Dakotas in the UK

Sometimes you 'find' those DC-3/C-47s stored or abondoned, in derelict state, but there always seems to be another life for them, with the right attention (and funding).

Photos © R.Leeuw

This C-47A Skytrain was delivered to the USAAF in 1943 as 42-23936 (cn9798) and did service in Oran, N.Africa with the 8th AF. In 1946 it found itself in Czechoslovakia and flew with CSA as OK-WDU (1947). It joined forces with the French Aeronavale in 1958 as 23936. Bought by Stellair (F-GEOM) in 1983 it started its commercial career as a freighter. It was registered to South Coast Airlines in 1994 and since then has been used to fly passengers on scenic flights as G-DAKK. When I visited Bournemouth-Hurn in the summer of 2000, I had a chance to take some pictures and look at the interior. There was no indication offered that it would change owners next november.
During 2006 it found its way to the Netherlands, see G-DAKK at the Aviodrome.

During 2013 Rob de Man, of ClassicWings.nl, acquired G-DAKK. In november he had its paint stripped at Lelystad, and subsequently the fuselage and engines were transported to Weeze Airport (Germany) while the wings and parts of the tail assembly were taken to Teuge airport (Netherlands), home of Classic Wings.

G-DAKK Lelystad nov.2013
G-DAKK, partly disassembled at Lelystad for transport & restoration.
Photo by Rob de Man, shared on his Facebook page.

UPDATE 07Dec2017: 'New arrivals: flight C47 from Weeze Airport has landed... Welcome in Overloon!'
Restoration will continue here, on site at the Overloon's War Museum: www.oorlogsmuseum.nl
When visiting the museum one can see the progress made.

G-DAKK at Overloon's war museum
Notice the South Coast-titles reappearing!

In Dec.2017 I visited the Overloon War Museum and have the following photos to share:
G-DAKK at Overloon War Museum
Rob de Man gave up on this immense restoration project and handed it to 'Oorlogmuseum Overloon'.

G-DAKK at Overloon War Museum

G-DAKK at Overloon War Museum

G-DAKK at Overloon War Museum



G-AMPO (cn16437/33185) went thru various hands before joining Air Atlantique. From the USAAF (44-76853) it went straight thru in 1945 to the RAF as KN566. G-AMPO was first designated in 1952. In rapid succession it was used by Starways LTD (1953), Eagle Aircraft Services (1954), First Air Trading (1954), back to Eagle Acft Svcs (1955) and Starways (1956), Aviation Overhauls (1963), British Westpoint Airlines (1964) and then it went abroad to Polaris Air Transport as LN-RTO (1964). But in 1969 it was reregistered
G-AMPO for Field Aircraft Services. That same year it went to British Aircraft Corporation. During the early-1970s it was used by Macedonian Securities and Macedonian Aviation before it returned to Albion and was registered to McDonald Aviation (1975).
Then there was Intra Airways in 1975 and Vistair Flight in 1978. Eastern Airways started operating it from 1978 and all this moving about came to an end when it was registered to Air Atlantique in 1981. This photo was taken in july 1997 and although the lack of wings on G-AMPO did not worry me a bit, I feared that this time the days of DC-3s, even with Air Atlantique, are numbered....
And indeed, G-AMPO was placed as a gateguard at RAF Lyneham in Sep01, repainted and marked 'FZ625'


On 02Feb2019 Roger Byron-Collins wrote me with the following:

"I was intrigued, indeed fascinated, to read all he information on your site regarding the airline I formed at the age of 25, namely Macedonian Aviation at Southend Airport where I based my airline in 1972, until I sold out my shares to Mr Ralph Goldstraw in the summer of 1974. You asked for comments or input so I trust this missive and photos help.

I have further information that you may or indeed may not find helpful about the background and the establishment of Macedonian Aviation.
Firstly you may be interested to know why it was named Macedonian and the answer is a simple one.
It was established as a subsidiary of a residential property company that I formed in 1969 called Macedonian Securities based in Capital House Craven Road Paddington. Another company I had previously formed was called Phoenician Securities and was fund by the Bank of the Lebanon and the Middle East hence the name 'Phoenician'(Lebanon). I sold my shareholding in 1972 in Phoenician and required another company identity and thought of another ancient tribe north of Lebanon namely Macedonian (Alexander the Great) - as simple as that!

