DC-3/C-47B ZK-BBJ by Brad Pilgrim

In February 2006 Brad Pilgrim wrote me an email:
"About DC-3 ZK-BBJ, would anybody know what became of this airplane? I slept in a tent out behind it at the airport in Mombassa, Kenya for a month during the summer of 1996. At the time it was missing the no.2 engine but still in pretty good shape."

I wrote in reply: my last report dates from 15Jan98, still at MBA, reported as in bad condition.
It used to operate for NZ' NAC and has (had?) enlarged windows. See www.kiwiaircraftimages.com/dakota.html, it includes this remark: "Having carried out operations in Somalia and Kenya (carrying people, livestock, weapons and the occassional tribal warlord), BBJ was laid up after a dispute. This does not appear to have been resolved after David Morris was killed, and the aircraft was last reported (2000) to be derelict in Mombasa."
Reference book Survivors 2002 has no update beyond Jan98. And googling for images on ZK-BBJ provided several but none at Mombasa.

Brad responded by sending me the following images (the comments are my own):

(c) Brad Pilgrim Yes, I can see that would be a nice patch of grass to pitch a tent. And I wouldn't have mind if they woke me up with radials starting up or taxying past !
(c) Brad Pilgrim

Clearly an engine has been lost in the process...

ZK-BBJ is a Douglas C-47B with c/n 34222.
While in Kenya it was registered to Fieldair and operating for the United Nations.

(c) Brad Pilgrim One can clearly see the UN-markings which once adorned this airplane.

Its registration ZK-BBJ was removed from the New Zealand Civil Aircraft Register on 14Sep94.

(c) Brad Pilgrim The interior, not much luxury there...

These photos were taken in Mombassa in June of 1997.

(c) Brad Pilgrim
The cockpit looks in pretty good shape, it seems very clean.
(c) Brad Pilgrim This shows ZK-BBJ to her full advantage.
(c) Brad Pilgrim
Anyone with an update on this forgotten Gooney Bird is encouraged to write.
I thank Brad pilgrim for making these photos available to me.

Peter Layne, author of various aviation books on the subject aviation in New Zealand, wrote the following in response:
ZK-BBJ's current status is of considerable interest to me as I am currently writing the history of New Zealand National Airways Corporation with Richard Waugh and Graeme McConnell. The book is due for release in March 2007.
ZK-BBJ and ZK-AMR c/n 11970 (not an NZNAC) went on United Nations duties together and probably both are now derelict.
The large windows 18" x 19" were fitted in the early 1960s when NAC upgraded fourteen of their DC-3 aircraft giving them a similar passenger cabin layout to their Fokker Friendship fleet. They branded these aircraft as DC-3 Skyliners. The Friendships were bought to replace the DC-3s but typically with DC-3s, this did not happen as soon as intended. Many of the provincial airport runways needed upgrading for Friendships but many upgrades were delayed. So as to give passengers some of the intended benefits, the DC-3s had improved seats, carpets, window, public address and sound proofing. Another reason for the upgrades was to meet the competition being delivered by South Pacific Airlines of New Zealand (SPANZ). See our SPANZ book details through our website in the signature of my email.
Referring to the photos supplied with http://images.google.nl/ I should add some comment.
The yellow paint scheme is that of Fieldair Holdings, not NAC. Note the locomotive in the picture. Gisborne Airport has a railway line crossing right across the runway and trains give way to aircraft. Been like that for many years and never been a problem (so I'm told!).
The NAC DC-3 Skyliner paint scheme, showing those big windows to good effect is the red one with the pilot walking out to the aircraft.
Fieldair Freight was a subsidiary of Fieldair Holdings and they operated 3 DC-3 ZK-BBJ, ZK-AMR and ZK-AWP, which may be the aircraft in the yellow paint scheme picture - see the caption.

Reverting to our NAC book, please, can anyone be more specific on the fates or provide updates on the following NZNAC aircraft:

  • ZK-AOH c/n 34228 reported as a hulk at Perdanakusama International, Jakarta
  • ZK-AQP c/n 32897 reported as airworthy with Dodson's in the USA in 2000 - any updates?
  • ZK-AQS c/n 32695 believed reduced to spares in Taiwan as B-255
  • ZK-AQU c/n 33134 stored at Wonderboom South Africa 2003
  • ZK-AWP c/n 33135 stored (airworthy???) in Tonga 2006
  • ZK-AWQ c/n 33313 restored to airworthy at Wonderboom South Africa 2004. Current owner?
  • ZK-AYK c/n 26006 believed crashed in Laos as XW-TDO (date and location please).
  • ZK-AYL c/n 26008 believed crashed in Laos as XW-TDH (date and location please).

