Restored Mann Gulch DC-3 test flown before leaving for Normandy

Volunteers hope to fly the aircraft to Europe to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day June 5-6

Miss Montana takes off on its first flight in 18 years. Screen grab from a shaky video shot in a helicopter.

The restoration of the DC-3 that dropped smokejumpers on the Mann Gulch Fire in 1949 is nearly complete as the departure date for its flight to Normandy looms. Named Miss Montana, the plane had not been flown since 2001, meaning the volunteers working on the project for the last year or so have had plenty on their to-do list.

Sunday’s test flight, the first time it has left the ground in 18 years, went better than expected said Jeff Whitesell, who will be the chief pilot when it leaves Montana later this week for Normandy to help commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 5-6 along with many other DC-3s that are being flown in from around the world. A group of 15 men and women will parachute from Miss Montana during planned events in England and France.

Later in the week, after the test flights, Miss Montana took to the air again and dropped jumpers. That video is below.

Another DC-3 that hopefully completes its restoration in time to fly to Normandy is a project being conducted by Mikey McBryan of Buffalo Airways. Buffalo, based in the northern part of the Northwest Territories, operates several air tankers, including a P3 undergoing major maintenance at Sacramento McClellan Airport. (UPDATE May 16, 2019: Darryl tells us the Buffalo DC-3 will not go to Normandy, but they hope to have it finished by D-Day.)


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Beautiful day in CYHU. Forecast was rain. 😉 Going to put fuel in for the first time!

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TBT: a beautiful DC-3

DC-3 at McClellan, March 15, 2018. N341A. Photo by Bill Gabbert

For Throw Back Thursday (tomorrow) — it was about a year ago that I discovered a beautiful DC-3 in a hangar at Sacramento McClellan Airport.

This image is low resolution, but you can get your own high-resolution copy, framed or unframed.

Photography Prints

Volunteers prepare Mann Gulch C-47 for a flight to Normandy, France

It will participate in a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in World War II

C-47 D-Day
On D-Day 821 C-47s flew in a V of Vs formation to Normandy.

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

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.

DC-3 air tanker used for dust control in Thailand

The turbine-powered aircraft was operated by the Thai Air Force

BT-67 DC-3 Thailand
A BT-67, modified from a DC-3, is used to improve the air quality in Thailand. Thai PBS photo.

Thai PBS tweeted this photo of a DC-3 dropping water in an effort to improve the air quality in Thailand on January 15, 2019.

The air tanker made several drops of 790 gallons each near Don Mueang Air Force Base and in the Chatuchak area.

Thai PBS described the mission. This excerpt has been very crudely translated by Google Translate:

The Air Force brought the BT-67 aircraft from the 46th Airborne Division, Phitsanulok Province to carry 3,000 liters of water in the tank under the machine. Flying water droplets at a height of about 1,500 feet around the Don Mueang Air Force Base as the first area In order to alleviate PM 2.5 dust problems that are beyond the standard value until they start affecting health.

Type 2 transport aircraft, or BT-67 aircraft belonging to the 46th Air Force Division, Phitsanulok, are aircraft that the Air Force uses to support the missions of the Royal Rain Flying to control wildfire. And water spraying, water spray, alleviating haze / dust problems. In which the flight of the water lapses, each flight will carry water to scatter about 3,000 liters per trip. Scattering water from the height above the target area Which will cause water droplets to spread over a wide area And capture with dust to alleviate the severity of the problem.

It is not clear from the roughly translated article if the water drops are expected to physically remove particulates as the water drifts downward, or if it will wet the ground to reduce the amount of dust that becomes airborne.

The aircraft has had its radial engines replaced with turbine engines. The conversion by Basler results in the aircraft’s model name changing from DC-3 to BT-67.

According to Wikipedia:

The conversion includes fitting the airframe with new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprop engines, lengthening the fuselage, strengthening the airframe, upgrading the avionics, and making modifications to the wings’ leading edges and wing tips.

Due to the slightly higher fuel consumption of the turbine engines of the BT-67, compared to the original piston designs fitted to the standard DC-3, range on the standard fuel tank, with 45 minute reserve, is reduced from 1,160 to 950 nautical miles (2,150 to 1,760 km). Basler provides a long-range fuel tank which increases the aircraft range to 2,140 nmi (3,960 km).

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Isaac.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Mann Gulch DC-3 to fly to Europe for 75th anniversary of D-Day

Much work has to be done on the aircraft before the event in 2019

1949 Mann Gulch Fire smokejumpers

Above: Removal of victims at the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire. USFS photo.

