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Australian DC-2 Is a Former Military Transport Too

1-MEL_3446Photo and Story by Dion Makowski

A30-11
C/N 1286
Douglas DC-2-112
22 November 2015, Albury Airport, NSW

Douglas aircraft C/N 1286 was completed as a DC-2-211 in October, 1934 and registered to Eastern Airlines as NC13736. It was equipped with a pair of Wright GR-1820-F.2B Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engines each of 740bhp (brake horsepower) @1950RPM. After being phased out by Eastern, it was purchased by the Australian Government via the British Purchasing Commission and received on November 18, 1940 at Australian National Airways (ANA) for (re-)assembly. In March 1941, the aircraft was brought on Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) charge as A30-11. It was allotted the military call sign VHCRE and at one point was named Maaleesh. The DC-2 was utilized for transportation duties, notably during July 1942, when it carried a disassembled radar unit intended for Melville Island on several flights between Bankstown and Batchelor, Northern Territory (NT).

Later it was allotted to “B” Flight, at Richmond, New South Wales (NSW), with the Parachute Training Unit (PTU). In November, 1944, the aircraft was sent to ANA’s facility at Essendon, Victoria (VIC), to be stripped of camouflage and made ready for civilian use. In September, 1946, it was offered for tender at Parafield, South Australia (SA). The airframe was stored at the Care & Maintenance Unit found at Port Pirie, SA.

A new beginning occurred in October, 1946 when C/N 1286 was sold to Sid Marshall for 52 Pounds, for spares. Marshall intended to use DC-2s with Marshall Airways. The airframe was moved to and stored at Bankstown, NSW until it changed owners… to the Albury West (NSW) Rotary Club, which subsequently preserved it on concrete poles with its undercarriage down, as “PH-AJU Uiver” (race no.44). These markings were of a famous DC-2 which placed second and took handicap honours in the 1934 MacRobertson International Air Races – also known as the Centenary Air Race [between RAF Mildenhall, England and Melbourne, Australia – ed.].

These markings commemorated the night during the air race when the original Uiver encountered a storm in Northern Victoria and was saved by the people of Albury. Encouraged by a local radio station to drive to the Albury Racecourse (located near the present day airport) and using their headlights to mark a landing site, residents guided the plane to a safe landing, assisted by municipal authorities who arranged to switch the city’s lights on and off using Morse code to indicate they were at the right town. With minimum crew and no passengers, the DC-2 took off to complete the flight to the finish line at the Flemington Racecourse, on October 24, 1934.

The race is considered a watershed flight in Australian/British aviation history as it successfully demonstrated the superiority of contemporary American airliner design. Restoration by the Rotary Club was reported as costing $6000. The memorial was dedicated on March 2, 1980.

The DC-2 has now been removed from its place outside the airport and will be restored to feature in a new permanent, undercover display at Albury Airport.

Research by Aviation Report

Dover AFB’s Air Mobility Command Museum

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According to the Air Mobility Command Museum’s web site, Dover AFB has an interesting and varied history. From an Army base that, in part, hosted experimental rocket research in the 1940s, to a fighter base during the 1950s through the 70’s, to the current Air Mobility Command duties, the base has risen in importance due to its mid-Atlantic location. Today, it is home to the 436th Airlift Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 512th Airlift Wing. Base facilities include what is known as the “Super Port”, where cargo from around the world is collected and shipped. The Wings operate the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III, but the base sees all sorts of airlifters operating from its runways.

One of the original aircraft hangars, after a restoration in the 1990s, has become the home of the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover. Hangar 1301 has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places too. The museum is home to close to 30 aircraft, including fighters (the base also served as a P-47 training base during World War II), bombers, air refueling tankers, and trainers. However, the majority of the aircraft are transports, which has been the focus of the base for over 60 years. In 1952, the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) began building up the base for a global air transport mission that remains today.

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The museum’s collection include many large aircraft, including a C-5A Galaxy, a pair of C-141A and -B Starlifters (the first and last airframes built!), a KC-135E, plus a C-9A Nightingale Medivac and a VC-9C VIP transport… all jet powered. The larger piston and turboprop transport collection is definitely a highlight… C-54 Skymaster, C-7 Caribou, C-119 Flying Boxcar, C-121 Constellation, C-123 Provider, C-124 Globemaster II, C-130 Hercules, C-131 Samaritan, C-47 Skytrain, C-133 Cargomaster, and a KC-97 Stratotanker. World War II aircraft of note include a C-60 Lodestar, B-17 Flying Fortress and A-26 Invader, plus PT-17 Kaydet and BT-13 Valiant trainers and TG-4A and CG-4A gliders. Cold War “relics” include an HH-43 Husky helicopter, F-101 Voodoo and F-106 Delta Dart interceptors, and even a Soviet Bloc-built AN-2 biplane.

