|With promises of scenic beauty and friendly people, the 'Missus' and me travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland in early June 2007.
In the planning stage I had contacted a few 'friendly people' to search out some propliners while I was there anyway...
We landed at Keflavik’s Intl'l Airport and the first expectations were fulfilled: it was raining.
After collecting our rental car, we headed out to the airport of Reykjavik in town and I spied over the fences for a stored DC-3. I gave myself little chance as it was supposed to be locked away in a hangar. As usual, my wife spotted it first, after many years being dragged to airports large and small she has a keen eye for propliners, esspecially taildraggers. DC-3 TF-ISB was partly hidden from sight but sitting outside hangar 3.
In spite of the drizzle, a photo was taken and we further circled the airport with hopes of a better sighting. It was not to be. It appeared in a sad state and wings and part sof the tail section have been removed.
A few other remains were sighted too: main section of the fuselage of TF-FTL (a Cessna 172 of the Icelandic Flight Academy) and a fuselage section bearing letters ‘AUT’ adorning a blue and red cheatline. Dan Willink helped to identify: "This is actually PA31P OY-AUT (31P-7400183), which crashed at REK 22Apr97; from the Net I gleaned that it crashlanded at the end of runway 14 (as translated by an Icelandic colleague, presumably means it could not stop in time)."
See also photo on Airliners.net by David Alfred Eliasson (24Aug07).
Sigurjón Valsson provided an eye-witness account of OY-AUT's demise:
We retreated to our hotel in town and did a reconnaissance of the main shopping street, which offers ample supply of restaurants and pubs.The next day we headed east and this time my target was a little more ambitious: somewhere near Skogar the remains of a Douglas C-117D (USN 17171) languishes on a volcanic beach...
|During some preliminary research, I had received directions of its approximate location (also referred to as Solheimasondur, meaning the sands of Solheimar; thanks Orri!), but on my own I was unable to find it.
I persevered, being sent from one person to another and finally found someone who was willing and able to be chartered to drive us in his Nissan Patrol 4x4 to the beach.
The places I take my wife to!
|Benedict, our driver and guide, told me some interesting details. The reason of this crash was it ran out of fuel after getting lost in foul weather; except after the crashlanding on the beach the crew found that they merely had switched from the wrong fueltank… A local farmer was found to solve this and Benedict’s father-in-law drove on free gas for over a year!
Benedict can be contacted through his website: www.snow.is
Soon after the crash the C-117D was towed to higher ground and a recovery operation was started. Sofar the crash had been without serious injuries, but Benedict told about a helicopter involved in the recovery, which crashed. And this time loss of life was to be mourned. This quickly ended the salvage attempts.
My records show the date of the emergency landing as 24Nov73.
Titles 'United States Navy' can still be read and the obvious bullet holes have nothing to do with the emergency landing!
One hundred Douglas C-47s were converted for the US Navy to Douglas R4D-8; those that survived were redesignated C-117D in 1962.
History of C-117D c/n 43309: rebuild from c/n 12554, tailnumber 17171 US Navy designated R4D-8 (31Jan52), operated by VR-31 F&M Norfolk (09Feb52), H&MS-25 El Toro (09Jul54), H&HS MAW-1 Pohang (16Aug54), MARS-17 Iwakuni,Japan (01Jul56), H&MS-32 Cherry Point (25Oct57), ForAvaHQGru Cherry Point (17Feb58), H&MS-26 New River Jacksonville (30Jun58), MWSG-27 Cherry Point (14oct58), H&MS-11 Atsugi,Japan (18Oct60), redesignated C-117D 18Sep62, MARS-17 Iwakuni,Japan (25Sep63), Norls (31Aug66), Mildenhall,UK (06Mar67), Sigonella,Italy (09Nov72), DAO Monrovia (19Jan73), and Keflavik (26May73). [Not listed Dec73].
The aircraft sits on private property and the owner allowed someone, about 15-odd years ago, to salvage the tail section. this was used to complete a DC-3 in use as a summerhouse.
You can find it here: 63°27'34.3"N 19°21'52.6"W, it´s between Skógar and Vík í Mýrdal.
