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The plane that led D-Day is flying back to Normandy (mprnews.org)
60 points by howard941 34 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments

I jumped into Normandy in 2014 at the 70th anniversary of D-Day out of a DC3/C47 that had dropped paratroopers 70 years prior.

That was a really cool experience. We had 9 Dakotas at the 70th.

There are 34 Dakotas or “Daks” scheduled to drop paratroopers en masse in Normandy in less than two weeks time for the 75th Anniversary.

Unfortunately I can’t make it this year as I’ll jumping out of CH47 Chinooks at Leapfest for our NZ Team in Rhode Island later in July.

Can’t do it all.

The DC3/C47 is a really cool bird and the private effort to get them all together for this from around the world has been a Herculean effort.

The crowd at the 70th was estimated between 250-300k people.

This year will be far more.

Very positive experience to have been a part of, looking forward to seeing the photos/video.

These planes flew south over the Hudson River at 1,000 feet last weekend, circled the Statue of Liberty, then flew back up north before taking off for Europe. Quite a sound.

Local news: http://newjersey.news12.com/story/40497087/12-fighter-planes...

The ignorance of journalists to aviation knows no bounds... Apparently, a C-47 is a fighter plane now...

It's the ignorance of journalists to any technical field.

Think about how ignorant you know journalists are on any technical subject you have expertise in, then keep that in mind any time you read a new article about a technical subject you have no knowledge in.

I saw that and wondered what was going on; it was a cool audio/visual experience. Never thought I would see or hear formations of warbirds over Manhattan

The article doesn’t explain what makes this the airplane that led the D-Day invasion, and not one of the.

Luckily, the airplane has its own site (https://thatsallbrother.org/), but even that is fairly limited in its explanation:

”June 5, 1944:

Lead aircraft of the main airborne invasion on the eve of D-Day. Led over 800 aircraft dropping over 13,000 paratroopers behind enemy lines in Normandy.”

https://commemorativeairforce.org/aircraft/165, similarly, is too succinct.

I would have hoped to find out how we know that (scans of logbook, etc, but alas).

Based on what I found, what’s on those sites wouldn’t stay up on Wikipedia. Anybody have better links?

According to this article, the plane itself was found while researching Lt. Col. John Donalson, who was credited with piloting the lead aircraft during the invasion.

It also provides a reason why this plane was selected:

"Donalson's plane was in the lead partly because it was equipped with an early form of radar that homed in on electronic beacons set up on the French coast by a small group of paratroopers in "pathfinder" aircraft, Scales said. Some mountings of that electronic system remain on the C-47's fuselage."


So it wasn't the first aircraft, the pathfinder ones were?

the pathfinder ones probably dropped the beacons before D-Day

I'm really excited to see these heading into Normandy! They will fly from the UK and will have a massive parachuting contingent.

Program info at https://www.daksovernormandy.com/

In terms of sheer aesthetic appeal, the DC-3/C-47 is at the top of my "most beautiful airplanes ever" list. It's just such an elegant, clean design; like the Platonic ideal of an aircraft.

On the other hand, my father had some occasion to spend time traveling various places in C-47s during his time with the Air Force, and he describes it as a bone-shaking experience. So maybe beauty isn't everything it's cracked up to be :-D

My first flight was in a DC-3, 1953, age 4. Philly to Cleveland, crossing the Appalachians at the low cruising altitude that they made was maybe not bone-crushing, but it was bumpy. The only time I ever got to use the vomit bag.

And here I was about to claim seniority. Mine was probably 1956 or 1957, Buffalo to Washington. I would have been at most 2, so I have no recollection.

It has a long life ahead of it especially with the turboprop conversion https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basler_BT-67

I actually saw a turboprop DC-3 on the taxiway at Dulles Airport a few years back, while I was waiting around to catch a flight in a much more boring plane. It looked brand new, all gleaming metal and fresh paint. A beautiful sight!

I saw one for sale on Controller recently that was in spotless condition done up in Pan Am colors for barely under a million. Though the maintenance costs on that beast and hourly operating costs would eat you alive. https://www.controller.com/listings/aircraft/for-sale/220858...

It's a workhorse and as much as I miss the thunder of the radial engines it's nice to see them get a new life. I doubt the C-54 will get the same treatment but that would be impressive.

Why the turbo prop conversion? It looks like it gets worse fuel economy with that. Is the higher power really worth the extra fuel?

There are vast logistics improvements to be had by replacing the old Twin Wasp radials with modern turbines.

Jet fuel is more common in airports than avgas, especially in a military context (this is why all NATO vehicles, including land vehicles, use diesel/jet fuel).

Spare engines and parts are a lot easier to find too. The PT6 turbine is still in production and widely used. The Twin Wasp radial hasn't been manufactured in decades, and I'm unsure if P&W still makes spare parts for it. There are less and less of them in existence every day.

