Thursday, June 20, 2024 Civil/General Aviation » DC-3 » Avion Barbara  

The following report was written by Liam Bryne, and first appeared in Propliner Aviation Magazine No. 72. It is being reproduced here by kind permission of Mr. Tony Merton Jones, magazine editor.

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Avion Barbara – an Irishman’s dream

Ireland has a poor record in aircraft preservation. Although a wide and interesting variety of "propliners" have graced its register over the past fifty years, not one has been kept flying or kept in a museum to intrigue, interest or educate the generations to come. However, a new breed of Irish aviation enthusiast has emerged in the past few years. A breed that will no longer tolerate the rape of Irish aviation historical items both within Ireland and from abroad. A breed that will not only fight to keep historical items within the country, but will travel abroad to locate, repair and fly back the older generation of propeller driven aircraft.

This is the story of forty three members of that new breed of Irish aviation enthusiast and one in particular - Tommy Vaughan. Collectively they work under the title of Hibernian Dakota Flight Ltd.

Tom's solemn promise

Tommy Vaughan was a young aircraft mechanic with Aer Lingus. Recognised as leading apprentice several years running, he was highly thought of within the airline and assured of a secure and successful career. His remarkable ability with every type of aircraft was well known around Dublin Airport, and it was Tom who was approached in 1982 by the receiver of the defunct Clyden Airways, to prepare their two DC-3s, EI-BDT and 'DU, for possible sale.

Aces High heard about the two Irish Daks. They came, they saw and they bought. It was a sad day when Tom stood on the ramp at Dublin and watched as EI-BDT, now carrying the UK registration G-AMPZ, did a low pass along Runway 23 and then climbed away for England. Another spectator on the Dublin ramp that day was none other than Steve Piercey. As the old Clyden DC-3, the last in Ireland, disappeared into the eastern sky, Tom made a solemn promise, that he would, somehow, bring a Dak back, not just for static exhibition but to be based at Dublin and fly from there to air displays, parachute drops - wherever work could be found.

At that time the legendary John Hawke of Visionair was in Ireland flying Junkers JU52 N9012N for the Irish television series "Caught in a Free State." Tom was helping with the project in his spare time, and he and Hawke became close friends. During breaks in filming they discussed Tom's plans and John Hawke agreed to give all possible assistance. Around this time Tom wrote to David Kennedy, Chief Executive of Aer Lingus, outlining his plans and seeking the airline's assistance and support. He would require hangarage, use of equipment and miscellaneous technical support for his DC-3. In return, he could offer the aircraft to the airline for publicity use especially as their 50th anniversary was approaching in 1986. David Kennedy replied almost immediately saying "Yes, we're interested, come and talk to us about it." Tom Vaughan was also put in touch with Joe McDermott, a leading light in the Irish aviation enthusiast scene. He wished to form a group of some forty enthusiasts who would devote time, energy, expertise and money to the project. Tom had the plan, and Joe had the contacts - together they could make it happen.

In early 1983 the attention of the newly formed Hibernian Dakota Flight was brought to an ex Moroccan Air Force C-47 languishing in Iceland. Shortly afterwards Tom and John Hawke found themselves in Reykjavik while flying an Aztec on delivery across the ocean. They took the opportunity to look over the aircraft, registered N54605. It was in bad condition, but repairable, and they decided to open negotiations for its purchase. However, within a very short time these negotiations had ground to a halt. There were various legal problems surrounding the aircraft and it was clear from an early stage that these difficulties would be insurmountable.

A DC-3 is discovered

A few days later, and purely by chance, Tom heard of an old Ford Motor company DC-3 being scrapped at Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires. The following weekend when he had nothing better to do, he caught a LAN Chile freighter to Argentina to look over the aircraft. It was September 1983 and when he arrived at the aircraft, Tom found the scrap man and his machinery already in attendance and about to commence work. A quick look over the Dak and its log told Tom that it was a Douglas DC-3-201A, which had been built in Santa Monies in February 1939 for Eastern Airlines and was registered NC21744. Subsequently it became N80C, N512 and N51D, before taking up the Argentinean marks LV-GYP in July 1961 when sold to Servicios Aereos Santa Isabel. Then, in 1964, it was sold to the Ford Motor Company for use as an executive transport around South America. The aircraft had been extensively modified during its long career, and carried a Bendix RDR-ID weather radar, Hamilton Standard 'Tooth Pick' high speed propellers, complete enclosing undercarriage doors (Maximizer Kit), two panoramic cabin windows, two Pratt and Whitney R1830-94 Twin Wasp engines and a Janitrol Heating System. The executive interior configuration had 13 passenger seats, a bar (a necessary inclusion in an Irish aircraft - they don't get a C of A without one!), a toilet, wardrobe, galley and flight instruments in the passenger cabin. The asking price for the aircraft was a mere 5,000 US Dollars. With only hours to spare before breaking up of the aircraft was due to begin, Tom Vaughan placed a deposit with Enrique Abeledo, the broker who owned the plane, thereby preventing it from being scrapped.