The aircraft that dropped the smokejumpers who attacked the Mann Gulch Fire in 1949 is scheduled to cross the Atlantic next year to take part in the 75th commemoration of D-Day. The fire in Montana on which 12 jumpers and one fire guard died in 1949 is infamous among wildland firefighters as its memory lives on when more generations read about the tragedy in Norman Maclean’s book Young Men and Fire.

The Missoulian has the story about how numerous volunteers are mobilizing to work on the 74-year old aircraft’s airworthiness and regulatory compliance — it has not been in the air since 2001.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

It seems preposterous.

Take an historic, over-the-hills smokejumper plane that was last airborne in 2001, fix it up to federal standards, and fly it to Europe next year for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Maybe even drop jumpers into France, pulling ripcords of old-fashioned round parachutes and wearing suits their grandfathers used during the Normandy invasion in France on June 6, 1944.

And while you’re there, hit Germany to take part in the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Berlin Airlift (1948-49).

A beautiful DC-3

While at Sacramento McClellan Airport last week I couldn’t take my eyes off a particular airplane. It was a DC-3 with a highly-polished bare metal finish. Built in 1939 for Major General Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold, it was used for VIP transport for himself and military command staff, as well as other high ranking officials including the Secretary of War. It was based at Bolling Army Airfield, Washington D.C.

DC-3 at McClellan
DC-3 at McClellan, March 15, 2018. Photo by Bill Gabbert
DC-3 at McClellan
DC-3 at McClellan, March 15, 2018. Photo by Bill Gabbert

In case you’re wondering, the bottom photo was not captured or converted to black & white. It’s just that virtually all that was there was black, shades of gray, or white.  The images above are low resolution. You can get your own high-res copy, framed or unframed, and without the watermark.
Photography Prints

USFS DC-3 listed on auction site

The auction closes July 22 at 11 a.m. CDT

DC-3 in a hangar at McClellan March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The last DC-3 formerly owned by the U.S. Forest Service is listed for sale on the General Services Administration auction website. Built in 1944, it retired from smokejumper duty in December of 2015.

Here is the description of the aircraft at the GSA website:

Douglas DC-3T, 1944 S/N 33567, N115U. 18800.9 hours aircraft TT. P&W PT6A-67R engines, Left 2367.7 SMOH, Right 5831. SMOH HC-B5MA-3 propellers 543.0 SPOH This is an “As is where is” sale. Attached Equipment List Further details on invitation for bid DOUGLAS DC-3T 1232TD612400011

The last bid was $1,000, but the reserve has not been met. It is currently at McClellan Air Field in California.

The 72-year old aircraft, first operated by the Royal Air Force, was manufactured as World War II was winding down. The radial piston engines were replaced 25 years ago with turbines by Basler, extending its life while providing more reliability and less maintenance. The aircraft’s sister, Jump-42, another DC-3, retired in November, 2012.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Danny.

Interesting aircraft seen at McClellan Airfield

A DC-3 and a C-27J were parked in a hanger.

C-27J DC-3

Last week during the Aerial Firefighting conference there were two interesting aircraft at McClellan Airfield parked in the hangar near the static display of the 747 Supertanker and other firefighting aircraft.

One of them was a DC-3 that appeared to be the recently retired smokejumper aircraft. Instead of the registration number previously on the jump ship, N115Z, the number was N115U.

The other aircraft in the same hangar was a Coast Guard C-27J Spartan. A few years ago the U.S. Forest Service attempted to acquire a bunch of the former military aircraft to use them as air tankers. But the Coast Guard intervened, and unloaded seven of their old C-130Hs to the USFS, so they could get the C-27Js.

More information about the C-17J from the Coast Guard, December 18, 2015:

Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento is preparing to become the first permanent home of C-27J Spartan medium range surveillance aircraft, with operations expected to start in 2016.

The HC-27J Asset Project Office will assist with the transition by providing a forward-deployable maintenance team and pilot, aircrew and maintenance technician instructors, said Cmdr. Peter Beavis, APO executive officer. An aircraft to be used for training was repositioned to the air station Dec. 2.

Four aircraft will be transferred to the air station in fiscal year 2016, said Lt. Robert Hovanec, C-27J platform manager with the Office of Aviation Forces. Sacramento will have six aircraft at full capacity, with the remaining two arriving in 2017.

C-27J coast guard
C-27J in a hangar at McClellan
DC-3 in a hangar at McClellan. Photo by Bill Gabbert.