I have no idea how I resisted writing a diary about the C-47/C-53/R4D/DC-3/Dakota family for so long; and here is one of the most historically significant aircraft I have ever seen. The Great Vintage Flying Weekend used to be a wonderful celebration of classic and vintage aviation in all its forms. Here we can see an aircraft that took part in one of the lunchtime flying displays - an immaculate C-47A, N1994A, ‘J8-B’.
The C47A Skytrain was one of the important weapons available to the Allied forces during WW2, indeed no less a person than General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, listed the 6×6 truck, the bulldozer, the landing craft and the C-47 as the four machines that won the Second World War. An excellent load-carrier (after all it had been developed from the DC-3 airliner, and its earlier ‘family members’) it really came into its own during the various African and European invasions. C-47s were used by US Troop Carrier Wings in ‘Operation Torch’, North Africa, ‘Operation Husky’, Sicily, ‘Operation Dragoon’, South of France, and, of course, ‘Operation Overlord’, Normandy. C-47s went on to play a major role in ‘Operation Market Garden’, Holland, and ‘Operation Varsity’, Rhine Crossing, Germany, as well as supporting Allied troops in the China-Burma-India theatre and the Southwest Pacific.
Powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engines of 1,200hp, over 10,000 of these extremely capable aircraft were built in plants in California and Oklahoma, and saw action on every Allied war front. This C-47A was built in 1943, with the serial ’43-15211′, and was assigned to the 92nd Troop Carrier Squadron of the 439th Troop Carrier Group, 9th Air Force. It, and other aircraft of the 92nd, flew into history on the night of the 5/6th June 1944, when they took off from Upottery Airfield (USAAF Station AAF-462) in Devon, bound for a drop zone on the Cotentin Peninsula, in Normandy. The 92nd were carrying Easy Company (about to gain fame as the ‘Band of Brothers’), Lt. Dick Winters and many other paratroopers of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division on their very first combat jump. This aircraft survived many other tough wartime operations, and was later to serve with both the Norwegian and Danish Air Forces.
Finally sold on the civilian market, it had a number of US-based owners before being acquired by Wings Venture Ltd, an organisation headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut. Traces of its former civilian life can be seen in the dorsal blade aerial and other equipment changes, but the current camouflage of US Olive Drab with patches of Medium Green and the black and white D-Day stripes are ‘correct’ for the Overlord drop. It is shown parked outside the Delta Jets Ltd hangar at Cotswold Airport, Kemble, during the 2010 Great Vintage Flying Weekend. It gave a display which, thanks to RAF operational restrictions, the crew of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Dakota would simply not be allowed to perform! A superb aircraft, and a wonderous piece of living history.
A few weeks after I took this photograph, this aircraft was flown across the Atlantic to its new Polk City, Florida home, by its new owner, Kermit Weeks.