Tom returned to Dublin, gathered he Hibernian Dakota Flight members together, and reported his findings. They collected £12,000 and on 6 November, 1983 Tom, with a specially selected team of Gerry Butler, Waiter Steinegger and Christoir O'Mordha, left Dublin Airport for Frankfurt, from where they would fly to Argentina.

It was a beautiful sunny Sunday evening when the four Irishmen rounded a corner at Ezeiza Airport, Buenos Aires for what was for three of them, their first glimpse of LV-GYP. The aircraft looked to be in excellent condition and the only visible problem was a flat back tyre. It came complete with a full package of spares including a spare engine, which had been removed from the aircraft at half life because of high oil consumption. Within a few hours it was clear that one of the engines on the DC-3 was in bad shape, so a plan was formulated to replace this with the spare engine for the ferry flight to Dublin. The four men were confident that they would be back home with the aircraft within two weeks.

Meanwhile a local customs agent named Negri was employed to deal with the job of an export licence. He told the group that this would be 'a mere formality'. After four days, an Argentine Airworthiness Inspector arrived and told the group that they must cease work 011 the aircraft as it was Argentinean registered and "only Argentinean nationals could work on Argentinean aircraft".

All work stopped while Tom made initial arrangements for the aircraft to go on the US register, and while Abeledo tried to convince the Airworthiness Inspector to change his ruling. Eventually "after eight days he succeeded, and the replacement engine was installed. However, on test this engine continually backfired and the problem was traced to a faulty mag timer. This was repaired without much difficulty and after installation the engine performed satisfactorily.

The following day, attention was turned to the No. l engine. Several attempts were made to start this engine. It fired but refused to start. On the sixth attempt there was alarm when thick smoke began to fill the cabin. Everything was switched off immediately but still smoke poured up from under the cabin floor. The aircraft was evacuated. After ten minutes, when the smoke had cleared, the four, now depressed Irishmen, set about discovering the cause of this latest problem. Eventually it was traced to a seized fuel pump. Fortune smiled briefly when a fuel pump was discovered among the aircraft spares, however this failed almost immediately upon installation. Scouting missions set off around Ezeiza Airport in order to beg, borrow and, yes if necessary, steal a suitable fuel pump. Fortune smiled on the group once more and one was discovered nearby. Lookouts were positioned as this was "requisitioned", and shortly afterwards both engines were running smoothly on the DC-3.

Petty Argentine bureaucracy

With the technical problems now apparently solved, Tom and his team were confident of an early departure for Dublin. It was not to be. Argentine officialdom now attempted to dash their hopes. Usually there was a simple answer to South American bureaucracy - a back-hander here and a bribe there generally solved the problem. However, this soon got completely out of hand when Tom found himself paying bribes, not only to get favours done, but in fact to get anything done. The customs agent Negri was having problems getting an export licence. First the Customs Authorities insisted upon a detailed list itemising every single spare part. From an engine down to nuts and bolts, this list would include over 11,000 individual items. The list was duly made out and submitted. Next, a customs inspector visited the aircraft. He enquired as to the purchase price of the DC-3, on which export duty would be calculated. He was told $5,000. "No, no," he insisted, "this is a Mucho Grande aeroplane, it is worth much more." The Hibernian team asked how much more. "One million US Dollars," said the inspector. Their hearts sank - they could not possibly afford to pay the export duty on such an amount. Compromise was reached. The customs inspector would bring along his friend who had worked on DC-3s. His friend would decide the value and both parties would accept his decision. "Agreed," said the inspector. "Agreed," said Tom, while wondering how he could quickly "downgrade" the DC-3 to $5,000 status. The "friend" soon arrived and luckily he was an amiable old chap with a long standing affection for Daks. Tom explained to him all that they were trying to do and all the problems and costs that they had encountered. The old chap took a liking to the four Irishmen. With an evil twinkle in his eye and a mischievous grin on his face, he told the customs inspector that the plane was worth $5,000, and no more. The customs inspector broke his word. No, he would not now accept his friend's valuation, they must agree a higher price. A row ensued, tempers became frayed, voices were raised until eventually the customs inspector, his face red with rage on the comments that had been made regarding the marital status of his mother and father, pulled open a drawer on his desk, withdrew a rubber stamp and brought it down on the export licence with such a vengeance that the entire building shook from the foundations. The boys beat a hasty retreat clutching the $5,000 export licence in their hands.

