Nassau DC-3's... submerged!

Diving photos: © Mark Knaus

 

Niels Helmø Larsen drew my attention to some interesting photos on Flickr.com, photos made by Mark Knaus.
Niels knew my appetite for mystery planes and by posting these photos we hope someone may reveal the identity (identities?) of these aircraft.
Photos published with permission by Mark Knaus; they had been published on Flickr.com, but anno Jan.2011 these were no longer available there.

DC-3 at Nassau

Mark wrote me:
"Glad you enjoyed the pix. The DC-3 and Shark pictures were taken in Nassau, The Bahamas about two weeks ago (August 2007). The Dive Operator was Stewart's Cove - www.stuartcove.com.
The DC-3 was actually intentionally sunk to film a James Bond movie (I forget which one). A recent hurricane broke apart the plane and scattered it about. You can probably find more info about the wreck on the Stewart's Cove website.
The highlight of the trip was definitely the shark feedings... The "feeders" actually wore chain mail and metal helmets, but the rest of us just had wet suits. The sharks were Caribbean Reef Sharks, and in general they don't bother you if you don't bother them. It was very intense though."

Strange visitors for this aircraft
Destroyed by forces of man and nature

Niels Helmø Larsen provided the following additional information:

Film ”Into The Blue”

"A 145-foot barge was used for the delicate task of sinking two of the DC3 airplanes used in the film down to the ocean floor. Production designer Maia Javan (House of Sand and Fog) and art director David Klassen (Waterworld) decided not only what the planes would look like underwater, but chose the most photogenic sites for underwater director of photography Peter Zuccarini (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl).
The production utilized three identical cargo planes for their needs. The "Sunshine" came from California, the "Jose" was found in Puerto Rico, and the "Kalik" was discovered right in Nassau standing at the entrance to the island's airport. One plane was lowered into a deep-water site at the edge of a reef for use in longer establishing shots. Another was placed at a shallow water site for closer work. The third was dropped into a huge converted molasses tank and used extensively for close-ups and interior shots."
From: http://www.cinemareview.com/production.asp?prodid=3121

Myth busters at work: no James Bond movie... but a 2005 movie with Scott Caan, Paul Walker and a rather delectable Jessica Alba
DC-3 used in Into the Blue; IMDBJessica Alba, IMDB

The "Sunshine"-named DC-3: would that be a former Air Sunshine DC-3? See Jim Reed's photos here.
I noticed Bob Garrard had a photo of Air Sunshine DC-3 (N75KW) on Airliners.net, where he offered the following information: "Written off Sep 12, 1980 when it plunged into the sea while on approach to Freeport, Grand Bahamas." A logical candidate I would assume, except that above text seems to indicate aircraft were deliberately placed, not making use of aircraft available on location. I would also assume an aircraft submerged for some 25 years would look less clean, show all kind of underwater growth.

The "Kalik"-named aircraft: could this be N200TA (c/n 19998?); this identity has been reported (but never 100% fully confirmed afaik) for the DC-3 used as a welcoming Gate Guard (see) at the Nassau airport. I have read a report insisting N200TA and this DC-3 were 2 different aircraft. See N200TA in 1975.

The "Jose"-named aircraft I have been unable to trace as yet; Martin Pole writes in his update further below: "... this should be N68363 c/n 20238  (registered as N786T //FAA Register entry 28 June 2009 but was never carried, derelict as N68363).

One has to consider the fact that quite a number of DC-3s/C-47s have been last seen here but their fate remain obscure:
HI-463 (9635), last reported here 1988.
N22KN (14738/26183) was scrapped here sometime after 1990, but to what extend?
N55KN (4936), reported derelict at Nassau in 1993 and parted out
VP-BBN (16411/33159), destroyed here but again: to what extend?
N7709 (12093), last noted derelict at Nassau, fate?

