|By Carmelo Turdo|
A classic warbird took to the skies again Wednesday after spending some time on the west apron at St. Louis Downtown Airport adjacent to the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum. The 1942 Douglas C-47A was recently purchased by Vintage Wings Aircraft of Centerpoint, Indiana, near Terre Haute. It had been parked between historic 1929 Curtiss-Wright Hangars 1 and 2 since its arrival in May 2014, and had undergone periodic maintenance between long spells of idleness. Visitors to the museum were greeted by this somewhat forlorn piece of aviation history just inside the airport fence, and it had become a kind of gate sentinel and conversation starter over the years. But this diamond in the ruff found its home in the skies again when it was ferried to its new Midwest airport home where the restoration process will continue with renewed enthusiasm.
Winter, spring, summer and fall, there she was - a Douglas C-47 staring at the hangars once owned by its engine maker and airframe rival, Curtiss-Wright (though this model uses the P&W 1830 Twin Wasp). Then in recent weeks, renewed activity around the aircraft was immediately noticed, and it was learned that Vintage Wings Aircraft owner Jordan Brown and his crew were in town to prepare the C-47 for its ferry flight to Terre Haute. Inspections were made, propellers were installed, engines were tested and the old Gooney Bird came back to life. All looked good for a flight out this week.
The aircraft had been modified several times during its lifetime according to the data tags. It was manufactured as a C-47A serial number 13485/42-93560 by Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica in 1942, and was accepted into service in 1944. It served in the RAF and RCAF as Dakota Mk.3 KG668/12942 and later as civilian C-GRSA for the Canadian Department of Mines and Resources. It remained in Canadian service for various owners into the 1990s, and returned to U.S. registry. It was registered XA-SYN in Mexico, and returned to the U.S. in 2006. After spending time in Texas and most recently in the St. Louis area, this C-47 has a new home.
(Data tag photos by Mark Nankivil)
Preparations were made for a flight out of St. Louis Wednesday morning, and the C-47, Beech 18 crew aircraft and Harmon Rocket chase plane were poised for takeoff around 9:45am. The Aero Experience was there to capture the moment, and we watched as Jordan Brown lifted the C-47 off in the brisk crosswind, flew a pattern around the airport and returned to land. All three aircraft taxied back to the apron work area and parked. There was a problem with the right engine propeller governor, and the safe response was to return and make the repair.
Jordan Brown and his crew spent a few hours working on the governor, including a time when the propeller remained fixed in the feathered position during the ground test. These issues were soon addressed, and the aircraft was readied again for the flight to Terre Haute.
Just after 2:00pm, the engines of the C-47 and the other two aircraft were started again for the ultimately successful ferry flight to Indiana. Thanks to St. Louis Downtown Airport Director Erick Dahl and his staff, we were able to obtain these exclusive photos of the takeoff sequence.
Yesterday was the beginning of what we hope will be a successful restoration of this classic aircraft, and we are grateful that such a well-respected warbird owner has taken on the task. We also give special thanks to Jordan Brown, the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum and St. Louis Downtown Airport for assisting The Aero Experience in preparing this story.