For background: I was born into aviation life as my father was RAF aircrew with 40 years service and I lived in RAF married quarters through my childhood years.
My career was focused on this military aviation background as I specialised in acquiring ex military housing leading to my direct involvement in aviation.
After leaving Bomber/Strike command my father flew Devons(Doves) and Pembrokes and one of his last postings was RAF Notholt when he regularly flew Harold Wilson whilst he was Prime Minister. As a result I was most interested in former RAF Devons/Doves and DC3 Dakatos and here is some information about my history in this sector.

Whilst living with my parents at RAF Northolt I wished to obtain a PPL. When I was just 17 years old I started a course at nearby Denham airfield Uxbridge. I soon realised that it was only for professionals as I nearly had a nasty accident on landing.
However I continued my aviation interest and purchased my first Dove 6, G-APZU c/n 04511, at the ripe old age of 24, from Lulsgate Aviation Services of Bristol airport.
Initially I leased it to McAlpine Aviation at Luton and it was placed on their Air Operator's Certificate for ad hoc charter work. A couple of my earliest contracts were in the late autumn of 1972 when we ferried Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five on their UK tour followed by Donny Osmond and the Osmonds.
Shortly afterwards I was approached by Harry Chang, a pilot of the then recently collapsed 'troop carrier' airline, Lloyds International, who had available two contracts with Conoco and The Ford Motor Company.
The first was to move offshore oil rig workers around North Sea ports and the second to convey spare parts for the recently introduced Ford Capri between Dagenham and Dusseldorf.
With these contracts I secured a bank loan and formed Macedonian Aviation and immediately established our first base at Southend airport, making Harry Chang my Chief Pilot.
In 1972 I went before the Civil Aviation Committee to obtain our own AOC and the CAA chairman at the time was Lord Boyd-Carpenter. When the AOC was granted he passed comment that "Mr Collins at only 26 years of age must be one of the youngest persons in British aviation history to be awarded with an AOC".

Dove G-APZU was relocated to Southend and I then purchased the 'workhorse' of BAE Filton, a Dakota DC-3
G-AMPO cn 33186, in 30 seat configuration which was used to fly the engineers working on Concorde production between Bristol, Filton and Toulouse.
Dove G-APZU went into service for passenger charters from Luton and Southend in the October with several flights to Hamburg, Copenhagen and Oslo. G-AMPO was put through a pre-service check with Dan Air at Lasham and resprayed at Eagle Air Services at Leavesden, as was the Dove.
The Dakota crew underwent training with Dan Air at Lasham and it paid many visits to Gatwick and Southend during this period. However in September 1972 G-AMPO undertook a very eventful trip...
My business partner married an Indian diplomat's daughter at the Anglican Church in Beirut, Lebanon and a wedding party of 30 guests flew out on an MEA scheduled flight from Heathrow. The day after the wedding Palestinian terrorists murdered Israeli athletes at the Olympic games in Munich. The Israelis retaliated by attacking and besieging Beirut Airport which was closed and there were no scheduled flights to get the guests out of Lebanon!
I telephoned my pilot Harry Chang who said he would take the Dakota from Gatwick to extract the party.
Harry Chang knew Beirut airport well and advised the guests to remain on the beach by the airport which he would overfly and once he had landed to run to the aircraft and they could embark.
Some 12 hours later after refueling at Genoa and Brindisi, G-AMPO landed at Beirut airport escorted by Israeli military aircraft. The entire 30 wedding guests climbed over the perimeter fence and sprinted for the aircraft which did not shut down and it took off again within minutes for Nicosia Cyprus with the Israeli escort.
The wedding party and reception continued their celebrations at The Dome Hotel in Kyrenia (before the island was divided). The wedding guests returned to the UK with Cyprus Airways and the crew and I returned in the Dakota 2 days later to Gatwick via Genoa.

