In 1992 I undertook a family trip to Florida; purpose of this week-long trip was mainly tourist stuff. Although I had also arranged a base-visit at NAS Key West, to photograph some militairy jets, I also encountered some vintage transports along the way. These sparked an interest, which continues to this day (which is Dec.2002).
While we had "sun and fun" on our minds, Hurricane Andrew had created a surreal atmosphere.|
Frankly, I don't recall what made me drive around Miami Int'l Airport, but I stumbled on an area full of vintage transports and in various conditions of "airworthiness". |
This Douglas workhorse is a DC-6A with tailnumber N89BL (c/n 45374, linenumber 887) of Bellomy Lawson's Aerial Transit. That name meant something in those days !
This DC-6A (c/n 45374/887) was delivered "in the good ol' days" as N90784 to American Airlines (which named it "Airfreighter Ft.Worth") on 24Oct57. World Airways bought it on 06Jun60, but leased it right away to Southern Air Transport, which again leased it that same date to Air America..... There is a CIA connection here ! Both companies operated for the Central Intelligence Agency, while also operating legal commercial flights. It was registered to another CIA company, Intermountain Aviation, in Apr67 as N61267.
Rich Int'l Airways bought it in Oct73; by then the CIA had closed down all the commercial airline companies (though companies like Southern Air Transport has forever been associated with "special government contracts"). Cayman Airways leased N61267 from 12Mar79 and returned it to Rich in Dec81. Aerial Transit Company purchased it in Oct87 and reregistered it to the famous "BL" tailnumber N89BL in Dec87. When Aerial Transit ceased ops in 1995, this "Six" was abondoned at San Juan's Isla Grande (Puerto Rico) and to add injury to insult: it was damaged considerably by Hurricane George (1998). It was reported in a derelict state during 2000.
Fairchild C-123K "Provider" N681DG (c/n 20130) is seen here stored at Ft.Lauderdale-Hollywood Int'l on 17Oct92.
It's still painted as it was delivered to the US Air Force in the mid-1950s, though its tailnumber was 54-0681 then.|
During 1987 it entered the civilian registry as N681DG, but I have no records about who bought it at that time. For a while it's been registered to Amjet Aircraft Corp (Restoration), Anoka, just North of Minneapolis, MN. On 18Apr 2000 it was registered to Mojave Aviation Inc., which is based at Mojave Airport in California. Their website is www.mojojets.com (current Dec02) and they provide aircraft for the film industry.
In Vietnam these C-123s played a significant role in the doubtful operation "Ranch Hand", where they sprayed herbicides over the jungle of Vietnam (1961-1971).
The term "Operation Ranch Hand" was the military code name for spraying herbicides from U.S. Air Force aircraft in Southeast Asia from 1962 through 1971. Ranch Hand aircraft were Fairchild C-123s, medium transports with twin piston engines, which later had two jet engines added for extra thrust. The Ranch Hand detachment began with 6 planes, dropped to 2, and peaked at about 25 in 1969. During the peak spraying years between 1966 and 1970, it was known as the 12th Air Commando Squadron and the 12th Special Operations Squadron. In terms of personnel and aircraft, Ranch Hand was a relatively minor part of overall Air Force operations in Southeast Asia. Between 1962 and 1971, Ranch Hand sprayed about 19 million gallons of herbicide. Eleven million gallons of this total was Agent Orange. The spray fell mostly on the forests of South Vietnam, but some was used in Laos. |
Googling for "Ranch Hand Vietnam" provides some interesting reading; www.ranchhandvietnam.org seems to be deactivated though.
The Providers were bought by other countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines, Laos, Venezuela and Vietnam; most have several examples stored or dumped at airfields but probably none are operational. Thailand must have been the last country to have C-123s operational: 2 aircraft were still flying with the Royal Rain Making Flight at Bangkok, Don Muang RTAFB, during Jan98.
My webpage USA 1993, New Mexico & Arizona has more C-123 photos.
N700RC (msn 11628) also at Ft.Lauderdale, with "KWA"- titles.
Delivered as 42-68701 to the US Army Air Corps (later USAAF and USAF) on 27Feb43, it served at Oran (N.Africa) in 1943 and participated on D-day. It returned to the USA in August of 1945. It was handed over to the RFC-Reconstruction Finance Corporation as war surplus material. On 02Nov45 it was registered as NC86588 for Penn Central Airlines.
