[jhb_airlines] Re: The DC3 Dakota

  • From: "F FISHER" <ffisher991@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <jhb_airlines@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2008 12:07:21 +0100

Perhaps a memorial flight, by as many JHB pilots as possible, using Dac's, 
flying into say Ronaldsway, on IVAO???

This is one lady I have not tried yet.

Frank F
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Kev Townsend 
  To: jhb_airlines@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Monday, August 25, 2008 11:40 PM
  Subject: [jhb_airlines] The DC3 Dakota

      Subject: The DC3 Dakota

      Subject: DC3 from a British perspective

      Now the DC-3 has been grounded by EU health and safety rules 

            'It groaned, it protested, it rattled, it ran hot, it ran cold, it 
ran rough, it staggered along on hot days and scared you half to death. 'Its 
wings flexed and twisted in a horrifying manner, it sank back to earth with a 
great sigh of relief. But it flew and it flew and it flew.' 

            This is the memorable description by Captain Len Morgan, a former 
pilot with Braniff Airways, of the unique challenge of flying a Douglas DC-3. 


            It's carried more passengers than any plane in history  but - Now 
the DC-3 has been grounded by EU health and safety rules. 

            The DC-3 served in World War II, Korea, and  Vietnam and was a 
favourite among pilots. 

            For more than 70 years, the aircraft known through a variety of 
nicknames - the Doug, the Dizzy, Old Methuselah, the Gooney Bird, the Grand Old 
Lady - but which to most of us is simply the Dakota - has been the workhorse of 
the skies. 

            With its distinctive nose-up profile when on the ground and 
extraordinary capabilities in the air, it transformed passenger travel and 
served in just about every military conflict from World War II onwards. 

            Now the Douglas DC-3 - the most successful plane ever made, which 
first took to the skies just over 30 years after the Wright Brothers' historic 
first flight -  is to carry passengers in Britain for the last time. 

            Romeo Alpha and Papa Yankee, the last two passenger-carrying 
Dakotas in the UK, are being forced into retirement because of - yes, you've 
guessed it - health and safety rules. 

            Their owner, Coventry-based Air Atlantique, has reluctantly decided 
it would be too expensive to fit the required emergency escape slides and 
weather radar systems required by new European rules for their 65-year-old 
planes, which served with the RAF during the war. 

            Mike Collett, the company's chairman, says: 'We're very saddened.' 

            The end of the passenger-carrying British Dakotas is a sad chapter 
in the story of the most remarkable aircraft ever built, surpassing all others 
in length of service, dependability, and achievement. 

            It has been a luxury airliner, transport plane, bomber, fighter, 
and flying hospital, and introduced millions of people to the concept of air 

            It has flown more miles, broken more records, carried more 
passengers and cargo, accumulated more flying time, and performed more 
'impossible' feats than any other plane in history, even in these days of 
super-jumbos that can circle the world non-stop. 

            Indeed, at one point, 90 per cent of the world's air traffic was 
operated by DC-3s. 

            More than 10,500 DC-3s have been built since the prototype was 
rolled out to astonished onlookers at Douglas' Santa Monica factory in 1935. 

            With its eagle beak, large square windows, and sleek metal 
fuselage, it was luxurious beyond belief, in contrast to the wood-and-canvas 
bone shakers of the day, where passengers had to huddle under blankets against 
the cold. 

            Even in the 1930s,  the early Dakotas had many of the comforts we 
take for granted today, like on-board loos and a galley that could prepare hot 

            Early menus included wild rice pancakes with blueberry syrup, 
served on bone china with silver service. 

            For the first time, passengers were able to stand up and walk 
around while the plane was airborne. 

            But the design had one vital feature,  ordered by pioneering 
aviator Charles Lindbergh, who was a director of TWA, which placed the first 
order for the plane. 

            The DC-3 should always, Lindbergh directed, be able to fly on one 

            Pilots have always loved it, not just because of its rugged 
reliability but because, with no computers on board, it is the epitome of 
'flying by the seat of the pants'. 

            One aviator memorably described the Dakota as a 'collection of 
parts flying in loose formation', and most reckon they can land it pretty well 
on a postage stamp. 