By this time five weeks had elapsed, and Christmas was fast approaching. John Hawke was due in Buenos Aires on 17 December, 1983 to pilot the Dak to Dublin, while Tom Vaughan would act as co-pilot. Two days later both engines were started up in preparation for the 7.000 mile flight to Ireland. As Gerry and Tom sat in the cockpit listening' to the healthy roar of the engines, their attention was drawn to a commotion on the ramp outside. Tom opened the flight deck window to investigate and found himself looking into masses of thick blue smoke, which bellowed high into the air and drifted across the entire airport reducing visibility to virtually zero. The offending engine - again Number 2 - was shut down immediately. Luckily John Hawke had been delayed, and was at that stage in Paris en route to Buenos Aires. Tom rang Hawke who diverted back to England. The four Irishmen were totally dejected, and decided to temporarily abandon the aircraft and return to Ireland for the Christmas holiday.

In Dublin the forty three members of the Hibernian Dakota Flight were called together, and a report given on progress, or rather the lack of it. There was no question of abandoning the DC-3, in fact the opposite was the case, and the enthusiasts were more determined than ever to bring the aircraft to Ireland.

A second attempt

In early January the team returned to Buenos Aires to face the serious problem of a useless Number 2 engine. Within a few days they were approached by a man who offered an Air Force engine in "perfect" condition from "El Presidente's" plane for a mere $15,000. Determined to get his hands on a good engine, and get out of South America at the earliest possible moment, Tom was seriously considering agreement but a few points worried him. Firstly, he could not see the engine, but was guaranteed that it was in excellent condition. Secondly, the Air Force personnel insisted on stripping down the engine - "to make sure it is OK." Thirdly, they insisted on installing the engine on LV-GYP themselves, and in fact offered to make a test flight in the aircraft. Fourthly, they wanted the dud Number 2 engine in exchange as part of the deal. Finally and most important, they could not provide the engine for at least four, and possibly as long as six, weeks. Tom smelt a rat.

While leaving their options on the engine open, the team sought out the Air Force officer in charge of equipment disposal. They thought that if they went direct to the top, they would get a keener price and perhaps a faster delivery elate. The officer knew of no such engine for sale. Slowly the true story began to unfold. It was common knowledge that Hibernian Dakota Flight needed a DC-3 engine and various groups of officers were competing against each other for the contract. Their plan was to dismantle an engine stored in an Air Force hangar under tarpaulin, smuggle it out piece by piece, dismantle the dud engine and smuggle it in and replace it with the other. Tom and his team wanted no part in this kind of action. Apart from the very real risk of prison, the engine serial number of the dud was already on the customs export documents and if the customs inspector paid another visit, the game would very soon be up. Meanwhile the original export licence had expired, but for another small bribe it was extended!

Various avenues were now explored in search of a "legal new engine." Design Engineering in Miami offered a 400 hour ex FAA model for $10,000. This was accepted and within the remarkably short period of a few days, the engine arrived at Buenos Aires aboard a Flying Tiger DC-8. The engine was mounted by Tom Vaughan and Gerrv Butler in 17 hours. Fourth team member, Christoir O'Mordha, had been forced to stay in Dublin and had not made the return trip to Buenos Aires.