It joined Capital Airlines in April 1948 and moved on to Continental Airlines as ship "588". At some date it again changed hands, this time to Southern Airways and was subsequently reregistered as N87SA (in 1954). The registry was amended to N8701 for Carolina Aircraft Corporation on 13Oct67. It moved further south, to Florida, for Florida Air Taxi Inc. (1968)
In Sep75 it took up tailnumber N70ORC for Red Carpet Flying Service of Clearwater, FL (which changed to Red Carpet Airlines Inc.). It then moved to Key West Airlines of Boca Raton, FL (registered 30Jul80). It was registered to its last owner, Hill Air Co. of Ft.Lauderdale on 22Mar88 and it was probably their ramp that I took the above photograph. By January 2003, FAA's registry show it as cancelled due destroyed.
N600JD (msn 3291) is seen here with its props missing on its starboard engine and the windows "wallpapered"; the ramp at Ft.Lauderdale seems fitting for the circumstances these propliner operators have to work with.|
This pre-war DC-3A-228D was first registered on 03Sep 40 to Douglas Aircraft Corp as NC2830. On 10Jan41 it went to PAA Manufacturing. It went abroad to Venezuela as YV-AVP for Avensa (20May47), reregistered later as YV-C-AVP.
It went back to the US as N8014E for Piedmont Airlines in 1959. This did not last long, that same year it was reregistered as N213C for Chatham Manufacturing Co of Elkin, NC (20Oct59).
After a long while, June 1972, the records were amended for a new owner: Degayner Co Inc of Cable. WI.
The 1970s found this DC-3 restless: K and S Leasing Inc, Milwaukee, WI became owners in Jul73 and reregisteed it as N600JD on Dec73. Central Wisconsin Aviation leased it in 1974 and returned it in 1975. K&S sold it to IFG Leasing in 1977.
Aero Transit Airlines became the new operator in Nov78, but the next year it moved to First Farwest Corp of Portland, OR (Jun79). A few months later, Nov79, it's back on the Eastcoast, in Florida, for Roberson Air of Miami. I don't know if these changes were leases or purchases.
But life goes on for this DC-3A: it was bought by an undisclosed party in Apr80 and leased by Air Texana of Beaumont-Port Arthur in Texas (Feb81) and subsequently reregistered to Southwest Equipair Inc,Beaumont, TX on 27Feb81.
The next year one J.R.Hughes of Beaumont, TX was registered as the owner (Feb82), but only for a short while as N600JD was sold to Thomas Barron Aviation Inc of Dallas, TX (17Sep82).
The next year, in Feb83, it was registered to Air Adventures Inc, Weslaco TX. Sofar the 1980s had been as restless as the 1970s...
N600JD moved on to Janice L. Dent of Plantation, FL, who bought it in Dec86. Air Adventures DG Inc of Oakland Pk, FL bought it in Mar87. But then Janice Dent took ownership again in Feb88 and then.... it went back to Air Adventures DG Inc of Dania, FL again (05Jul88). |
What went on here ?!
Well, X-Ray Engineering Corp, Deltona (FL) bought it on 01Jul92 and registered it as N600NA in 1993. It was registered 07Aug97 to M.C. Flyers of Daytona Beach,FL and by April 2003 I was informed that, after five and a half years of restoration (with a brandnew set of ailerons and tailsection, hand sewn by a craftsman) the aircraft was approved by the FAA for training, air shows and static displays.
Congratulations to the owners George and Lauren McCallman are in order for their perseverence in getting this beauty back in the air !
(Cabin photo credit: M.C.Flyers).
UPDATE Feb.2017: N600NA was cancelled from the FAA's Registry on 16Nov2016 as 'exported to Russia Federation'. There is a Russian owner who is trying to collect all types of airplanes which were involved in the Lend-Lease Program. During work a lot of corrosion was found and deemed unsafe for a long flight, hence N600NA was observed at New Smyrna,FL on 26Jan2017 being dismantled for shipment as freight...
C-117 N99857 at Ft.Lauderdale on 17Oct92. It has NAVSTA Midway titles and is painted in United States Navy colourscheme. This aircraft was part of a batch of 3.378 C-47s which were allocated incorrect manufacturer's serial numbers, due to an error by Douglas; the correction now shows 2 construction numbers: 16619/33367. It gets more complicated considering this airframe was rebuilt to a C-117D with a new msn....
