A TRIP BACK in time
She was registered as ZK-DAK and underwent an extensive rebuild, with the intention of creating a living legacy in excellent flying condition, motivated by concern that the aircraft which had been the backbone of military and commercial aviation was becoming extinct from the world’s skies. A new livery revealed in 2007 now represents NZ3546 from No.42 Squadron at the time of its retirement from RNZAF service in 1977. “These are the aircraft that won the war,” says Jessica Cooper, administrator and one of the cabin crew of Fly DC3 New Zealand. “They were used to tow gliders, they transported troops and nurses and dropped parachutists into occupied Europe.” In peacetime, as commercial passenger airlines developed, the DC-3 was again the mainstay. The technology of the DC-3 completely revolutionised commercial travel worldwide. NAC (National Airways Corporation in NZ) had 29 DC-3s in its fleet. She is still privately owned by a syndicate including all the pilots, and a couple of the cabin crew. This Classic DC-3 airliner is used for scenic and charter flights around Auckland or to anywhere in New Zealand, at airshows, for parachute jumps and even aerial burials. The most popular charter is ‘Lunch at Whitianga.’ All the captains are current or former airline pilots. Annual crew training and checks ensure on-going professional CAA operating standards. “Our DC-3 is one of the very few worldwide that is maintained and operated with an AOC (Airline Operating Certificate). We do this for love,” Captain Geoff Cooper says. “Every cent is put back into the operation and maintenance of the aircraft. Fly DC3 is a fully licensed airline and has to meet Civil Aviation Authority standards. There’s a big advantage in being a registered airline because we get treated accordingly but at the same time we get charged accordingly,” Geoff says. “Our cabin is kept ‘retro’ in style. However, the seats are all Boeing 767 to maintain CAA standards.” All crew are unpaid. Crew work on their days off for scenic flights, or take time off from their paid jobs to operate the charter flights and airshows. One thing is guaranteed, though: When the Pratt and Whitney engines roar to life with that unmistakable sound, everyone on board knows that they are ‘flying back in time’.