The Hibernian DC-3 begins her journey

By 2 February, 1984 the engines were tested and performed well, and the crew was ready to begin the night to Dublin. The planned route was from Buenos Aires to Rio, then to Natal, from where they would make the Atlantic crossing to Dakar in Senegal. From Dakar they would fly to Agadir in Morocco, and then the final leg, from Agadir to Dublin. On the hot afternoon of 2 February, with Temperatures reaching 36°C, they boarded the aircraft with John Hawke and started the engines. Willie Thompson of Flying Tigers, who had been of tremendous help to the team in the previous few weeks, arrived out at the aircraft from the Terminal building. He told them to "rev up and get out fast," as he suspected that Argentine Officialdom was "cooking up some further problems." Later they were to learn that this was true, and they had departed from Buenos Aires with only minutes to spare. As it was their extended export licence was due to expire at midnight that night, so if they didn't go then they could look forward to several more weeks of red tape.

On the take off run, both John Hawke and Tom continuously listened, while Gerry smelt the air. No backfires, no smoke, and proudly they climbed into the sky flying VlR to Rio - a flight expected to take some 8 hours 45 minutes. Four hours into the flight, the inevitable happened, and the Number 1 engine began to backfire. The Number 2 engine - the ex FAA one from Design Engineering - ran perfectly.

Then suddenly, both engines stopped. The problem was that while in stable flight both engines, except for sporadic backfiring on Number 1, ran well. However if the aircraft entered turbulence without the fuel pumps on, then air was absorbed into the fuel and the engines started to misfire. The backfiring was causing the turbulence, the turbulence was causing the air, and the air stopped the engines. For a few brief moments there was silence, the propellers windmilled and Gerry Butler hit the fuel system switches. Seconds later both engines recovered and everybody breathed easily once again. Seven hours into the flight, contact was made with Rio and N4565L, the US registration now carried by LV-GYP, was cleared to descend.

As they flew over Santos Dumont, Rio's domestic airport, while descending into Galeao, Rio's international airport, they were advised by ATC to call Snntos Dumont tower. John Hawke advised ATC that they were an international flight, and wished to land at Galeao. Once again Rio ATC insisted that they call Santos Dumont. Tired, hot and hungry they decided to continue the argument on the ground, and called Santos Dumont who issued landing clearance. At this stage, the backfiring on Number 1 became acute, and another problem appeared when the undercarriage refused to go down. Eventually it did, and they landed safely at Santos Dumont.

Brazil "welcomes" the DC-3

Tom Vaughan later commented that if they thought the Argentine was bad, they were in for a very nasty surprise in Brazil. Within minutes of landing', police arrived at the DC-3 and told them to get hack in their airplane and "go away." They protested that they would be only too delighted to go away, but couldn't fly they had a faulty engine, and besides they had been instructed to land at Santos Dumont. They were brought to the terminal, where luggage was upturned onto the floor and then searched individually by each policeman in turn and then by each customs official. The police became more and more aggressive, and the mood of the proceedings was not helped by the language difficulties, the intolerable heat and the crew's exhaustion from the long flight from Buenos Aires. John Hawke stormed off to find the British Consul, while Tom, Gerry, and Walter insisted on seeing the Irish Consul. The mood changed dramatically, and the three Irishmen were invited to board a mini bus to "take them to their hotel." Hawke was still missing but they presumed he had gone ahead. They drove off into the dimly lit back streets of Rio until eventually they arrived at a rather sombre, imposing building. The gates opened, the minibus drove in, and the gates closed. The three Irishmen were in no doubt that they were in prison.

They were manhandled roughly from the minibus and brought to a depressing, sparsely furnished room. Here their passports were demanded, but they refused to hand them over. The police left and they stretched out on the stone floor in an attempt to get some much needed sleep. During the course of the next few hours they heard shouting' coming from a room somewhere above them. The shouting grew louder until they could easily recognise the voice as that of John Hawke. Soon, more police arrived and the three Irishmen were ushered upstairs where they found John Hawke with an obviously high ranking police official. Knowing Tom's wild Irish temper, Hawke whispered to him, "Stay cool Tom, I've already had a cocked hand-gun pointed to my head." Despite this, the row continued until all four were eventually moved into a cell and left. The following morning another “high ranking" police officer arrived and "requested" that the DC-3 crew accompany him to Santos Dumont airport. There customs officials began a thorough search of the aircraft, looking for, it was said, drugs. Tom felt sure that sometime during the night while the aircraft had been unattended, drugs had been planted aboard. Alternatively they were now looking for an excuse to justify the aggressive and insensitive attitude of the police in order to avoid diplomatic repercussions. Nothing was found, and the police departed advising the four aviators that they were now free.

