10/18/2010

Care to fly in a Douglas DC-3 ?

All aircraft enthusiasts know of the famous Douglas DC-3 aircraft, still operating all over the world. Two can be seen occasionally at Geneva Airport


The Douglas DC-3 aircraft is arguably the most famous and well-known propeller passenger aircraft ever built. The first one flew on December 17, 1935, just 32 years to the day after the first powered flight of the Wright brothers. Today, nearly 75 years later, they are still flying all over the world. I can remember taking one in South Africa in the 1990s, and I think they still fly all over Africa.

In Switzerland also, these aircraft were much used by Swiss Air Lines. One of these, registered as HB-IRN, is on display at the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne, where there is a special exhibition this year to mark the 100th anniversary of aviation in Switzerland. I went there last weekend and would highly recommend it, especially for children. However, it closes on October 24!

In the past two years, two have been seen in Geneva. One, registered as HB-ISC and as owned by the Geneva resident Hugo Mathys, is a rare visitor. However, the one registered as HB-IRJ, owned by Francisco Agullo, is seen regularly. It originally arrived here on 7 May 2009, at which time, as indicated by its call sign, it still had its US registration N922CA. It was last here on 6 October, 2010, when it departed for somewhere unknown.

This aircraft is operated on behalf of the Super Constellation Flyers Association, who also (not surprisingly) have a Super Constellation, registered as HB-RSC. Regrettably, for its enthusiasts, this latter aircraft is in need of renovation and has not flown at all this year. I do actually remember seeing it last year, flying in the region between the airport and the Jura mountains: it made a lot of noise and caused some complaints.

Both the picture of the DC-3 and the web site of the Super Constellation Flyers Association indicate that Breitling is the sponsor. This company obviously has an interest in unusual flying objects, because they also were the sponsor for the balloon in which Bertrand Picard and Brian Jones: it was named the Breitling Orbiter 3.

As indicated on the Association's Web site, this DC-3 does fly around Switzerland quite frequently during the Summer, visiting various air shows. Passengers appear to be accepted, but the Swiss regulations specify that the passengers must belong to the association, and have been so for at least a month.

I have no idea how the price would compare to that for a private jet, but I know which I would prefer if I had the time and the money!

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