Martin Pole offered the following information & links (a DC-3 tailsection being carted off in 2004 for use of the film):
Stuart Cove's site once showed an image of a DC-3 about to be lowered into the water (I could only see this image in the Japanese language section, via google), the image was too small to read the registration (although it may have already been blanked).
Also see-
www.airliners.net/open.file/0499673/M/
www.airliners.net/open.file/0499672/M/

Martin's update (30Jun11):
'N68363 c/n 20238 (registered as N786T, derelict as N68363) removed from Puerto Rico (fuselage loaded onto a flat bed trailer) 10Nov03, sunk off Bahamas 14Jan04.'


In a follow up Martin wrote me the following:
"I did save the image that was previously on the Stuart Cove website:

The 'Welcome gate guard' DC-3/C-47 had a few features that added together would ease I.D. if compared with the image of a suitable candidate ((although I realize some bits could be have been swapped around):
type of nose cone
type/position of RDF antenna
doors - has a C-47 side door with a mall square airliner type luggage door to the rear of it
cockpit glazing type
tail mounted beacon is of the broader type...
I have so far ruled out every image I have seen so far..!"

"Also this was another lead:
Bahamas news - Bahamian news portal:
www.bahamasb2b.com/news - Headline News -Shock As Movie Makers Sink Plane By Coral Reef - January 27, 2004 - 09:54
Movie makers are apparently causing potentially irreplaceable damage to a coral reef off New Providence, environmentalists claimed yesterday.
Government advisers, environmental campaigners and scuba diving companies are "shocked" by the situation.
An old aircraft which was once parked outside the Nassau International Airport has been sunk by the film makers and one wing is resting on the reef.
The Douglas DC-3, which used to welcome travellers to the airport, has been acquired by the makers of the movie "Into The Blue", currently being filmed in New Povidence.
Earlier this month it was sunk off the south west coast of the island to form part of the movies underwater set.
It's not unknown in the Bahamas for planes and boats to be sunk for filming, or as attractions for divers but in this case, one of the plane's 36-foot wings is resting on top of a coral reef.
Source: Robert Bain, The Tribune
--------------------------------
I hope that helps, as more on line images will now be available..?"

In Sep.2007 following message from the diving club was sent to me:
"The James Bond wrecks are made up of two separate movie props.
In the 1960's the movie Thunderball was filmed. A movie set of a fighter plane that could lift straight up into the sky was placed in 40 feet of water. It was made of canvas and pipe. The canvas has long since disappeared, but soft and hard corals have completely covered the pipe.
In the 1980's the movie Never Say Never was filmed. For this movie a 90 foot long boat was placed about 40 feet south of the Thunderball set, in the same sand hole."
Pamela

Jacques Boulogne of http://aviation-antilles.blogspot.com/ sent me the following link, with images of the submerging taking place:
http://picasaweb.google.com/DietrichMasters/IntoTheBlueBahamasWork#

 

Martin Pole posted in Jan.2011 an update of his research:
"Since visiting the Bahamas in August 1998 I have been trying to identify the DC-3/C-47 used as a welcoming sign gate guard at the entrance to Nassau Airport. The fuselage was titled 'Welcome To The Islands Of The Bahamas' and a logo on the tail fin and rudder that read "it's hip to hop to the Bahamas". The wings, engine cowlings and lower fuselage were painted dark blue, the upper fuselage, nosecone, tail fin & rudder were white. A thin light blue cheat line ran the length of the fuselage. This smart looking DC-3 was probably purpose painted.

Despite not having had any prior knowledge of this airframe (not mentioned in my well thumbed accompanying copy of Survivors 97). I couldn't obtain any answers from the airport, as the day I choose to take photographs unfortunately coincided with the airport manager's day off (although his staff were helpful).
I was sure that this would be well documented somewhere back home - Wrong!

This DC-3/C-47 had combined features that made it distinctive, I would be able recognize it again instantly! I started by eliminating all the derelict and withdrawn from use airframes that had been reported in the area, this also involving buying images blind from negative lists.

Six years & thousands of images later, I couldn't believe how this airframe had been so camera shy! A major setback occurred in 2004 when this DC-3 was dismantled and removed for use by film makers, and worse still: underwater. Any hopes of inspecting the plates were now gone.
Three DC-3/C-47 airframes were used in the film and submerged; the film was called 'Into The Blue'. They were apparently given names "Sunshine" " Jose" and the former welcome sign being named "Kalik"

Ruud Leeuw wrote in 2007 (top of this page):  'The 'Jose'-named aircraft I have been unable to trace as yet'
The ID for this should be N68363 c/n 20238  (registered as N786T //FAA Register entry 28 June 2009 but was never carried\\ - derelict as N68363)
.

