Flying treasure returns to become Missoula museum centerpiece
Plane N24320, the C-47 used to deliver the ill-fated smokejumpers to Mann Gulch in 1949, flies toward the Missoula International Airport on Tuesday afternoon upon the aircraft's return to Missoula.
by Mick HolienThe C-47 aircraft took smokejumper crew to Mann Gulch in 1949.
The throaty purr of dual Pratt and Whitney radial engines signaled the return this week of a C-47, N24320, to the Missoula Valley where the reliable plane was used by Johnson Flying Service pilots for almost 30 years.
"There he is," said one of the two dozen or so spectators standing outside the Museum of Mountain Flying on Tuesday as the glistening silver shine of the aircraft became visible from the south.
"I love that sound," said another.
"Cool man, cool," said Stan Cohen, president of the museum's board of directors, as the airplane made a low-level flyby over the runway closest to the museum and not far from where it will be displayed in a soon-to-be-built 18,500-square-foot hangar.
The plane is getting the special treatment because of the role it played in Montana history. It was this aircraft that left Missoula on Aug. 5, 1949, to deliver a smokejumper crew to Mann Gulch. Twelve smokejumpers and a fire guard already on the ground died that day in what was then the second deadliest forest fire in U.S. history.
Flying in from Scottsbluff, Neb., the C-47, made a few passes over Mann Gulch before landing in Missoula.
Dick Komberec, a member of the museum board who accompanied the airplane to Missoula, is the Delta Airlines pilot who discovered the aircraft in Arkansas and convinced the board to buy it.
The museum obtained the plane from McNeely Air in West Memphis, Ark., for $125,000. Fund-raising to pay for the aircraft is ongoing, according to Cohen.
In addition to ferrying smokejumpers to forest fires, the durable C-47 was useful in other endeavors, in part because it could carry such a heavy load, said Komberec.
There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome the C-47 , N24320, back to Missoula at the Museum of Mountain Flying at the east end of Missoula International Airport at 11 a.m. Friday Oct. 19th.
UPDATE May 2014;
SEE MY REPORT VISITING THE MUSEUM AND C-47 N24320 DURING OCT.2014
SEE MY D-DAY 75 REPORT, DAKS OVER DUXFORD (2019) - WHERE MISS MONTANA JOINED 22 OTHER DC-3'S!