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.)
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).