OTTERS UC-1s, these aircraft flew many miles in the Antarctic on the way to the Naval Aviation museum at Pensacola, Fl. 10-99.. Tnx to Jim O'Connell...
The National Museum of Naval Aviation's NU-1B Otter...............
There is little that Pensacola and the continent of Antarctica have in common. However, as is the case in many instances, the Cradle of Naval Aviation is tied to a faraway land by the wings of gold. From the epic flight of Richard E. Byrd over the South Pole on 29 November 1929 to the ongoing "Operation Deep Freeze", many a Pensacola-trained Navy man has spread his wings on the ice.
This bond between Naval Aviation and Antarctica is alive and well at the National Museum of Naval Aviation. Visitors to the Hall of Honor see the face of Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Naval Aviation's greatest Antarctic explorer, cast in bronze on one of the plaques. The R4D-5L Skytrain "Que Sera Sera", the first aircraft to land at the South Pole, greets people touring the outdoor display area. In addition, though not as famous as the "Que Sera Sera", there is another aircraft in the museum's collection that is also a veteran of many hours of Antarctic flying. Perhaps more importantly, this aircraft holds a special place in the hearts of two National Museum of Naval Aviation volunteers.
It was on 13 February 1956, that the Navy, supplementing the four it had ordered the previous year, procured nine additional UC-1 Otter utility aircraft from De Havilland Aircraft of Canada, LTD., a Toronto-based company founded in 1928. First flown on 12 December 1951, the Otter had already made a name for itself in the United States military by the mid-1950s. During maneuvers at Ft. Bragg, NC, in 1953, the aircraft's ability to fly substantial loads from makeshift airfields had so impressed Army officials that they eventually acquired six of them. The qualities that had attracted the Army also appealed to the Navy, a fact made all the more apparent by the assignment of the nine newly ordered Otters to Air Development Squadron SIX (VX-6). Based at NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island, the squadron served as the aerial support arm for Task Force 43 operations in the harsh, rugged environment of the Antarctic.
In September 1956, a group of VX-6 pilots made their way to De Havilland to pick up the first of these UC-1s. Among them were Lieutenant Commander Ken Snyder and Lieutenant Con Jaburg, both currently museum volunteers. The pair teamed up to fly one of the nine Otters back to Quonset Point. By December, all nine aircraft had been formally accepted by the Navy and, in preparation for the voyage to the Antarctic, they were disassembled and packed away in crates. One of those that found its way into a box was BuNo 144672, one of three Otters destined for transport to the Weddell Sea area and the one currently on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation. On 9 November 1956, along with other crated aircraft and cargo that included an out house on skis that had been constructed by Seabees, BuNo 144672 departed Davisville, Rhode Island, aboard USS Wyandot (AKA-92) for the long voyage south. Also aboard were members of VX-6, including LCDR Snyder and LT Jaburg.
It would be rough going for the old Wyandot, which had experienced its share of difficulties in the waters off Okinawa in 1945. Entering the Antarctic Circle in mid-December, the ship plowed its way through 1,600 miles of ice covered waters before finding a suitable site for a base on 27 January 1957. All told, Wyandot had spent 42 days on the ice and penetrated 300 miles further into the Weddell Sea than any ship before it.
Once "ashore", events moved in earnest. Personnel began the arduous task of unloading over 6,000 tons of cargo from Wyandot, while members of VX-6 went about the business of assembling their crated aircraft. In addition, a suitable landing field was marked off using barrels. The first UC-1 out of its wooden home was BuNo 144671. On 2 February 1957, with LCDR Snyder at the controls, it carried CAPT Edwin McDonald, commander of the Weddell Sea Task Group, to meet with Sir Vivian Fuchs, commander of Shackleton Base, a nearby British camp. The following day, the museum's BuNo 144672 took to the air for the first time with LT Jaburg at the controls. LCDR Snyder had his first flight in BuNo 144672 on 7 February 1957, logging 2.1 hours in a flight over Weddell Coast and Gould Bay. In recalling those long ago flights, what sticks out most in his mind about the Otter was its dependability and toughness. "It was a single-engine PBY," Snyder says now, likening it to the famous World War II flying boat.
In late February, Wyandot departed the Antarctic, leaving the VX-6 "wintering over party" at Ellsworth Station, the newly established base camp. Although LCDR Snyder departed with the ship, LT Jaburg was one of three VX-6 pilots assigned to remain on the ice throughout the winter. He managed to log a few additional evaluation flights in BuNo 144672 during February and March before the aircraft joined another Otter in its winter storage home, a revetment dug into the snow. It would be six months before the UC-1 would take to the air again.
It proved to be a difficult winter for the aircraft, for the same snow that was supposed to protect them in their revetment also took its toll on the aircraft. Deceptively fluffy and light to the eye, the snow that accumulated on the hibernating Otters instead provided an added weight burden they simply could not stand. When flying weather returned, and the aircraft were dug out, the personnel of VX-6 discovered two severely damaged aircraft. Luckily, BuNo 144672 was only in need of a replacement wing, for its sister craft, BuNo 144671, had to be totally stricken.
By October 1957, BuNo 144672 was ready for flight, and LT Jaburg began putting it through its paces in "Operation Deep Freeze Three." Between 3 October 1957 and 8 January 1958, he spent 30.1 hours in the cockpit, transporting cargo and flying in support of scientific field parties operating at various points on the ice. His final day flying the aircraft demonstrates the workhorse duties performed by the trusty Otters and their pilots in the Antarctic. That day, he made two separate utility support flights in UC-1s, one lasting 6.0 hours and the other totaling 10.9. A greater testament to the aircraft would be hard to find.
The paths of BuNo 144672 and its pilots diverged after their time together on the ice in the late 1950s. While Jaburg and Snyder served in various capacities on their way to retirement as a captain and commander respectively, BuNo 144672 also found its way to new places. Between periods of overhaul and repair, it remained with VX-6 until 1965. During that time its aircraft designation changed to NU-1B. After serving in various capacities at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Naval Air Test Facility, Lakehurst, and the Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu, the well-traveled Otter made its way to Pensacola in 1975.
Now, almost forty years later, man and machine stand reunited. Although the passage of time has inevitably brought changes, memories remain. When, after a day of volunteering, CAPT Con Jaburg, USN (Ret) and CDR Ken Snyder, USN (Ret) pass by the old Otter on their way home, you can be sure that their thoughts sometimes drift briefly back to those long ago days. For a fleeting moment, the aircraft is once again fitted with skis and adorned with a brilliant orange and silver hue, and they are poised at the controls ready to roar into the snow and ice of the "Secret Land."