Attention was now turned to sorting out the problem on the faulty Number 1 engine. A list was prepared of possible causes, fuel nozzles were checked, as were magnetos, plugs, leads etc, and all were found to be in order. The last item on the list was "Change the Engine".

At this stage, 7 February 1984, Waiter Steinegger was forced to return to Dublin, while John Hawke left to attend to Visionair business elsewhere. Tom and Gerry meanwhile new to Miami with the sick engine to have it bench tested by Design Engineering. The engine was put in a test cell and run. To everybody's surprise it performed perfectly. Tom Vaughan asked that it be run again. On this second test, the engine began to backfire. The following day it was dismantled and examined in an effort to trace the mysterious problem. Suspicion was directed at the supercharger impeller, and when its back was removed they discovered that the bearing which supports the impeller had been installed incorrectly, probably many years before. The impeller's lubrication jets had been blocked with the result that it had seized on the shaft, overheated and cracked. Pieces of the impeller began to screw their way forward into the casing. The Hibernian Dakota Flight mechanics examined the damage, and calculated that within a further two flying hours, possibly less, the engine would have exploded on the wing.

On 3 March, 1984 Tom and Gerry arrived back in Rio, their repaired engine resting snugly in the cargo hold of the VARIG DC-10. By the following evening the engine had been installed on the wing of N4565L and was performing well. On 16 March, the group prepared to say goodbye to Rio. Full power was applied, brakes released and the DC-3 tore down the runway. They listened for the inevitable backfire, but it didn't happen. Tom allowed himself the luxury of a smile. John Hawke shouted, "Oil pressure on Number 1 is zero - abort take off.”

Totally dejected and defeated, they slowly taxied back in to their parking space. As this was taking place they noticed that the oil pressure on Number 1 had returned to normal, so it was decided to line up again and attempt another take off. A slow roll down the runway, and yet again the oil pressure fell rapidly. Spirits which earlier that day had been extremely high, were now at an all time low. Cowling were first removed, then the propellers, and it was discovered that an oil transfer pipe was loose. This was removed, re plated, built up and refitted. Everything was perfection itself. Nothing could possibly go wrong now - or could it?

The following day, 17 March, coincidentally St Patrick's Day, brought with it a beautiful sunny afternoon as 65L again lined up on the runway for its long overdue VFR flight to Natal. Full power, brakes off, and the DC-3 sped down the runway and climbed into the sky. It was a perfect, trouble free seven hour flight, and there were congratulations all round when they landed at Natal with the aircraft in good shape and with no problems. However, officialdom was yet again to rear its ugly head. As the aircraft was being refuelled, a dispute arose as to the method of payment. All money had been changed into Brazilian currency in Rio but Petrogras, the fuel company, insisted on payment in US dollars. Eventually, with the help of Peter O'Neill, the Aer Lingus representative in Rio, it was changed back to Dollars and the fuel bill paid.

Successful Atlantic crossing

It was dawn when they lined up on the Natal runway to begin the ocean crossing to Dakar. All were anxious to depart as rumours had persisted the previous day that local police were concocting- a charge of "currency irregularities" against them. Although totally innocent, they did not relish the thought of further time in a South American jail.

As they climbed into the sky an electrical storm was brewing in the distance, but this was easily circum-navigated, and they set course for Fernando De Noronha, a group of islands off the north coast of Brazil and slightly south of the Equator. Overhead Fernando they were slowly climbing through 5000 feet and could clearly see the runway of the military airfield on the island below them. From here they set course for Africa. The distance from Natal, across the ocean to Dakar is 1,674 nautical miles and was covered in an uneventful flight lasting eleven hours forty minutes. Spirits rose when 400 miles out from the African coast, Dakar radio came in on the ADF. They were level at 9,000 feet for most of the journey and made a gradual descent into Dakar culminating in a perfect landing.

