Thursday, June 27, 2019

Young Eagles Take Flight at St. Louis Downtown Airport

By Carmelo Turdo
EAA Chapter 64 and the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum hosted students and teachers from this week's Ranken Technical College Adventure Academy and local youth Thursday morning at St. Louis Downtown Airport. Fourteen students and one staff member were given Young Eagle/Eagle Flights and toured the museum, getting a first-hand look at aircraft design evolution and flying around the St. Louis metropolitan area. Pilots for the Young Eagle Flights, shown below, were John Schaefer, C305A/O-1 Bird Dog; Bob McDaniel, Young Eagles Coordinator, C172 Skyhawk; and Tom Murrell, AA-1B Yankee.  

Monday, June 24, 2019

World War II Veteran Douglas DC-3 to Get New Lease on Life as Basler Turbo Conversion

By Carmelo Turdo
The Douglas DC-3/C-47 family of aircraft has been serving the civil airlines and military forces of the U.S. and countries around the world since entering operational service on June 26, 1936 with American Airlines. A development of the Douglas DC-2 that began commercial service with TWA in 1934 as a rival to the Boeing 247, the DC-3 and various follow-on models have assumed a deserved place in the history of aviation as an example of a timeless aircraft design. Throughout its service as the standard airliner of a generation (over 600 built) and the first practical military air transport (about 10,300 built in the U.S.), the DC-3/C-47 has exceeded the expectations set by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Even today, the best replacement for a Douglas DC-3 is often another DC-3. The fact that there are still DC-3/C-47s in service attests to the capabilities of the original design.

The story of one C-47 intersects at various points throughout the world, meeting at St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia, IL. This 1943 C-47B, now re-licensed as a DC-3C N68CW and carrying the construction number 25980, has been sitting on the apron in an unairworthy condition for over a decade. In a former lifetime, as USAAF serial number 43-48719, it was produced by the Douglas Aircraft Company at the Oklahoma City facility and served valiantly in resupply missions during the Battle of the Bulge and other historic World War II engagements. Fast forward about 75 years to the present, and the future of this warbird has brightened considerably. The venerable DC-3 has been acquired by Basler Turbo Conversions of Oshkosh, WI, and it will be completely rebuilt and modernized to serve for possibly another 75 years as a turboprop-powered transport. In this story below, The Aero Experience will include our exclusive coverage of the disassembly of the aircraft for transport during the week of June 10-14.

Major Nunn, sitting, with his crew in 1944
 We have covered much of the World War II service history of this aircraft in our three-part series titled, Found! Daughter of World War II Veteran Locates His Douglas C-47 in the Midwest, posted in January of 2018. The story of this aircraft and her crew would not be told today if not for the daughter of one of the pilots who happened to be looking for her father's wartime aircraft. The lady who has researched her father's wartime service, and found the aircraft sitting right here in the Midwest, is Jenny Nunn Brawley, whose father, Major Thomas E. Nunn, flew this very C-47 from September of 1944 until the end of the war in Europe. The aircraft, named Miss Anabel Lee after Major Nunn's newlywed bride, was later acquired by civilian operators in the U.S. and Canada. 

CF-BXY getting repainted, Feb. 15, 1982, Fort St John,
British Columbia. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Aubury)
Records of the DC-3's service life following demobilization resume in the 1960s forward as N2768A, flying cargo in Canada and Alaska. In 1966 she was named Something Special.  She was owned briefly by a Colorado company and then an oil drilling company - Knight's Rathole Drilling. The aircraft was exported to Canada as CF-BXY and operated by North Cariboo Air in the early 1980s, transporting hunters to remote camps, and then to Sabourin Lake Airlines for freight operations. While with Sabourin Lake Airlines, she was pictured on a postcard in 1994. She was sold to an owner in Texas as N68CW in 1999, and was used to fly auto parts to factories in Mexico. The aircraft had been with the St. Louis owner since 2007, and remained there until earlier this month. 

The Basler Turbo Conversions team began their work early on Monday, June 10, and had the aircraft ready for shipping in three days. The wings and other major subassemblies were picked up by semi trucks on Thursday and the fuselage on Friday. The Aero Experience was on site to chronicle the process and update our audience on the disposition of this aircraft since last year's series of posts. We pick up the story when the DC-3 was repositioned to the less crowded south end of the apron for disassembly.

June 10: Removal of Propellers, Engines, Rudder and Vertical Stabilizer


June 11: Wing Removal


June 12: Removal of Interior and Horizontal Stabilizer, Wing Repositioning, Separation of Fuselage from Lower Wing and Engine Mount Assembly and Removal of Landing Gear

June 13: Shipping of Sub-Assemblies and Equipment

The fuselage was on the way to the Basler Turbo Conversions facility in Oshkosh, WI Friday morning, completing the recovery of this venerable aircraft. It will join others in line for the rebuild and conversion to a modern turboprop transport. Currently, projects number 67-69 are on the factory floor, several of which were recovered in Missouri. There remain DC-3 airframes and parts scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada that could be used to assemble another airframe. Please contact Basler Turbo Conversions if you have leads on more usable aircraft or parts.

The Aero Experience thanks the Basler Turbo Conversons management and on-site crew, St. Louis Downtown Airport, Jenny Nunn Brawley and all who contributed to our previous stories and the recovery of the aircraft.