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04 July 2012

Reportage: On board Daisy the DC-3

Last Sunday Åre Östersund Airport was visited by the 69-year old Daisy. Jonas Herjeby represented us onboard this old lady for a flight around the Östersund area.

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We were fourteen aviation enthusiasts who met up by the check-in counters at Åre Östersund Airport, all eager to board the plane that landed a few hours earlier. Many among the crowd had worked on aircrafts like this as mechanics in the military or for airlines that once operated them. We were all curious on what we could expect, even the ones that had flown this lady before. 
   What we were waiting for to see was of course the DC-3 named Daisy that waited on the tarmac outside. During the day it had flown down to Östersund from Kramfors carrying members of the nonprofit organization Flygande veteraner (Flying veterans) to let the local members of Östersund have a chance to fly the classic DC-3. Thanks to Bernt Olsson, who arranged the flight, Ostersund Photography was invited to join in, too.

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Daisy on final runway 12 after the flight from Kramfors.

On my way out to the airport I met a few drops of rain and immediately hoped this would not interfere with this flying experience I had been looking so much forward to. The DC-3 Daisy is a plane I have photographed on a number of occasions, but never had the chance to actually fly. Lucky for me and the other thirteen, the rain stayed away for the remainder of the afternoon.
   We were met up by Bernt by the check-in counters and he handed us each a folder of information about Daisy and a boarding card.
   – Here they are still analogue, he says about the card and laughs. He also explains that it's more of a souvenir than a actual boarding card.
   When we all are ready we head out to the awaiting Daisy resting outside. And there she stands, all shiny with her retro SAS color scheme, as if we had transported trough time to the 1950's. Many of my fellow passengers picked up their cameras and began photographing every possible angle of her. And of course so did I, too.

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By the door we were greeted by our cabin attendant Monika Norlén, dressed in a retro uniform. When we all were seated she told us about the organization and the flight we were about to do.
   I was surprised by how big the cabin felt and by how much space you have for your legs when you sit down. At least twice the space offered by most airlines today. By every window there was a small towel hanging on a hook on the wall. Monika explained to us that since this old aircraft has no pressurized cabin the windows tend to get foggy. So to be able to see out you might have to use the towel to wipe of the fog from the plastic windows.
   Everywhere around me people were chatting and sharing old anecdotes and stories of Daisy or other DC-3:s. All of a sudden a generator like noise spread through the cabin and shortly after the whole plane started to shiver when the right engine ignited with a puff. The left one followed and we were ready to taxi.
   Once out on the runway the two Pratt & Whitney engines rev up with a roar. On such an old plane there is not much of a wall between you and the noisy engine outside and the whole cabin is filled with a diffused rolling noise. We started to move down runway 12 and Daisy rised up on her main gear and started to lift of. At first it was a bit bumpy, but the pilots a few meters in front of me handled their lady well as we climbed up to 2,500 ft.

Daisy spreading her 69 years old wings over Storsjön at 2,500 ft.

Daisy is an old gal, built during the war back in 1943 and is not really a DC-3. Actually she is a converted C-47, the military name for the transport version of the DC-3. She was first stationed in Algeria during World war two but was rebuilt to the civilian DC-3 version in 1946. This was when she discharged from the military and moved to Norway to fly for DNL (Det Norske Luftfartselskap, or The Norwegian Aviation Company), that eventually became a part of SAS Scandinavian Airlines.
   In 1960 she enlisted again, this time in the Swedish airforce where she remained until 1982. In 1983 the organization The flying veterans was formed to preserve this beautiful and historical aircraft and keep her flying. And she still is, offering flights like the one I was on to the members of the organization.

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Pilots Mikael Holm and Anders Ahlberg taking us out over the landscape outside Östersund.

While we were up in the air everyone onboard was allowed to visit the crew in the cockpit to take photos and ask questions. Up in the cockpit it is hard to find modern equipment and instrumentation. The only modern thing I was able to spot was the GPS placed on top of the dashboard.
   Back in the cabin I sat in my seat looking around and trying to understand how much this machine actually has been through. With her 69 years of age one kind of expects her to wear marks and… well, be old. But the organization has really done a great job keeping her going both in appearance and aesthetics as well as mechanically. But I never felt like as if I was flying in a piece of museum junk, but in a actual lady of the skies!

The cabin of the DC-3 is comfortable and offer good space for your legs. 

After making a few turns over the beautiful landscape below us it was time to head back to the airport. We had been airborne for about 25 minutes when the main gear once again touched the runway and Daisy began to slow down. There was a soft bump when the tail-wheel hit the ground and the flight was over.
   Back on the apron everyone was happy and had really enjoyed themselves. And so had I! I'm really glad I was able to come along on this flight and share this experience. To me it's really important that there are enthusiasts and initiators that are willing to keep old planes flying. The DC-3, for instance, is an important piece of the aviation history and if it were not for these people we would not be able to experience it. History is history, but sometimes it's important that it is being retold. And Daisy sure does it well.

The crew. From left mechanics Lennart Hallén and Lars Rosén, cabin attendant Monika Norlén and pilots Anders Ahlberg and Mikael Holm.

Many thanks for inviting us!

Jonas Herjeby

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