This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Douglas DC-3, an aircraft that revolutionized modern air travel. According to various sources, the DC-3 was significant to aviation history due its speed, range and capacity. It was widely used during World War II and later converted for commercial flying. Many DC-3s are still in active use to this day.
The Covington Municipal Airport has had a discarded DC-3 on their lot for the last 10 years. According to Rusty Anglin, the operations manager of Atlanta East Aviation, the plane was left at the airport for maintenance by Datsun International when they were using it for cargo transportation. However, when the time came to pay for the maintenance work, the owner of the aircraft, Georgetown Aero, simply abandoned it."We ended up taking Georgetown Aero to court and received ownership of the plane about two years ago," Anglin explained. "Since then, we’ve been looking for a buyer that would restore the plane back to flying condition."
Fortunately, a buyer from the United Kingdom did show interest in the DC-3. Clive Edwards has spent most of his life restoring aircrafts like the DC-3, C-47 and B-17. He had previously worked on 35 DC-3s. When he arrived to check it out, he discovered the plane was in better shape than one would expect after living in the weeds for 10 years.
"I flew over here with a friend of mine and spent three days going through it and taking off the panels, and we immediately realized it was actually a good machine and didn’t deserve being left out there in the grass," Edwards said.
That it was in good condition was not the only surprising fact about the DC-3. According to Edwards, this particular DC-3 was built in 1942 in the United States and then sent to the United Kingdom. The plane operated with the 8th Air Force during World War II as a support aircraft for bomber planes. In 1944, it took part in the Normandy invasion dropping gliders to the ground. After the war, it was sent back across the Atlantic to Seattle, Wash., to be stripped of its military equipment and modified as a freighter.
"This is why the DC-3 is such an extraordinary machine. It’s probably one of the greatest airplanes ever built. It’s done more, it’s flown to more places, it’s flown more hours, more passengers and it’s been over every environment on Earth," Edwards said. "Without the DC-3, I don’t suppose the Allies would have won the war. Even Eisenhower said that without the DC-3 the war wouldn’t have been won."
The historical value of the aircraft has also captured the attention of the Civil Air Patrol unit stationed at the airport. As a fulfillment to their mission of aerospace education, the unit has been taking their cadets out to the plane to learn more of its history.
"The Civil Air Patrol is very enthusiastic about aerospace and aircrafts, so we’ve been taking our cadets to spend some time with the restoration crew and speaking with them about its history," Major T.O. Benton, of the Civil Air Patrol, said. "It’s an educational tool for us."
After it is restored, Edwards plans to showcase the plane at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the world’s largest aviation event in Oshkosh, Wis. The event recently announced they were going to celebrate the DC-3’s anniversary by gathering as many of the planes as possible for the air show.
"I thought to myself, we need to show everybody why the DC-3 is such a fantastic machine. So we find one in the weeds, and in no time left, see if we can have an adventure getting it back together and fly it up there in the 11th hour," Edwards said.
Edwards and fellow restorer Gordon Grey are three weeks into their restoration, with four weeks before the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh begins on July 26. Both men, though covered heavily in grease and obviously exhausted, are optimistic.
"It may be just the two of us working on this, but by my standards — and I’ve done a lot of this sort of thing — it’s tough. It’s going be very hard to do," Edwards said. "But I’m still confident we’ll meet our goals."
There are no plans for an unveiling or a ceremony upon completion.
"When we’re ready to fly, we’ll take it for a half hour test flight, bring it back down, and make sure there’s no leaks no problems, and if all is good, I reckon we’ll go ahead and head straight to Oshkosh," Edwards said. "Regardless of it making Oshkosh or not, the idea is not to do all of this and leave it on the ground. It will eventually go back to England and continue flying."