Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Gooney Bird will never die.

I was excited by a recent photo on the front page of the NY Times...a DC-3 spraying dispersant over the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill. Amazing. The DC-3...still serving.

More affectionately known as the Gooney Bird, the DC-3 began life in 1935 when American Airlines asked Donald Douglas for an improved sleeper-transport. It cut the cross-country time down to 15 hours with three refueling stops.

The airplane in the photo applying dispersant is operated by Clean Gulf Associates and is built by Basler Turbo Conversions. Pretty amazing -- they take the DC-3 airframe, add PT6 turboprop engines plus new fuel, hydraulics, electrics, and avionics. And they get about 35% improved performance. Sweet.

My DC-3 Stories

In the winter of 1980 I was a Navy flight instructor flying the T-2C. I caught a DC-3 ride from NAS Key West to NAS Chase Field in Beeville, TX. We stopped to refuel in New Orleans. The weather in Texas was pretty bad, and the crude instrumentation in the DC-3 was not reassuring. It was a rough ride and it took forever.
That was my last flight in a DC-3.

I saw my last commercial DC-3 fly out of Honolulu in 1995. I had a consulting gig. Every day at dawn I would drive to the Naval Station Pearl Harbor, and usually I could see a lone DC-3 from Kamaka Air taking off from Honolulu airport. It flew cargo to Molokai and Lanai. It would lumber off just after dawn when the rest of the island was still sleeping, and the sound of those big avgas reciprocal engines on Hawaii would rock you right back to WWII. I can almost smell the exhaust now.

Tell me your DC-3 stories.