The Iceland Monitor published on 15Mar2016: Access to Sólheimasandur US Navy plane wreck barred:
| There remains a lot of attention, and discussion, on the C-117 wreck on
Sólheimasandur, Iceland. When I visited the location it was virtually unknown and I had to request the help and transport of a guide to get me there. These days there seems so many people visiting, some with little respect and local landowners put a fence around it.
Þórir Kjartansson posted a photo on 'Iceland, The Photographer's Paradise' (01Apr2016) to show how it looked soon after it ditched on the beach.
Eliot Stein wrote quite a story on War is Boring (published may 2016)
And here is one I picked from Facebook in June2016, without info on the photographer or exact date.
The Douglas C-117D has been used as a filmprop recently, something having to do with a Russian plane crash...?
Would welcome the details of the film it featured in! EMAIL (pls include url of this page)
|And there it is!
After having enjoyed a restful night at the intimate and luxurious Skogar Hotel, we drove east in search of yet another DC-3.
The weather steadily improved and began to offer occasional sunshine.
Höfn is located over 350 kms from Reykjavik and I hesitated a little bit when at a gas station in Höfn I was told, while adding that ominous remark "if it is still there", I needed to go back a few kilometres. Also considering we still had a long drive ahead of us, to our final destination that day. Iceland is a big country!
But my hesitation lasted a mere second and violating the 90 km/hr speedlimit (not for the last time, I am ashamed to admit), I speeded to Hoffell.
I left my card at the door, seeing no one was home. Hopefully the owner will contact me for more details.
Bob Boscarelli wrote me in June 2010:
wrote me in July 2007:
"I am a regular visitor to your website and saw your pages about your visit to Iceland and especially the DC3 summer cottage.
We have been to Iceland in 2002 and while we were there I bought a magazine which covers a story about how this DC3 cottage came to be! I’ve attached the article and the cover of the magazine to this e-mail. Unfortunately it is in Icelandic but it has a lot of pictures in it so the general idea should be quite clear."
|We had departed Reykjavik in northerly direction and after visiting the famous 'Geysir' went back to the coast, driving in easterly direction.
We continued to be fascinated by the rapid changes in landscape here: we had been impressed by "The Great Geysir", glaciers of the Vatnajökull, the ice lagoon at Jökulsárlön, winding roads along the curving coastline and some adventurous driving on unpaved mountain roads when we headed inland for Egilsstadir.
After a night in Egilsstadir, we headed for Akureyri, the Capital of the North.
It is a fantastic experience to drive through this country.
|Akureyri has an air museum at the airport: Icelandic Aviation Museum. One cannot miss it, with a forward fuselage section of DC-6A (TF-IUB, c/n 44907) prominently on display outside. |
It found that the museum had erected a brand new building, though the old, much smaller museum is still in use. In fact, while most aircraft have been parked inside the new building, the builders were still very much at work.
The smaller facility has a lot of information on display on aviation history in Iceland. While most information is in Icelandic, seperate sheets provide information in English.
TF-IUB is a Douglas DC-6A, c/n 44907 and linenumber 676.
Sigurjón Valsson has this on the geardoors:
More on Airliners.net
|Gliders seem to play a considerable role in Icelandic aviation, so a few are on display here in the museum.
ZS-GUG/N6062M (the white one) seems a long way from home. Peter Layne of New Zealand wrote: "The glider ZS-GUG is a Grob 103 TWIN III-SL, with a previous identity of HB-2242, which explains its Swiss flag on the tail. According to http://pascal.brugier.free.fr/registre/txt/hb-aaa.txt it was previously D-KHEG(2), c/n 35011."
The green glider on the wall only had 'SBA' markings and TF-KFX is a Denney Kitfox according to the Icelandic Aircraft Register
I have no details of the airframe in restoration.
|Many familiar types adorn the walls in picture frames; below is the Noorduyn Norseman TF-ISV framed on the wall of which Joe Baugher's website offers the following: 43-5136 (c/n 127), by 1954 was on Iceland civil registry as TF-ISV "Dynfaxi" of Flugfelag Islands H. F.
More modern history is represented y display on Air Atlanta and its founder, Arngrímur Jóhannsson.
Our host was most willing to show the various items on display. Unfortunately, I saw no sign of any books detailing aviation history in Iceland .