            Captain Len Morgan says: 'The Dakota could lift virtually any load 
strapped to its back and carry it anywhere and in any weather safely.' 

            It is the very human scale of the plane that has so endeared it to 
successive generations. 

            With no pressurization in the cabin, it flies low and slow. 

            And unlike modern jets, it's still possible to see the world go by 
from the cabin of a Dakota. 

            (The name, incidentally, is an acronym for Douglas Aircraft Company 
Transport Aircraft.) 

            As a  former Pan Am stewardess puts it: 'From the windows you 
seldom look upon a flat, hazy, distant surface to the world. 

            'Instead, you see the features of the earth - curves of mountains, 
colours of lakes,  cars moving on roads, ocean waves crashing on shores, and 
cloud formations as a sea of popcorn and powder puffs.' 

            But it is for heroic feats in military service that the legendary 
plane is most distinguished. 

            It played a major role in the invasion of Sicily, the D-Day 
landings, the Berlin Airlift, and the Korean and Vietnam wars, performing 
astonishing feats along the way. 

            When General Eisenhower was asked what he believed were the 
foundation stones for America's success in World War II, he named the 
bulldozer, the jeep, the half-ton truck, and the Dakota. 

            When the Burma Road was captured by the Japanese and the only way 
to send supplies into China was over the mountains at 19,000 ft, the Chinese 
leader Chiang Kai-shek said: 'Give me  50 DC-3s and the Japs can have the Burma 

            In  1945, a Dakota broke the world record for a flight with an 
engine out of action, traveling for 1,100 miles from Pearl Harbour to San 
Diego, with just one propeller working. 

            Another in RNZAF service lost a wing after colliding mid-air with a 
Lockheed bomber.  Defying all the rules of aerodynamics, and with only a stub 
remaining, the plane  landed, literally, on a wing and a prayer at Whenuapai 

            Once, a Dakota pilot carrying paratroops across the Channel to 
France heard an enormous bang. 

            He went aft to find half the plane had been blown away, including 
part of the rudder. 

            With engines still turning, he managed to skim the wave-tops before 
finally making it to safety. 

            Another wartime Dakota was rammed by a Japanese fighter that fell 
to earth, while the American crew returned home in their severely damaged - but 
still airborne - plane and were given the distinction of 'downing an enemy 

            Another DC-3 was peppered with 3,000 bullets in the wings and 
fuselage by Japanese fighters. 

            It made it back to base, was repaired with canvas patches and glue, 
and then sent back into the air. 

            During the evacuation of Saigon in 1975, a Dakota crew managed to 
cram aboard 98 Vietnamese orphans, although the plane was supposed to carry no 
more than 30 passengers. 

            In addition to its rugged military service, it was the DC-3 which 
transformed commercial passenger flying in the post-war years. 

            Easily converted to a passenger plane, it introduced the idea of 
affordable air travel to a world which had previously seen it as exclusively 
for the rich. 

            Flights across America could be completed in about 15 hours (with 
three stops for refueling), compared with the previous reliance on short hops 
in commuter aircraft during the day and train travel overnight. 

            It made the world a smaller place, gave people the opportunity for 
the first time to see previously inaccessible destinations, and became a 
romantic symbol of travel. 

            The DC-3's record has not always been perfect. 

            After the war, military-surplus Dakotas were cheap, often poorly 
maintained, and pushed to the limit by their owners. 

            Accidents were frequent. 

            One of the most tragic happened in 1962, when Zulu Bravo, a Channel 
Airways flight from Jersey, slammed into a hillside on the Isle of Wight in 
thick fog. 

            All three crew died and nine of the 14 passengers, but the accident 
changed the course of aviation history. 

            The local radar, incredibly, had been switched off because it was a 

            The national air safety rules were changed to ensure that never 
happened again. 

            'The DC-3 was, and is,  unique,' wrote the novelist and aviation 
writer Ernest Gann, 'since no other flying machine has cruised every sky known 
to mankind, been so admired, cherished, glamorized, known the touch of so many 
pilots, and sparked so many tributes. 

