on the CC-119. It is possible it is a damaged 3744 being loaded onto CC-119 22128 (which crashed in Italy on its return flight). So... are these photos of one Otter being loaded? Unloaded? More than one Otter? If you have any insight into what is happening in these photos please contact us. Click on photos below to see larger image:

New Guinea

Two Otters were assigned to 116 ATU in New Guinea:

  • 9423 (cn 405)
  • 9424 (cn 407)


Three Otters were assigned to 117 ATU in India/Pakistan:

  • 9406 (cn 365)
  • 9422 (cn 404)
  • 9423 (cn 405)

An additional three Otters (9404 cn 361, 9415 cn 393, and 9426 cn 409) were assigned as spares but remained in Canada.


Following information was provided by Karl Hayes:

There was only one RCAF Otter in the Yemen, the rest being the UN’s own Otters. The UN acquired 8 Otters of their own, two from Norway, two from the US Army and four new aircraft from DHC, and these were allocated UN serials 301 to 308 inclusive and sent to the Belgian Congo.

The UN Mission in the Yemen was supported by 134 ATU with Canadian personnel. Otter 3678 and also a Caribou, both from 115 ATU in Egypt, set out from their base in Egypt in June 1963 to support the advance party of 134 ATU. Shortly thereafter, Otters 306, 307 and 308 were airlifted by USAF Hercules from the Congo to Yemen, and 134 ATU was established 5 July 1963 with these four Otters. 3678 and 307 were based at Quizan and 306 and 308 were based at Najran.

It was proposed that the Unit use H-19 helicopters, but when these were deemed unsuitable because of the “hot and high” conditions, three more UN Otters (301, 304 and 305) were flown from the Congo to Yemen and had arrived by 2 October 1963 and at that stage RCAF 3678 returned to Egypt.

That left 134 ATU in the Yemen with six UN Otters. By 23 December 1963 two of these had been flown to El Arish for storage, leaving two at Quizan and two at Najran. These four were flown to El Arish during January 1964.

Additional information on the Otter:

115 ATU de Havilland DHC-3 (CC-123) Otter. Photograph courtesy of Robert Coulter.  Taken at the beach outside the Marina - approximate date is June 1959.