On June 3rd, the 70th anniversary of Icelandair was celebrated. The company's history, from its founding here at Akureyri as Flugfélag Akureyrar, is well documented in this museum.
Maybe Icelandair will celebrate this anniversary with a book, detailing its history?
Much can be learned from the museum's website: www.flugsafn.is
As one can see on this photo of Beech C-45 TF-JFA (c/n AF-602), building materials are still very much present.
Asgeir Sigurdsson writes the following on Airliners.net: "This old bird was manufactured in 1953 and registered in Iceland on 09Sep1968. Previous registrations are 52-10672, TF-JME and TF-JMP. It got the current registration in 1998."
More photos of TF-JFA on Airliners.net and I would welcome more information about its history.
|At first I was unable to find more information about this stunning Stinson Reliant sjóflugvél TF-AZX, such as its construction number (c/n) and its part in Icelandic aviation history.
But Sigurgeir Orri Sigurgeirsson came to the rescue and provided the following:
The Stinson Reliant is the same type of plane that was the first plane of Loftleidir Icelandic and came to Iceland in december of 1943.
The founders of Loftleidir, Alfred Elíasson, Sigurdur Ólafsson and Kristinn Olsen bought the plane in Canada and started Loftleidir with that single plane in 1944. The first Stinson had the same registration marks: TF-AZX, but it crash landed on the lake Miklavatn in late summer of 1944.
It was a sjoflugvel, i.e. it was able to land on water, a seaplane. They intended to have the plane fixed and mounted it on a truck heading for Reykjavik, but on the way it was swept off the truck by a low hanging powerline! So the plane was totally destroyed...
Here are some photos of that plane; see below. On one picture you can see, next to the lady (on the right), at least two of the founders of Loftleidir: Kristinn Olsen and Alfred Eláasson. The third, Sigurdur Ólafsson, might be beside them, but I am not sure. This photo was taken when the first flight with passengers, a commercial flight, was about to take off from Reykjavik to Isafjordur in West Iceland, 1944.
The other photo is most likely taken at Miklavatn in North Iceland. They operated flights from there, searching for herring.
The third photo is taken in front of the Stinson, in the early 1990s most likely. From left to right is Dagfinnur Stefánsson, pilot and boardmember of Loftleidir, Kristinn Olsen, pilot and founder of Loftleidir, and Johannes Markusson, Loftleidir pilot.
Sigurjón Valsson provided interesting information on this Stinson too:
Here are photos taken at the museum in 2005, by David Alfred Eliasson, published on MyAviation
TF-JMH is a Piper PA-23-150 Apache and airworthy.
|I am sorry to say I somewhat lacked the patience to read things in detail inside the museum, as I was anticipating the arrival of Mr. Hallgrímur Jónsson. Mr Jónsson is a recently retired Icelandair check captain / instructor (as well as Icelandair's Chief Pilot) and now works for the Icelandic CAA. |
And he also flies TF-NPK!
In fact he showed me his Icelandair calling card, which stated instructor/ examiner for aircraft types: 767 / 757 / 737 / DC-3. Quite unique I would say.
He had business to do at the airport, taking an exam in Piper PA-23 Apache TF-JMH, but delayed this while he showed me TF-NPK. I felt being treated like a VIP !
|While this DC-3 is flown by the Icelandic DC-3 Friends, it is still owned by the Government of Iceland. It remains in the configuration of its previous occupation: sprayer of fertilizer for the Soil Conservation Service, fighting the rampant surface erosion on this island. That is why we had to climb a steep ladder and enter the forward section by the small cockpitdoor, a first for me.|
|Hallgrímur told me many interesting facts of historic interest; such as the fact that in its entire career it always remained in Icelandic ownership. It was delivered to US Air Force in Keflavík as VIP-transport during WW2, in 1946 it was bought by Flugfélag Íslands (one of two company Icelandair is formed of) and in 1973 Flugfélag Íslands gave the plane to the Soil Conservation Service, which changed the airliner to a sprayer plane.
Hallgrímur also noted that during the 1960s he had flown this very DC-3 (TF-ISH) on the Reykjavik – Glasgow route, something he repeated 40-odd years later when in 2005 he was part of the crew participating with TF-NPK in the Flying Legends Air Show at Duxford, which was followed by a Glasgow – Copenhagen - Torp (Sandefjord Norge) - Stavanger - Reykjavik flight, commemorating the 60th anniversary of overseas flights by Icelandair; the very first flight had been operated by a PBY Canso.