When I took this photo, in 1992, the restoration by Charles Clements was still very much in progress. He had it repainted in the US Navy colourscheme of its final military days. He uses it for personal use and is a regular visitor of the Oshkosh fly-in.
Delivered as an 'ordinary' C-47B on 31May45 as 44-77035, it was handed over to the US Navy as 99857, designated R4D-7. After conversion to R4D-8 it was issued manufacturer's serial number (c/n) 43332 and US Navy serial 99857. In 1962 it was again redesignated: TC-117D. Service life ended in Apr77 when it was stored in the desert of Arizona, at Davis Monthan "boneyard". The storage lasted until May83 at least.
N99857 was registered N27TN and flown to Alaska in 2009; Terry Fletcher sent me a photo, taken in June 2010 at Wasilla, see Photos by Friends & Guests (27).
N99857 and the Black Catalina N287 are both owned by Charles Clements
After all the stored propliners I had seen, I was glad to come across this beautiful Convair CV440 N912AL (cn353) at Ft.Lauderdale, eventhough it is painted rather plainly, without any titles. |
CV440 N912AL (c/n 353) was used at an off-airport location, as part of Restaurant Los Aviones, at Barranquitas on Puerto Rico. They also had DC-3C N781T and C-47B N780T there. Unfortunately hurricane Irma in Sep.2017 caused so much damage that the restaurant closed.
DC-6A XA-RIK (msn 44600/507) "Maya Carga" was photographed at Tamiami on 21Oct92
History for this Douglas "Six": delivered to US Air Force as 53-3229 on 24Sep54. It was converted to a vip-transport for the US Navy (see below) and designated a VC-118A in 1964. It entered the civilian registry as N201GB for the US Dept of Agriculture, a transfer that took place on 19Aug75. It went commercial with Rich Int'l Airways (tailnumber N4989V in Dec78. For its commercial career it was converted to a DC-6A. Florida Aircraft Leasing Corp bought it on 26Sep84. The Guatamalan Federal Police seized it in Nov85. It was noted as impounded at Merida, Mexico in 1987. It even received a Mexican registration: XB-EFX for Pescamex, which bough it in Feb88. It was reregistered as XA-RIK for Maya Carga, who bought it in Dec89. It found its way to New Tamiami in Florida (near Miami) for storage and Starflite Corp bought it in May91, but didn't do much with it. Maybe the damage by Hurricane Andrew spoiled things, it was reported as still stored (in derelict condition) at New Tamiami in Dec96 with some last remains of the fuselage lying around in Apr97.
Thomas G. Allison (SMSGT USAF/RET) of White Plains,MD wrote me in Mar07:
"After the aircraft left Douglas it was sent to Long Beach, CA. for the interior installation, to become the second VC-118A.
It was subsequently delivered to the USAF as VC-118A 53-3229, on 24Sept54, and assigned to the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff (Adm. Radford, Chairman from 1953 to 1957). It remained on assignment to the office until release in 1974.
It was followed by 53-3240, the third VC-118A.
(When I arrived at Andrews AFB in 1964 46-0505 was already there; it was known as the "Independence" and assigned to the White House for President Harry S. Truman. It is currently on display at the Wright-Patterson AFB museum and this would be the first VC-118A).
The interior was designed to haul no more than 20 passengers with sleeping room for 10 people. Upon leaving Long Beach it went to Washington Nat'l Airport, assigned to the 1254th MAW, to the office of Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff. The 1254th transferred to Andrews AFB, where it became the 89th MAW. 53-3229 was never assigned to the U S Navy. The only connection with the Navy was when Adm. Thomas Moorer became the Chairman in 1970.
I was assigned as the Flight Mechanic on this aircraft from 1964 to 1974; during that time frame I dropped only one leg of a mission giving it a 99.99% in commission rate for 10 years! I have my old A F Form 5 to prove this statement that I was there.
The aircraft was released from assignment in 1974 when AF Gen. George Brown became the Chairman. It went to the 1st Composite Wing at Andrews AFB; then to the Dept. of Agriculture (operating out of Phoenix, AZ).
