N1944H, by Walt Brubaker
The aircraft was owned by the EAA and used to give scenic rides in Oshkosh, WI. In about 1988, the plane was sold to Mike Suzuki of California Air Tours in Burbank, CA. The ferry pilot on that trip was Dan Reid, a longtime Basler DC-3 pilot.
CAT was in the business of taking Japanese tourists to visit the Grand Canyon from Burbank airport, daily, using Cessna 402s and
Navajos. After lots of paperwork taking about a year, the FAA granted permission for CAT to use the DC-3 in Part 135 (Air Charter) operation.
This is historic because this aircraft is the last commercial passenger-carrying use of the DC-3 in America [I think the ERA Aviation DC-3's pictured below may claim that title! - Webmaster].
During the years 1989-1991, N45452 carried thousands of tourists on trips to the Grand Canyon, 30 per plane-load. I was a copilot with Capt. Reid for both the certification proving runs and daily revenue ops. We had a steward, a Japanese citizen named Hiroshi, who now works for Delta Airlines. Other captains were Cal Lohner, Chuck Grant, and Al Pennington. We flew year-round, often in icing and snow into the Canyon's 7000-ft airport. We experienced several engine failures and Kingman, AZ was our alternate airport in case of emergency. I still have a supercharger impeller that sucked in a loose bolt, nicking it up and causing an engine fire.
Capt. Reid died in a DC-3 crash in Africa about 1995 and is buried in Riverside Military cemetary in California. Capt. Lohner operates Air Cal out of Burbank. Capt. Pennington flies Piaggio Avantis out of Reno, after being laid off from American Trans Air. Capt. Grant is a retired captain with El Al, Japan Air Lines and Air America, who flies a Super Constellation out of Camarillo.
This is the aircraft referred to, though then it carried tailnumber N54542:
ERA Aviation of Alaska operated DC-3's N1944H & N1944M as ERA Classic Aviation.
UPDATE: THIS GOONEY BIRD STARTED A NEW CAREER AS NC33611 IN PAA LIVERY - SEE HERE