According to Mumbai mirror Seventy-seven years after its first flight, a legendary Breitling DC-3 aircraft, the plane made famous by D-Day during WWII in June 1944 and nicknamed the ‘Normandy landings plane’, has embarked upon yet another historic journey.
The DC-3’s crew includes chief pilot Francisco Agullo (48) from Switzerland (he owns the plane), co-pilot Paul Bazeley and researcher Daniel Meyer.
The DC-3 was manufactured by Douglas and was at one time the largest manufactured aircraft in the world, with over 16,000 planes. At present, just 100 remain in air-worthy condition, including the one that touched down in Nagpur. After taking off from Switzerland on March 9, the crew flew to Greece, most of the Middle East, Pakistan and then on to India.
The DC-3 has the ability to take off on short runways. “We require an 800-meter runway for take-off, but for safety, we need approximately 1,100 metres. This aircraft can even land on fields and grassland,” Agullo said.
The plane, which carries most of its own spares, flies at low altitudes. And since it doesn’t have a pressurized cabin, doesn’t have air-conditioning. “On Saturday, we halted at Karachi for refueling and they told us to take an altitude of 5,000 feet, and Nagpur was scorching at 41 degrees. It was really torturous,” Agullo said.
The DC-30 had 30 seats, of which 14 have been removed to carry extra fuel tanks inside. The plane usually carries enough fuel to fly about eight to 10 hours, but with additional tanks, this can go up to an endurance of about 11 hours.
The first DC-3 was built in 1935. The one currently touring the world was manufactured on March 9, 1940. “This is why we chose to start on the 77th birthday of the aircraft,” Agullo said.
They chose Nagpur only because Agullo had visited it on another aircraft on a world tour a few years ago. “Besides, we need a special type of a fuel called AV Gas (also used in small planes like Cessnas), which is available in major cities, and Nagpur is also located in central India,” he said.
After India, the DC-3 will move on to South East Asia, China and Japan, where it has been invited to participate in the Iwakuni ‘Friendship Day Air Show’. It will then begin a grand tour of the United States, prior to returning to Europe via Greenland and Iceland and completing its journey in September, at the Breitling Sion Airshow 2017 in Switzerland.
Agullo and his team will spend nearly a month in Japan, giving joy rides to children. The DC-3 was used extensively during the Second World War, and Japan does not have many left as most of them were destroyed
The DC-3 will undertake a few flights around Nagpur on Monday and Tuesday, and then head to Chittagong in Bangladesh on Wednesday.