53-3240 was assigned to the White House during the Kennedy and Johnson Administration. I flew backup on missions to Texas with 53-3240 when Johnson went to Texas.
As far as the VC- designation goes, 53-3229 and 53-3240 in the tech. manuals, they are the only aircraft in this category, All other aircraft were re-configured by the Commands to which they were assigned. 53-3240 now resides in the Yuma,AZ Museum.
Thank you for helping me find my old friend!"
Two Boeing Stratofreighters of Agro Air stored at Miami: KC-97L N8540D (16984, former USAF 53-0202) and KC-97L HI-468CA (17026, former USAF 53-0244)
Agro Air of Santo Domingo was responsible for a novelty: it replaced jet equipment by props ! In 1986 it replaced its noisy, fuel-guzzling jets with 3 KC-97Ls "Strats" ! They operated on routes between Miami, Caribbean- and South American destinations. The third was registered HI-473.
The tankerboom of these former USAF aerial refuellers have been removed.
I have, alas, no records of when these aircraft entered commercial service, but I do know these aircraft were scrapped in 1993 by BMI Inc.
In Feb.2006 I received a photo of HI-468 alive and well.
New Tamiami Airport, near Miami,FL … or what's left of it ! Hurricane Andrew was responsible for this massive destruction. Buildings, hangars, planes, trees…. All show signs of the immense forces of nature unleashed by this incredible storm, Florida took a terrible beating. This had happened only weeks before we visited Florida.
One can imagine there was a deathtoll to be paid: 15 directly contributed to the storm, in Dade County (the area Miami Int's Airport is situated in) alone; in total some 65 (directly & indirectly) plus some 26 billion US dollars in damages (in Florida & Louisiana).
Massive destruction everywhere ! Imagine the costs and what the once proud owners must have felt ! Note the "open" cockpit on the left….
Douglas DC-6B N1125J (msn 44888/645) was another victim of Hurricane Andrew. |
First delivery was to Alitalia as I-DIMU on 05Jan56. After 5 years of service, it remained in Italy for Societa Aerea Mediterranea on a lease, starting on 13Nov61.
Its days as a passenger transport were over when it was converted to DC-6A/B in Dec68 and it was registered as N4888R for Aaxico Sales, purchased in Aug72.
Troubled times were ahead and this vintage transport was found stored "without further use" at Miami (FL) in Sep78. The following year was a turbulent year in terms of ownership changes: Aircraft Airframe Inc bought it on 15Feb79 and a few months later passed it on to Indiasa Aviation Corp who reregistered it as N130AC on 21jun79. On 13Nov79 it was sold again, to Nancy E Mettrick...
I have a photo of Douglas DC-6B I-DIMU (c/n 44888) of Societa Aerea Mediterranea on my website, see Bill Hill's gallery.
Convair CV240/VT-29B N144GT (cn275) is seen here, at New Tamiami, with damage to the tail, probably caused by the hurricane; but there is more to it: the left outboard aileron is missing and the prop of the starboard engine has been feathered (storm precaution ?).|
This Convair started a long military career on 24Nov52, when it was delivered to the US Air Force as 51-5144. It was converted for various roles during its career: to JT-29B in nov55, to NT-29B in Mar62 and to VT-29B in Nov68.
Its military days were over when it was stored in Arizona's boneyard at Davis Monthan in Dec74.
It was entered in FAA's registry as N144GT for the Georgia Intitute of Technology; reports speak of buying in 1976 and registering it on 09jul80, depending on the publication. It was bought by Starflite Corporation on 14May91 only to be passed on to MBM Aircraft Leasing & Sales in Aug91. Miami Air Charter started a lease in Aug91, but Hurricane Andrew came along in 1992 and damaged beyond it beyond economic repair. My last report dates from 1993, but Rolf Larsson sent me a Oct.1995 photo: Photos by Friends & Guests (48).
Douglas C-117D N212DD at Opa Locka in Oct.1992.
Douglas C-47B N8099 (cn 15075/26520) has little future left, except as a supply for spare parts (it was still around, though, in 1999).