Later in September 1972, after completion of crew training G-AMPO returned to Southend to commence operations. On November 5th it took its first paying passengers to Amsterdam.
The Dove G-APZU finally arrived at Southend on November 24th. Over the winter season the Dove operated a multitude of charter fights to Belgium, France, Germany and Holland. Finally the Dove G-APZU was sold to Shackleton Aviation in February 1973.
By the spring 1973 G-AMPO was busy flying almost daily to Jersey, Ostend, Brussels and Saarbrucken.
On May 3rd 1973 it flew a service to Groningen - Bergen - Birmingham - Brussels - Southend. By the summer that year the Dakota was working flat out on regular flights between Coventry - Jersey, Birmingham - Cologne, Southend - Castle Donnington - Stornoway. It also undertook many flights for Intra Airways. In November and December it was flying to Brussels, Calais, Cologne, Coventry Exeter, Geneva, Glasgow, Lisbon, Malta, Marseilles, Newcastle and Saarbrucken. During these months it was carrying various car components for the Ford Motor Company and transferring gold bullion for the UK Treasury to and from Germany, Belgium and France.
In December 1973 Macedonian commenced oil rig support business for the first time and as a result the Dakota was then relocated to Aberdeen in connection with this contract.
With this massive increase in work load, Macedonian looked for more DC-3s to buy and in March 1974 they purchased from Jersey, British Island Airway's last 3 Dakotas.

The first 2 aircraft, G-AMHJ c/n 13468 and G-AMRA c/n 26735, arrived at Southend March 8th 1974.
They were in a convertible cargo/passenger configuration and were moved to Aberdeen on April 27th 1974 for transportation of crews and equipment to Sumburgh on the Shetland Islands.
Dakota G-AMPO arrived in Aberdeen also in April, but was moved back to Southend that spring for services to Amsterdam, Belfast, Gibraltar, Hamburg, Hurn, Heathrow, Le Havre, Lisbon, Ostend, Rotterdam, Saarbrucken and Teeside.
Then in September the third ex BIA DC-3, G-AMSV c/n 32830, arrived at Southend.
In April 1974 Macedonian Aviation acquired the former Dutch Limburg Airlines route from Rotterdam to Le Havre replacing their Fokker Friendships with Dakotas.

Then during summer of 1974 I was hearing that the oil companies were going to insist on turboprop operations so he [sic] opened negotiations to acquire 3 Aer Lingus Viscounts and 6 Air Canada Viscounts or 3 Eastern Provincial Heralds.
These negotiations were not successful and having appraised the cost of running a turboprop operation, which I was sure would not be profitable, I sold the entire Macedonian Aviation as a going concern.
On November 6th 1974 all the aircraft returned to Southend and the new owners were unable to raise finance to support turboprop operations by the end of the year, they ceased all flying.
The aircraft went to Humber Airways, followed by Eastern Airways, who operated the Heathrow - Norwich - Humberside scheduled service.

I went without another aircraft until 1995, until I acquired my second Devon/Dove VP961, G-HBBC c/n 04211, constructed at Hawarden in 1948 and was the former personal aircraft of HRH Prince Philip in which he learnt to fly twins whilst with the Royal Flight.
HRH piloted this aircraft on 67 flights and I reintroduced it to him at RAF Northolt in 1998 and he commented on such a wonderful restoration and brought him many happy memories.
As a back up for its operations, I purchased an ex RNAS Sea Devon XK896, G-RNAS c/n 04473, built 1956 originally at HMS Heron RNAS Yeovilton.
Both Doves were based at Bristol Filton until 2002, when I relocated G-HBBC to Compton Abbas.
G-RNAS was stolen from Filton and ended up in a quarry at Chepstow being used by a diving club...
In 2001 I also acquired 4 Cessna 150 and 172s which were leased to Compton Abbas airfield for flying training.