The history of c/n 13861 in finer detail:
Pétur P. Johnson wrote me in Jan.2008:
The history of Icelandair can be read on Wikipedia or on the Icelandair website.
I felt honoured to be on board this fine looking vintage Douglas DC-3 in the year that Icelandair was celebrating its 70th anniversary since its founding as Flugfélag Akureyrar, here in that very same town...
Niel Helmø Larsen wrote: "Did you know the five Nordic countries operate six DC-3's: one in each country and two in Sweden?
Vidir Gislason added the following: "Tony Jonsson captained this very DC-3, as TF-ISH, for hundreds of hours in his 20 years career for Flugfelag Islands..."
TF-NPK flying... video on YouTube
|June 7th, before leaving Akureyri for Reykjavik completing the circle drive by Highway 1 through western parts of Iceland, I had a quick look at the airport and found to my big surprise an Antonov An-12 unloading some cargo, which later turned out to be a glider (registered D-2937, reregistered TF-ABS). |
UN-11012 operates in an inconspicuous all white livery, devoid of any titles or markings.
My request to access the ramp was met with the proverbial Icelandic friendliness: after adorning a safety vest I was escorted onto the ramp and allowed to photograph the unloading of a glider. It seems these An-12s started coming here this summer, operating a frequency of 3 times a week, often carrying general cargo inbound and fish outbound. But a series of flights were also undertaken from here to Greenland, hauling mining equipment. There seems to be no restriction on the global use of these An-12 workhorses.
|My wife had witnessed my antics on the ramp, but her keen eye had also noticed one of the crewmembers wearing an Air Sofia vest. Would that have anything to do with the (temporary?) ban of Bulgarian An-12s in the EU, I wonder? On the ATDB online database I found UN-11012 had until recently been registered as LZ-SFR for Air Sofia, current operator being ATMA. In February 2007 Bulgaria had banned Air Sofia, Heli Air, Vega Airlines, Scorpion Air and Bright Aviation from operating to EU countries, to prevent all Bulgarian airlines being blacklisted by the EU.
Strange how politics can prevent an EU-registered company from operating aircraft within the EU, while a Kazakhstan-registered aircraft seems to have no such restrictions... Still, for me it was a pleasant surprise to see one here .
A look at the history of UN-11012 c/n 401801 as I have it:
Antonov An-12TB, previous identities CCCP-11345 Aeroflot, to Yakutia Airlines as RA-11345 (operated by Yakutsk AE in Aeroflot Polar colourscheme, no titles), to Avial Aviation Company as RA-11345, temporarily registered EK-12001 for Air Armenia, returned to Avial as RA-11345 on 09Jun04, to Air Sofia (no titles) as LZ-SFR in Dec04, to (2007?) for ATMA registered as UN-11012 (again no titles).
On our final day we awoke again to blue skies and a decision was easily made to have another look at the stored DC-3 at Reykjavik. With such fine weather I decided to attempt gaining ramp access and indeed was again met by much helpful friendliness. Soon I was being driven to the centre of the airport and able to photograph TF-ISB up close. This time I noticed the fuselage was desecrated by graffiti even!
I received confirmation that the fuselage was stored outside because of renovations in hangar 3.
The mucky appearance of TF-ISB is caused by a substance sprayed on to protect the aircraft from corrosion.
TF-ISB is in fact the only aircraft owned by the Icelandic DC-3 Friends.
The history of TF-ISB c/n 9860:
Pétur P. Johnson wrote me the following on TF-ISB in Jan.2008:
Here is a link to my Travelogue of this trip, enjoy the unique scenery!Sources:
DC-3 the First Seventy Years (Air-Britain 2006), Survivors (R.Blewitt, 2007), Aero Transport Data Bank www.aerotransport.org and personal files.
I am grateful for the kind help I received, during my preparations, from Svanbörn Sigurdsson, Sigurgeir Orri Sigurgeirsson, Sigurdur Benediktsson, Eggert Norddahl (Icelandic Aviation Historical Society), Niels Helmø Larsen and Ragnar J. Ragnarson.