With promises of scenic beauty and friendly people, the 'Missus' and me flew 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...
TF-ORA of Eagle Air
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.
C-47A TF-ISB (c/n 9860) - Icelandic Friends of the DC-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 parts of 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.
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!
One hundred Douglas C-47s were converted for the US Navy to Douglas R4D-8; those that survived were redesignated C-117D in 1962.
| 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 June 2016, without info on the photographer or exact date.
2018: Phil Brooks forwarded me (04Sep2018) a photo by Eric Teoh, sent to him by the photographer.
After having enjoyed a restful night at the intimate and luxurious Skogar Hotel, we drove east in search of yet another DC-3.
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.
|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.
|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.
|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:
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).
|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!
Here is a link to my Travelogue of this trip, enjoy the unique scenery!
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.