An adventure in the history with a Douglas C41 Dakota

Aprile 10 09:16 2020
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There are planes that have made history, planes that will always have a place of honor in the hearts of aviation enthusiasts. One of these is certainly the Douglas DC3 with its many model variations.

Produced in over 16,000 units since 1936, it has served military and civil air forces from over 75 different countries ensuring the transport of materials, paratroopers and passengers, as well as being used in the most varied roles with its numerous versions.

In fact, it was used as a flying gunship for electronic warfare, to carry out radio measurements or in the SAR service.

Sometime fundamental and complicated roles which it has always done at its best, thanks to its characteristics and performances. 

Douglas C-47 Specifications

Cruise speed: 257 Km/h

Range: 2300 Km

Payload: 28 people o 2700 Kg

Today Dc3-C47 are not rare, in fact its technical characteristics, its resistance and its popularity have led various enthusiasts to restore and maintain old pieces. One of them is the C41-A N341A, skillfully restored by Richard Martin. Not the usual Dakota we are used to see in films or aerial demonstrations overseas, but the conversion of a DC-3 to VIP transport aircraft.

 

 

This model was in fact ordered by the USAAC (US ARMY AIR CORPS) in 1938 and delivered on 11 September 1939 to the “First Staff Squadron” of Bolling Field (Washington DC) where General Hap Harnold requisitioned  and converted it (together with another C-41 still flying with N41HQ brands) to be used in the transport of Generals, senior officers and the Secretary of War.

“Hap Penstance”, this is his nickname, in early May abandoned his tourist life in the bay of San Francisco to take part in an expedition in memory of D-Day, and together with other DC3s across Canada, Greenland and Iceland he reached Duxford and then Italy, where many fans were able to admire it on the ground and in the air at Venezia Lido airport and at the HAG Fly Party in “Bagnoli di Sopra (PD)”.

me with Capt. Steve

Right here I had the chance to meet the pilot, the co-pilot and the owner, who offered me the unique and unforgettable opportunity: to be part of the crew during 5 days in England, where their plane would take part in the elegance contest between vintage aircraft “Freddie March spirit of aviation” at the Goodwood Revival from 13th to 15th September. (for  more picture of this event click here)

After several weeks of waiting, the dreamed moment arrives on September 12th. Get on board, placed on comfortable seats and cradled by the roar of its two Pratt and Whitney R-1830-75, 1350 horsepower each

one,  its full power is unleashed, 20 Kts, the tail rises, 30, 40, 60, 84 Kts … with an almost unthinkable lightness for its 10,000 kg we are flying over 80 years of history and adventures.

Not even the time to relax admiring the characteristic landscape of West Sussex, made even more suggestive by the low visibility and low clouds, and here the solo flight becomes in formation. Two legends of heaven meet to greet each other, remembering the old days where together, albeit for different but allied nations, flew with the same ideals.

Here, in fact, a few meters from our right wing appears a Spifire MK.T IX (two-seater training version) which, between changes of position and maneuvers, keeps us company for about 10 minutes.

After 2 exciting flights with passengers during the first day, 3 days of static exhibition follow, where fans from all over Europe admire the lines and listen to the adventures of an airplane so full of history, surrounded by as many legends, such as P51, Tiger Moth, C47, FW44, Klemm35, T6 and many others who took part in the competition. 

My homework? Manage the flow of onlookers willing to get on board, sometimes giving some hints on the history of “Hap Penstance” or on the journey to get there, then passing the word on to the pilot or owner who best met the questions of young and old , fascinated by the majesty and elegance of “Hap”.

The evening before the departure the much-awaited news arrives from the judges: The winners of the elegance contest are “we”, or rather, she (Hap)! Further satisfaction for the whole crew and especially for the owner who, after such hard work, has realized, or rather, is realizing a dream.

In fact, Richard is planning his next flight adventure: a “world tour” that could begin next year with Africa.

 

Unfortunately, the last day arrives and after a partially IFR flight thanks to the modern avionics wanted on board by the owner Richard we arrive in Coventry, the UK base of “Hap Penstance”

The hangar doors close with the last glance at Dakota … It is not a farewell, but a goodbye.

We do not know what the future holds for this fantastic machine, we only know that it will do what it has done very well so far for 80 years: to fly.

 

Goodwood TakeOff

 


From the left- Owner Richard, Me, Capt. Steve and Capt. Kath

“Special thanks to Richard, Kath and Steve for the opportunity they gave me, allowing me to have a fantastic experience that I will never forget. An experience made of flight, history and emotions”

Luca


Text and Pictures © Luca Ocretti 2019

 

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