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The aircraft, as you can see in our photos, are well preserved and presented both outside, and indoors in Hangar 1301. There’s even a control tower, used at Dover AFB until six years ago, for viewing and listening to airport traffic control.

Written by Ken Kula. Recent photos by Bob Finch as noted, and a pair by Walt Bauer taken many years ago.

 

MCAS El Toro 1992: Hey, I Remember That!

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MCAS El Toro’s 1992 air show had quite a line up, with plenty of jet-engined performers. The 1991 Gulf War’s wind down allowed many combat veterans and their aircraft to be displayed at the show, but there were a few older warbirds that attracted quite an amount of interest too.

The Marines’ AV-8B Harriers were in the midst of an equipment upgrade; some had already sprouted FLIR bumps in the bridge of their noses, and some were sporting lower visibility gray color schemes which came into vogue during the lead up to the conflict. OV-10 Broncos were slowly being phased out, replaced by more F/A-18Ds.  An Air Force F-117 – the “Stealth Fighter” – was shown on static display, as was a B-52G Stratofortress.

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Another static display jet, an Idaho Air National Guard F-4G “Wild Weasel”, was one of a few types that would soon finish its fighting career as the U.S. military retired many Vietnam War-era types in short order. Another type parked on static display was an Army OV-1D Mohawk, a Vietnam workhorse but soon to be retired too. A local West Coast – based F-14A Tomcat, operated by the flamboyant VF-114 “Fighting Aardvarks” was supported by plenty of crewmembers, and their sharp orange and black bus; VF-114 would be disestablished the following year.

My standout jet during the Friday and Saturday shows that I attended, both for the practice show and first day of the airshow, was a Thunderbird Aviation F-8K Crusader. The jet was for contractor test flight missions, and while it flew in the hazy Friday afternoon skies during the practice show, it never took off on Saturday, much to my chagrin. A few museum pieces, including a MiG-15 and C-119 Flying Boxcar, were arrayed on the ramp too.

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Another warbird parked on the static line was a Grumman HU-16A Albatross amphibian, which was later sold, and moved to Australia. One more interesting aircraft was at first look, a DC-3 in stylish colors.  Upon further research, this transport was once a VIP C-47 (VC-47D to be precise), one of only a few modified as a staff transport for the USAF.

MCAS El Toro 1990: Hey, I Remember That!

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Springtime in 1990; a large amount of military aviation history was about to be written about the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations in the months ahead.  Many Marine aircraft were still in vintage (well, vintage nowadays) dark color schemes, in preparation for operations in Europe or the Pacific, not in a desert environment. Soon, airframes like the A-4 Skyhawk, F-4 Phantom, and OV-10 Bronco would be phased out either just prior to the Gulf War, or a few years after it. Specifically, the Marine RF-4Bs would be replaced by F/A-18D ATARS-equipped aircraft before the Gulf War.  The A-4M Skyhawk and F-4S Phantoms that were operated by Reserve squadrons and would be replaced by early model F/A-18 Hornets. The OV-10A and -D Broncos would serve during Desert Storm before being retired; replaced by more twin-seat F/A-18D Hornets. A lot of squadrons, many with storied histories, stood down as these aircraft left the inventory.

At West Coast Master Jet Station MCAS El Toro, the home squadrons of F/A-18 Hornets welcomed other Marine aviation assets like KC-130s, AV-8 Harriers, OV-10 Broncos, and numerous helicopters from nearby MCAS Tustin and Camp Pendleton, for a weekend of air show excitement.  Drawing more than half a million spectators at the event, a few of these aircraft types would be displayed for the last time before they were parked in the Boneyard.

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A large draw to this  show was the Marine Combined Arms demonstrations, where different types of aviation assets were brought together to show how the Marines used their varied types of planes and helicopters together.  From fast jet reconnaissance to scouts parachuting from OV-10s, to air refueling Harriers and Hornets behind a KC-130, the air was filled with the “sounds of freedom”.  Booming pyrotechnics added to the realism and excitement.

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Non-Marine Corps aircraft included in the static display featured the California Air National Guard, Air Force, Navy and Army examples. Flight demonstrations included the F-14 Tomcat and F-16 Fighting Falcon, plus the Blue Angels.  Warbirds and civilian performers shared the stage too.  Even a few retired non flyable Marine aircraft were included in the large aircraft static display that was manned by enthusiastic crewmembers. During past and future shows, the Thunderbirds, Air Force F-15 Eagles and others were featured performers.

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MCAS El Toro would be shuttered in 1999, but not before some awesome air shows were held at the Orange County base.  This is the first of three El Toro air show reviews, with photos of some of the military and warbird participants at each one.  Here’s a look back almost a quarter century ago, to southern California and its rich aviation heritage that was presented during the early 1990s.