            'It was without question the most successful aircraft ever built 
and even in this jet age it seems likely the surviving DC-3s may fly about 
their business forever.' 

            This may be no exaggeration.  Next month, Romeo Alpha and Papa 
Yankee begin a farewell tour of Britain's airports before carrying their final 
passengers at the International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford on July 16. 

            But after their retirement, there will still be Dakotas flying in 
the farthest corners of the world, kept going with love, dedication, and sheer 

            Nearly three-quarters of a century after they first entered 
service, it's still possible to get a Dakota ride somewhere in the world. 

            I recently took a DC-3 into the heart of the Venezuelan jungle - to 
the 'Lost World' made famous in the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 

            It is one of the most remote regions on the planet - where the 
venerable old planes have long been used because they can be manoeuvred like 
birds in the wild terrain. 

            It's a scary experience being strapped into a torn canvas chair, 
raked back at an alarming angle (walking along the  aisle of a stationary 
Dakota is like climbing a steep hill) as you wait for take-off. 

            The engines spew smoke and oil as they shudder into life with what 
DC-3 fans describe as 'music' but to me sounded like the hammering of a 
thousand pneumatic drills. 

            But soon you are skimming the legendary flat-topped mountains 
protruding from the jungle below, purring over wild  rivers and the Angel 
Falls, the world's highest rapids. 

            Suddenly the ancient plane drops like a stone to a tiny landing 
strip just visible in the trees. 

            The  pilot dodges bits of dismantled DC-3 engines scattered on the 
ground and avoids a stray dog as he touches down with scarcely a bump. 

            How did he do it without air traffic control and the minimum of 
navigational aids? 

            ''C'est facile -  it's easy,' he shrugged. 

            Today, many DC-3s live on throughout the world as crop-sprayers, 
surveillance patrols, air freighters in forgotten African states, and even 
luxury executive transports. 

            One, owned by a Houston lumber company, had mink-covered doorknobs 
while another, belonging to a Texas rancher, had sofas and reclining chairs 
upholstered with the skins of unborn calves. 

            In Jaipur, India, a Dakota is licensed for flying wedding 

            Even when they have ended  their aerial lives, old Dakotas have 
become mobile homes, hamburger stands, and hen houses. 

            One even serves as a football team changing room. 

            Clark Gable's private DC-3, which once ferried chums such as John 
and Bobby Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Frank  Sinatra, and Ronald Reagan, is in a 
theme park in San  Marino. 

            But don't assume it won't run again.  Some of the oldest hulks have 
been put back into the skies. 

            The  ancient piston engines are replaced by modern turboprops, and 
many a pilot of a modern jet has been astonished to find a Dakota alongside him 
on the climb away from the runway. 

            So what is the enduring secret of the DC-3? 

            David Egerton, professor of the history of science and technology 
at ImperialCollege, London, says we should rid our minds of the idea that the 
most recent inventions are always the best. 

            'The very fact that the DC-3 is still around and performing a 
useful role in the world is a powerful reminder that the latest and most 
expensive technology is not always the one that changes history,' he says. 

            It's long been an aviation axiom that 'the only replacement for the 
DC-3 is another DC-3'. 

            So it's fortunate that at least one seems likely to be around for a 
very long time to come. 

            In 1946, a DC-3 on a flight from Vienna to Pisa crashed into the 
top of the Rosenlaui Glacier in the Swiss Alps. 

            The aircraft was not damaged and all the passengers were rescued, 
but it quickly began to disappear as a blinding snowstorm raged. 

            Swiss engineers have calculated that it will take 600 years for it 
to slide down inside the glacier and emerge at the bottom. 

            The most asinine  ruling ever dreamed up by a nightmare  
bureaucracy!!!  I especially appreciate the part requiring "escape slides".  On 
it's belly, one can step down from the aircraft floor to the ground.  And, the 
article left out the tale of the "DC-2-and-a-Half".  After being shot up by 
Japanese fighters, the damaged wing of a DC-3 was replaced with one from a 
DC-2.  It was then loaded up with refugees and flown to safety.

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