The breakthrough came after twelve years! 
I obtained an image taken by the late Mark Twigg at New Tamiami, in June 1984, showing a starboard side view of  N4683U ....a match at last !

Using the FAA Registry, and serial quoted, gave me c/n 10111.
A bit of searching lead me to the Aeroflight web site, this gave c/n 10111 as Panamanian Air Force 201 delivered 17Jan1969,  sold in Feb.1984 (fitting in well with the image taken in June 1984); Aeroflight quoted the following as references:-  Central American and Caribbean Air Forces (Daniel Hagedorn)  & Latin-American Military Aviation (John Andrade).

My next task was to obtain an image of FAP 201, preferably one taken from the port side to hopefully match more identifying features.  A major distinguishing feature of the Nassau DC-3 was a low level luggage door aft of the large cargo-loading doors.
I obtained two slides of FAP 201 (one with later revised markings and serial presentation).  The features of 201 in both images matched the Nassau machine and clearly showed the luggage door. 

Referring back to my own images taken at Nassau, I now noticed some red paint showing through on the top of the rudder, this would be where the red paint of the Panamanian flag would have been.

The Air Britain publication DC-1, DC-2, DC-3 The First Seventy Years gives the history of c/n 10111 and suggests  that it may have gone to the Panamanian Air Force.  However this book along with other publications and databases call this into doubt  by giving the subsequent registration of N4683U as c/n 10131, can anyone explain why?  HP-1178CTH also comes into play although this registration was probably bogus!

I would welcome any further information regarding the  c/n's 10111/10131.
Does anyone remember why the FAA official identity for N4683U was called into doubt? 
Speculation: was the luggage door a feature of its previous airline life in Venezuela , and  therefore  the c/n  is 10111 ?  

Concluding fact; FAP-201, N4683U, The Nassau Airport Welcoming Sign Gate Guard are all the same airframe.

Obviously my main objective was to Identify the Nassau 'Gate Guard', however I just happened upon the I.D. for "Jose" during the vast elimination process. This brings me on to "Sunshine" I believe this to be the airframe in the attached image (I saved the set of images - just as well as your link is now dead).
The nose has an interesting bump aft of the radome (I believe it's on both sides) they look a bit like navigation lights? They do seem to be lights and it seems to be a TC-47 thing! See:
www.airliners.net/photo/1538767/L/
www.airliners.net/photo/1131172/L/
www.airliners.net/photo/1123187/L/


It's a shame that the c/n is not clear cut, but at least we have some of her history for now.

 
In april / may 2017 I did some more 'online mining' for images...
I was checking up on thee Bahamas submerged DC-3's as a result of seeing bits of the film 'Into the Blue' on telly again recently.
One thing led to another, including a 2012 update for the C-46 wreck that ditched in 1979 off the coast of San Andros... You'll find those pics on Photos by Friends & Guests (49).

Bahamas and other watery graves for propliners
https://hiveminer.com/Tags/bahamas,dc3

Bahamas and other watery graves for propliners
Screendump 01May2017

Bahamas and other watery graves for propliners
Website: http://scubadiverlife.com/dive-site-dc3-new-providence-nassau-bahamas/

No doubt these planes will get visitors, but I doubt if it will ever lead to facts about their identities.
Check out my theories HERE...

DC-3 submerged for 'film 'Into the Blue' at the Bahamas
Website: http://scubadiverlife.com/dive-site-dc3-new-providence-nassau-bahamas/

DC-3 submerged for 'film 'Into the Blue' at the Bahamas
From Pinterest

DC-3 submerged for 'film 'Into the Blue' at the Bahamas
Website: http://scubadiverlife.com/dive-site-dc3-new-providence-nassau-bahamas/

 

 

 

 

Any further info on the identity or information which could lead us further up the trail to identify these aircraft... would be much appreciated !

 

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