N212DD has construction number 43386 and was delivered to the US Navy with serial 50786. This "Super DC-3" was made out of the original C-47 c/n 26424. It served with VT-29 USN squadron with code "3C-17" (1963). It was transferred to the US Marine Corps in Oct74, but found itself stationed with the USN in Keflavik,Iceland in 1976. It changed its icy surroundings for those of the desert upon storage at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona; this lasted from May77 to Oct81. It was registered to Hawkins & Powers Aviation Inc of Greybull,WY as N2123Y on 17Jan83. This did not last long, as it was purchased by D&D Parts Inc and registered on 19Mar84, while reregistered as N212DD on 31Jan87.
My photo of Oct92 show it in a condition that maybe airworthy, but reports since then saw the condition rapidly declining. Most recent report was from Feb.2003, which described it as a wreck...
Opa Locka, near Miami (FL), is the most amazing place to find propliners ! They are parked rather randomly and in all stages of dilapidation... A few operators, like Florida Air Cargo, use these stored transports for spares when the need arises.|
N225GB started its service life with delivery to the US Army Air Force on 14May45, designated a TC-47B with serial 44-76919. It was transferred to the US Navy with serial 99842, redesignated a R4D-7. The Civil Aeronautics Administration leased it while using serial NC199, which was changed to NC300 on 30Nov45. A lot of identities in a short life span !
The CAA became the owner and reregistered it as N46; the CAA became the FAA in 1958. The US Dept. of Agriculture became the new owner on 02Feb75 and registered it as N87817; it worked on the Screwworm Eradication Program that year (I've never heard of a "screwworm" but maybe that's indicative for "a job well done"!).
There was another registration change in 1975: to N2003J. I have no records of an ownerchange by that date. The tailnumber was changed again the next year: N225GB. By Jan81 N225GB was registered to the Lee County Mosquito Control District at Ft.Myers (FL). In 1987 this Gooney Bird was purchased by Aero Specialists of Coolidge,AZ but N225GB probably never left Florida, as by Apr88 it was reported stored at Opa Locka minus the righthand engine. I came across N225GB once more at Opa Locka, in 1999, while only the fuselage remained.
CV580 N584PL (c/n 115) of Lincoln Airlines, stored at Opa Locka. I remember driving past this airport and was confronted with a congested ramp, full of stored Eastern Airlines aircraft. Among the airlines was this Convair CV580 and, though the eveninglight was all wrong and fading fast, I am glad I climbed on the car for a quick photo of this ConvairLiner. Lincoln Airlines had ceased operations in 1990.|
Could N584PL be a candidate for the mysterious Las Vegas Express See my Plane Mysteries
N231GB (c/n 26108/14663) of Monroe County Mosquito Control District, Key West,FL on 20Oct92.
This Gooney Bird was delivered as 43-48847 to the US Navy in 1944, reregistered as 50749 and redesignated a R4D-6. It operated thru the war with units like VR-3, VR-4, VR-5, was deployed to Pearl Harbor (1946), back at San Diego the next year and on the other US coast at Quonset Point in Oct46. It was registered shortly as N3455G, but this may never have been applied to the aircraft.
In 2009 it surface at the Heartland Air Museum, Jones Memorial Airport at Bristow,OK. See Gordon Reid's photos at Photos by Friends & Guests page 23.
UPDATE Dec.2018: N231GB served Monroe County Mosquito Control for about 2 decades, as a mosquito sprayer.
History of N231GB from 'DC-3 The First Seventy Years' (Air-Britain Historians, 2006).
UPDATE MAY 2020:
On my gallery for Ken Swartz's propliners there is a pictorial update of N231GB at Hemet Valley Airport in California in March 2020. Reg'd 24Apr2019 to Thomas M. Hanks of Carlsbad,CA.
On my Photos by Friends & Guests #62 N231GB in March 2021, 'Pacific Pearl' fitted out with a nice new livery by Joe Garcia and crew at Flabob Airport.
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Piston Engine Airliner Production List by A.B.Eastwood & J.Roach (TAHS, 2002)
Douglas DC-3 by J.M.G. Gradidge (Air-Britain, 1984)
Convairliners by J.M. Gradidge (in coop with John M.Davies, Douglas D.Olson, Dr.John A.Whittle) Air-Britain 1997.
The "C"-planes, US Cargo Aircraft 1925-present by Bill Holder & Scott Vadnais (Schiffer, 1996)
Propliner Renaissance, by Graham Robson (Airlife Publishing, 2002)
Various news items in Propliner magazine