Another minor bureaucratic difficulty arose on the ground when John Hawke was arrested for taking pictures with a video camera on a "military airfield." Tom and Gerry had decided that if one were arrested then they were all arrested, and offered their wrists to the police officer in charge. However, he was not interested and John Hawke was driven off in the back of a police Land Rover with a huge grin on his face and disbelievingly repeating over and over "I've been arrested AGAIN?" Twenty minutes later he returned, this time in the front seat of the Land Rover, with an even bigger grin on his face. "They forgive me, I've been released", he said, leaving Tom and Gerry to ponder how Hawke had got out of that one.

The following day they took off for Agadir and flew into a very heavy sandstorm, not uncommon in Dakar which often encounters such storms blowing in from the nearby desert. While the storm posed no problem, the loss of their vacuum, pump which drives the artificial horizon did cause concern. Shortly after they had cleared the sand storm, the back up vacuum pump also failed. As night fell it soon became impossible to tell where the blackness of the sea ended and the darkness of the sky began. However, as they flew on the problem was no more as they could clearly see ahead of them the glow in the sky from the lights of Las Palmas. Fate had been kind, and this glow acted as their artificial horizon. Rather than face a difficult night landing at Agadir, they opted instead for an easier landing at Las Palmas, and touched down safely some four hours after departing from Dakar.

The following morning they left Las Palmas for the short two hour hop to Agadir, and here another vacuum pump was extracted from the spares which had been purchased with the aircraft in Buenos Aires. After minor surgery, this was in working order and was installed.

As they took off from Agadir the next morning, on their final hop to Dublin, the crew were confident that all problems were left behind. Flying time to Dublin was estimated at a little over 10 hours and their expected arrival time as 1630 hours local. The temperature on the aircraft had been mild and indeed pleasant in the warm air of the Southern Hemisphere. But as they flew north, temperatures dropped to zero and below, necessitating the wearing of vests, pullovers, gloves, etc. and all other warm articles of clothing. They continued the leisurely VFR flight at a height of 7,000 feet, high above scattered thunder storms raging below. Shortly after passing overhead Oporto, Tom noticed that the fuel pressure gauge on Number 1 engine was slowly but surely dropping. It should normally show 26 lbs. At 15 lbs the engine would die, and within a further short period it had dropped to 16 lbs. Drastic remedial action was called for, and so they descended quickly to 100 feet above the sea while scanning maps in an effort to locate a nearby airfield where they could land. At the lower level the temperature aboard the aircraft rose until it was quite comfortable. Suddenly the fuel pressure gauge recovered and shot up to 26 lbs as the condensation in the fuel tanks thawed and everything returned to normal. Maintaining an altitude of 1,000 feet and below, they sped on and soon BBC Radio Birmingham came in on the ADF. The VOR was tuned to Lands End and nearer to Ireland John Hawke 'checked in' with Cork approach.

The green, green grass of home

They crossed the Irish coast at Hook Head and emotions were difficult to control as, in brilliant sunshine, the beautiful green fields of Ireland passed below. They continued north over Wexford, and abeam Arklow raised Dublin Tower on 118.6. Permission was given for a straight in approach and low pass along Runway 35. A large crowd had gathered on the normally closed, but now open, viewing balconies and pier at Dublin Airport. A cheer went up as the Dak was spotted two miles out, on full throttle a hundred feet above the ground. It made a magnificent sight as it shot past the pier and climbed right for an approach and landing on Runway 33.

The delivery of the Argentinean Dak to Dublin originally scheduled to take ten days, was over after a period of four months. Tom and his team were asked, by a newspaper reporter, if they felt that it had all been worth the effort. They all replied that it had - but don't ask them to do it again!

The final comment of the Hibernian DC-3 came from an elderly Argentinean gentleman who, one day, slowly approached the aircraft on the ramp at Buenos Aires. He was known to the crew simply as Carlos, and he stood in silent vigil for several minutes staring up at the nose. Then he mumbled a phrase in Spanish, turned and walked away. The Hibernian crew asked their interpreter what it was that the old man had said. They were told that he had said "Este avian Barbara" and that it meant "This is an incredible aeroplane." The words "Avian Barbara" were painted on the aircraft below the pilot's window - "and there" says Tom Vaughan, "they will stay."
DC-3 mentioned in this article

Below are the histories of the DC-3s mentioned in the above article.