In conclusion, for almost the past 40 years [I] specialised in the purchase of former UK military property, mainly Married Quarters, but also a couple of ex RAF airfields and the former Bomber/Strike Command HQ, Bawtry Hall.
I am an RAF Brat and the CEO of the Welbeck Estate Securities Group, preceded by First State Holdings; the specialty has always been the the preservation and retention of former MOD properties which has been my stated aim since I bought my first military site at RAF Faldingworth near Lincoln in 1979.
If you visit our website: www.twsg.co.uk there is a wealth of information on aviation as well as military (RAF) bases we have owned over the years."

Med vennlig hilsen / Kind regards
Roger Byron-Collins FIIV

A few more details on my Photos by Friends & Guests #57 on Macedonian Aviation, including some photos.


G-AMRA (c/n 15290/26735) has a similar history to G-AMPO. USAAF designated 43-49474 but it went on delivery in 1944 to the RAF as KK151. Mr J.A.Wilson of Starways had it registered G-AMRA in 1952 and was operated by names like Transair (1953), Aden Oil Refining (1953), British United Airways (1960), British & Commonwealth Shipping (1970), British Island Airways (1973), Macedonian Aviation (1974), Humber Airways (1974), Intra Airways (1976) and was purchased by Air Atlantique in 1981. In 2000 the future for G-AMRA looked grim, because of the costs of a major overhaul. But when I photographed G-AMRA in the new livery of Air Atlantique/Atlantic Airlines at Coventry in august 2000, things were looking good and G-AMRA is up and about again for scenic flights.
I came across AMRA once more on 18JUL2011 at Coventry.
You'll find the update there about its sale and subsequent move to Berlin, Germany.

G-AMPZ (c/n 32872/16124) shares a similar history: USAAF 44-76540 and RAF KN442 (1945).
Registered G-AMPZ in 1952 to Starways, like G-AMPO and G-AMRA. It too operated for Transair (1954) and British United Airlines in 1960. But it turned exotic when registered to Pan-American Indonesian Oil Company in 1963. It was registered OD-AEQ for Lebanese Air Transport in 1965, but apparently this was not followed up on.
In 1966 it was registered TF-AIV for Flugsyn.
Field Aircraft Services restored it to G-AMPZ in 1969. That same year it was operated by Norfolk Airways and in 1970 by Air Anglia. Intra Airways used this DC-3 too, in 1973.
In 1978 it was reregistered EI-BDT for Clyden Airways. Then 'Aces High' changed it back again to G-AMPZ, in 1982.
Presently it serves Air Atlantique well and they repainted it in RAF Transport Command livery to commemorate the Berlin Airlift. I photographed it in 2000 when it provided scenic flights from Coventry during the "Fifties Fly In", organised by Atlantic Airlines.

Credits:the above historical information has been found in "The Douglas DC-3 and its predecessors" by J.M.G.Gradidge (the bible for avid DC-3 enthusiasts) and various volumes on the DC-3 written by A. Pearcy.

UPDATE Sep.2019: G-AMPZ' registration was cancelled on 08May03, c/n 32872 was reregistered D-CXXX 09May03 for Air Service Berlin, a nostalgia operator commemorating the Berlin Airlift ('Die Rosinenbomber').
Unfortunatley this DC-3 crashlanded on 19Jun10 after take off from Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, some of the occupants were injured but there were no fatalities; the aircraft was beyond economic repair though and written off. It was replaced by another ex/ Air Atlantique DC-3 G-AMRA).
Due lack of sponsorship Air Service Berlin folded in 2019, in the year the Berlin Airlift was being commemorated with a 70th anniversary), G-AMRO was put up for sale while a wing of G-AMPZ was sold and stamped into small key holders... Fortunately the fuselage of c/n 32872 was transported (sometime during the summer of 2019) to Schloss Herdringen in Arnsberg for some future display.

For more background info on the C-47 Skytrain and its many variants in military service, please follow this link: C-47 Skytrain
And how it all started with the DC-1, DC-2 and that Plane that Changed the World: the DC-3... can be found on this link: History of the DC-3

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Created: 13-7-00
Updated : 07-Dec-2017