For months volunteers have been working on the C-47 that took smokejumpers to the Mann Gulch Fire in 1949. The blaze claimed the lives of 12 of them and also one former jumper who had been fighting the fire for 4 hours before the others arrived.
The Missoulian has an interesting article about what is being done to the plane to prepare it for a flight to Europe to participate in a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in World War II. Below is an excerpt from the article:
…[Kim] Maynard, of Missoula, was one of the nation’s first female smokejumpers in 1982. She and husband Al Charters, a former Green Beret high-altitude jump specialist — the “sky god,” she called him — were among the first to sign on to a crew that will take to the skies over Normandy, France, with vintage chutes for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in World War II.
Like dozens of other volunteers, they’ve been showing up for months to work on the iconic Douglas C-47 Miss Montana that’ll take them there.
“When this came to the museum it was the Mann Gulch plane. Now it’s getting a whole new life,” Maynard said, referring to the aircraft’s history in its Johnson Flying Service days. Fifteen smokejumpers were dispatched on a fire north of Helena in 1949. All but three died that tragic August day.
The mission in the museum hangar is to make Miss Montana airworthy to join the D-Day Squadron and Daks Over Normandy and fly on to a commemoration of the Berlin Airlift. Then she’ll return to spend her next life traveling across the country, representing Montana and those who died in the service of the United States…
FYI: A C-47 is a variant of the Douglas DC-3. From Charlesmcccain.com:
According to the history section of Boeing (which acquired the legacy corporation which had merged with the Douglas Aircraft Company), only 455 DC-3 commercial aircraft were actually built for the airlines. After making requested modifications to the DC-3 design, a further 10,174 aircraft were produced for the armed forces as the C-47 military transports during World War II. The design specifications are slightly different.