EI-BDT C-47B-30-DK 16124/32872 44-76540 D16Mar45 - KN442 RAF Montreal 18Mar45 - UK 24Mar45 - 525 Sq 03Apr45 - 46 Sq 10Mar46 - Oakington - 46 Sq - 27 Sq - 12 MU 15Feb50 - G-AMPZ J A Wilson, t/a Starways Ltd R08Mar52 - Air Supplies Ltd R26Jan53 - C E Harper Acft Ltd, Exeter R22Mar54 - Transair Ltd (Dakota 6) R25May54 - WAAC L to 03May57 - BUA Ltd R01Jul60 - Silver City A/WS "City of Dublin" DMar62 - BU (CI) A/WS Ltd R01 Nov62 - Pan American Indonesian Oil Co L Jan63 - OO-AEQ Lebanese Air Tpt (Charter)(Jun65) - L to Pan-American Indonesian 03Apr65 ntu - G-AMPZ BU (CI) A Ltd R18Aug65 - G-41-3-66 for del to Lydd - PH-RIC Transavia 13Feb66 to Jun66 ntu - TF-AIV Flugsyn "Nordfindingar" R20Jul66 - G-AMPZ Field Acft Svces R03Sep69 - Norfolk A/WS (J G Crampton & L G Wright) RO8Dec69 - Rig-Air (t/a Air Anglia) R11Aug70 - Intra A/WS R27Apr73 - El-BOT Mercantile Avn t/a Clyden A/WS D13Sep7B - G-AMPZ Aces High Ltd R29Jan82 - Harvestair Ltd, Southend R04May82 - Std Ipswich Dec87 - Janes Aviation Ltd, Squires Gate, R30Jun88 - Atlantic Air Transport Ltd, Coventry, D210ct88, B01Oct90 - 'KN442' RAF Transport Command for Berlin Airlift commemoration 1998 - Air Service Berlin CFF GmbH D28Sep01 - D-CXXX R08May03.
EI-BDU C-47-DL 9043 42-32817 - D13Feb43 - FD789 RAF 07Mar43 - UK 08Apr43 - 24 Sq 10Apr43 - 512 Sq 23Aug43 - 105(T)OTU 01Mar44 - 108 OTU 26Nov44 - 1384 (HT)CU 05Apr46 - 22MU 17Apr46 - SAL B09Apr47 - G-AKNB Scottish Avn 28Nov47 - J Jamieson t/a Guinea Air Traders 19Aug48 - Field Acft Services Ltd 14Feb50 - XY-ACN Union of Burma A/Ws 08Mar50 - G-AKNB BEA "Sir Sefton Branker" B190ct50, D05Jun51 - Silver City "City of Bradford" R11Dec59 - BUA R23Jan62 - British United (CI) A/W 01Nov62 - BUIA 01 Nov68 - Ulster Air Transport Feb68 - Autair L Oct68 - Intra Airways 03Feb69 - EI-BDU Mercantile Avn t/a Clyden Avn D130ct78 - Std at Dublin 1981 - G-AKNB Aces High R29Jan82 - Harvest Air - Dbr Blackpool- Squires Gate 27Sep82 - Repaired by Aces High and painted as 'FD789' for film - N59NA Northern A/Ws 22Jul85 [R20Aug85] - Consolidated Avn Enterprises Inc, E Middlebury, VT Feb86 - Business Air Inc, Burlington, VT 21Jul86 - Warplanes Inc, S Burlington, VT B18Sep89 - Jack Downey, E Middlebury, VT B200ct92 - Champlain Air Inc, Plattsburgh, NY, R13Dec95. [This has been confused with N59NA sin 43-9043 which was used to get c/n 11750 onto the US register and then to Norway as LN-WND.]
N4565L DC-3-201A 2108 NC21744 Eastern '346' D18Feb39 - N80C A J Leeward (Dec53) - N51D Rr - N512 A V Davis - Trans Intl (Dec58) N129H(1) reported - - Leeward Aeronautical E12Apr61 as N512/LV•PCV - LV•GYP Servicios Aereos Santa Isabel M Jul61 - Ford Motor Argentina - F De Stefano B Nov81 - E F Abeledo B27 Jul82 - Std Ezeiza Apt, B. Aires - N4565L Airspeed Intl Inc, Miami, FL B14Nov83, Rr01 Dec83 - Hibernian Dakota Flt Ltd, Dublin D24Mar84 - (R N3TV for ferry fit, early 1984) - Used in various films in USAF c/s - Std Ipswich Sep90 in damaged state - Impounded by Ipswich Borough Council 03Sep91 - Airspeed Intl Inc, Miami, FL R11Jun92 NTU - Parham Museum, fuselage only May95 - engines to Aces High - 390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum - Preserved at AeroVenture, Doncaster, UK still in dismantled state.