Lastly, finding engineers with the required skills and experience to work on turbine engines is a lot easier than finding them for large radial engines.

I once had a beer with a RAAF engineer who used to maintain the old Caribou transports. He'd been doing it for so long he said he could remember the catalog part numbers of almost every engine component off the top of his head.

He said maintenance on those huge radial engines (The Caribou uses pretty much the same engines as the old DC-3s) was phenomenally time consuming and expensive, and spare parts are increasingly harder to find.

A turboprop engine is going to be far more reliable than any reciprocating engine.

Also it runs on Jet-A which is cheaper and more readily available worldwide.

In addition to the reliability mentioned, the surplus power is important for runway takeoff performance and safety (carrying more weight off a given length runway and, in the event of a single engine failure, you want the plane to be able to climb away on one and large power surplus at low altitude is the answer). Turbines also have much more predictable service schedules, with fewer unplanned maintenance events.

Most turboprops also offer beta and reverse, which aids in stopping the airplane, contributing to both landing and rejected takeoff safety improvements.

Lastly, turbines burn Jet-A, which contains no tetraethyl lead, unlike 100LL avgas. Jet-A is typically more plentiful and cheaper per Joule as well, offsetting some of the fuel economy in gallons penalty. (The fuel economy in dollars is less unfavorable.)

There's a reasonable argument to be made that if the practical turbine were invented first, we might not have piston-powered aircraft.

While safety and emissions are nice side benefits I doubt the owners care much about that in this context. They almost certainly did it because consumables and spare parts for the wasp are drying up and for a flying aircraft you kind of need those things.

Planesaves[0] is led by Mikey McBryan of Buffalo Airways[1]/ Ice pilots[2] fame and is restoring a D-Day DC-3 in a very compressed time frame. You can check out the YouTube channel[3] for updates. They aren't going to make Normandy but it's interesting following along taking a plane from a wreck to flying in a few months. He's doing a video a day which is impressive and helps capture the process.

[0] https://www.planesavers.com/

[1] https://www.buffaloairways.com/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Pilots_NWT

[3] https://www.youtube.com/user/McMakk

Came to post this exact thing. It's very cool watching the process.

Glad to see there are some people on here following along!

Seeing these restored and preserved planes in person is a visceral feeling that absolutely cannot be replicated. I highly encourage anyone who gets the chance to visit. There's something special about laying your hands on the cold steel of something that was being shot at over France 75 years ago.

At Moffet Field right now in Mountain View, they have a Doolittle Raider plane, also a B-17, a B-24, a P-51 and a P-40. Park right on the ramp next to one of the Google Gulfstreams. Saw the P-51 flying the pattern when I was coming home from work. Got to go inside those planes last weekend; extremely cool. There’s also a 1963 P-3 at Moffett they had open last weekend so got to see inside of that. I think they’ll have public tours of the planes this weekend again.

I was fortunate to see these planes from the D-Day Squadron fly out of OXC, Oxford CT. this past weekend. There was a really big turnout at this small airport in my backyard to support and have interest in the current mission. Never forget history and the people who made it. Every tech innovation whether aviation, software or textile is important. It was amazing to see so many veterans also connecting to their past and honoring the present. More info here http://ddaysquadron.org/ and here http://ddaysquadron.org/d-day-squadron-launch-week/

Anyone else going to see "The Cold Blue" tonight? In theaters one night only (then streaming on HBO).


Magnificent aircraft. A local airline here used to have an airworthy example, and I am so glad I managed to take my 10 year old son on a flight on it before they retired it.

Loved sitting there and listening to the roar of the radials and watch the pilots wrestle it through the air and marvelling that this thing was built when my son's grandfather was the same age as him (10yo).

Joining the flight, a restored "Miss Montana" departed from Missoula, MT earlier this week.


Glad to see the comments here do not genderify the plane as female. But the article does. I don't mind people giving normal first names to boats/planes/trains/cars/bikes and then using 'he' or 'she' but the idea that all ships and planes are female and to be imagined that way is just wrong.

Next time I hear someone refer to their car or other vehicle as 'she' I am going to humour them about it, enjoyably so and possibly pejoratively. There are many options, 'oh, so your car/plane/boat ovulates then?' probably being the most inconspicuous innuendo possible on HN.

There is also the class of individual that refers to vehicles as 'she' instinctively but then fails to get the gender right when it comes to living animals. You could introduce them to pet dog, e.g. 'Jake', for them to then ask 'what breed is it?' as if they see the dog is pre-op or something.

Needless to say there are instances of male/female use in electronics, my phone has a 'female' headphone socket and my charger is obviously 'male'. But I would probably let my pedantry be put aside if working in an all male engineering department when it comes to these things.

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