In wanting to reproduce the above article, it also occurred to me that I didn’t know much about the Hibernian Dakota Flight (HDF). A question to the Classic propliner forum quickly brought me in contact with Joe McDermott, previously Operations Director with the HDF, as well as additional material from other sources.

Although Avion Barbara was a name painted on the DC-3, the correct name for the aircraft, chosen by HDF members, was "Aishling" which in Gaelic translates into Dream.

The name of the group was primarily taken from the Hibernian Aviation Historical Society, from which many HDF members formed part of, but also because Hibernian is an old Roman name for Ireland, used by many organizations. The 43 members mentioned in the above article was the number of shareholders in the HDF.

Although DC-3s had already been placed on the Irish register, it was decided to leave the aircraft with its US registration, enabling the HDF to undertake a wide variety of work such as film, air display and para dropping.

After its arrival in Ireland, N4565L took part in the static show at Leeuwarden AFB (Dutch Air Force Open Day), performed at the Rotterdam airshow on the 5th of May, and participated in the DC-3 50th anniversary in Holland and the International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, all in 1985.

During its all too brief career, N4565L travelled not only within its native Ireland, but also to Europe, for both film/video work, as well as airshow appearances.

Airports visited are known to have included Belgium (Liege), France (Toulouse), Ireland (Belfast Int, Casement Military Aerodrome, Enniskillen-St Angelo, Dublin Int, Weston and Waterford), The Netherlands (Texel, Rotterdam, seen Leeuwarden AFB, and Eindhoven), Spain (Las Palmas, Son Bonet, Palma Mallorca Int.) and the U.K. (Badminton, Cardiff, Goodwood, Ipswick, Luton, RAF Fairford, Shoreham-by-Sea).
When in the Netherlands the aircraft was given a spurious water-based olive drab colour scheme, dropping parachutists. The colours scheme was removed at Schiphol Airport. Later in July, N4565L was again in the Netherlands for the '50 Golden DC-3 Years Fly In', flying in formation with G-AMPO, G-AMSV, N151ZE, PH-DDA and SE-CFP.

After its appearance at the RAF International Air Tattoo, the colours of the aircraft were also changed from its grey and white to overall black with a yellow cheatline.

It also appeared in a few film and music videos. Its first starring role was in the German production "Drei und eine halbe Portion", based at Palma - Son Bonet as well as a film about gun-running for the IRA, the aircraft being based at Ipswich airport. Another appearance was in the music video done out of Weston, near Dublin for Irish rock group "Cactus World News" promoting the song "Worlds Apart".

Sadly, the Hibernian Dakota Flight was destined for a relatively short life. It lost its Chief Pilot, Captain John "Jeff" Hawke, in an aircraft accident over the Aegean Sea.

This was followed by another calamity when the storm known as Hurricane Charlie, which hit the UK in Oct 1987, damaged N4565L (and 25 other aircraft) at Ipswich and spelling the end of the HDF. The DC-3 was uninsured as Ipswich Airport had gone into liquidation the same year after the owners (who apart from airport also owned Harvest Air & two C-47s) were killed in an aircraft crash. The insurers deemed the insurance null & void as Ipswich was no longer an airport and no weather picket * was available to secure aircraft against hurricanes.

The aircraft was then bought by Aces High (for its engines), with the airframe going to Parham/Framlingham for the 390th Bomb Group Memorial Air Museum. The intention was to display it as a wartime C-47, but it remained disassembled at one of the old perimeter tracks, near the old control tower.

It was afterwards rescued by Aeroventure, who made public their intentions to restore it into a pre-war KLM DC-3, PH-ALI 'Ibis', which was shot down as G-AGBB over the Atlantic on the 1st of June 1943. Before the war KLM staged through Doncaster on a scheduled service to Manchester. But nothing has happened after that announcement.

* Weather picket – Airport personnel who can secure aircraft and equipment in the event of a storm.
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