  • [There are references to this aircraft being in the United States but I think this is incorrect.]
  • ZK-AZM c/n 33478 stored at Wonderboom South Africa 2003

  • Any substantiated comment would be most welcome.
    Peter Layne ( email )
    (More on Peter Layne and his books, see my page Photos by Others)

    John Pratt wrote me in Mar.2006: "Last week I was in Mombasa,Kenya and had course to visit the runway to observe repairs to the surface.
    I was somewhat surprised to see a Dak parked up behind the Air Force hangar and managed a closer look at what turned out to be ZK-BBJ. She is basically complete, apart from the right engine. And her rudder is about to fall off...
    She ain't moving again I can tell you!

    (c) John Pratt  (c) John Pratt

    click John Levers from New Zealand wrote me in Aug.2006: "I used to fly both ZK-BBJ and ZK-AMR in Cambodia, where they were based prior to going to Africa. Do you happen to know what ever happened to ZK-AMR, she was such a joy to fly".
    "I flew for Dave Morris, he purchased BBJ and AMR from Field Air Freight here in NZ. We flew them to Cambodia and used them to supply food to the UN Troups for UNTAC. Once that UN Mission was over the Daks were ferried to Africa for the UNISOM mission, while I returned to NZ."

    While we know from the above that ZK-BBJ survives in languishing form at Mombasa, there is less certainty about ZK-AMR (c/n 11970 C-47A).
    ZK-AMR was last noted in Harare in June 1996, not doing too well I think. I have had no sightings after this date.
    This C-47A has also been reported as being c/n 11869, but Anton Coetzer entered it and confirmed it to be 11970.. -Webmaster

    These 1992 photos are courtesy John Levers, published with permission. ZK-AMR is shown at the top.

    ZK-BBJ 1985 Graeme Mills sent me this photo in Sep.2006, he wrote:
    "I have attached a photo of this DC-3 ZK-BBJ from 1985 when with Fieldair in my hometown of Gisborne, NZ.
    I had a few rides in her as well whilst I was working for Fieldair and have a DVD from the right-hand seat while topdressing in the hills!"


    Marcus Bridle informed me of a large amount of aircraft in Kenya up for scrapping...
    'Junk aircraft' in Kenya to be scrapped (2020)
    This is a montage by me of the 2 relevant pages in the .pdf document mentioned below.
    Marcus wrote me: "I was looking for info on the DC-3 ZK-BBJ that has been sitting abandoned at Moi Int'l Airport
    in Kenya since 1995 and found out that the Kenyan Airport Authority is going to (or already has) auctioned off 101 abandoned aircraft at airports around Kenya! Since the auction terms include that the aircraft have to be removed within 30 days, I expect most will be scrapped.
    If you want to see the full list which was published in the Kenyan Gazette at this link -> http://kenyalaw.org/kenya_gazette/gazette/download/Vol.CXXII-No_.154_.pdf

    Among the aircraft up for scrap are:

  • DC-3 ZK-BBJ at Moi International Airport (MIA)
  • DC-3 5Y-BMB at Lokichoggio Airport (LOKI)
  • DC-6 5Y-BRP at Lokichoggio Airport (LOKI)
  • DC-6 5Y-SJP at Lokichoggio Airport (LOKI)
  • Plus (a.o.) a few Friendships, HS748s and other interesting airliners, including a Tristar! (TZ-MHI)


    In this general cleanup of the airport, many 'stored' aeroplanes were offered for sale on an auction, including this ZK-BBJ.
    The ex/ Fieldair DC-3 that has sat at Mombasa for 25 years was auctioned off in Nov.2021, along with a few dozen other derelict aircraft. The fear was she'd be scrapped.
    List of aircraft (page dates 10Dec21):
    But then:
    'Saved from the scrapheap: A new life for ZK-BBJ, for an abandoned piece of New Zealand aviation history'
    Alan Granville, 06Dec2021]
    "To many, the mangled carcass of a long abandoned DC-3 plane would be fit for only one thing, taken apart piece by piece and sold for scrap. But for Mr.Urbani, and his friend and fellow Swiss countryman Reto Casanova, this wrecked aircraft was a dream come true.
    ZK-BBJ (or 'BuggerBuggerJig' as it was affectionately called) was an important early cog in the establishment of New Zealand’s first domestic airline. Having been brought over from the US by the Royal New Zealand Air Force, NZ3552, spent the first few years after WWII transporting supplies and crew around the Pacific. It was the natural choice for conversion to join the newly formed National Airways Corporation (NAC). After a major refit, 'ZK-BBJ Piripiri', began flying passengers around the country in 1953.
    The plane was in and out of service for nearly 20 years before eventually becoming a full freighter aircraft for Fieldair Freight.

    In the early-1990s it was bought by Kiwi entrepreneur David Morris, who had just won a catering contract with the UN to feed troops, and on 21Apr1993, ZK-BBJ went to fly food and UN staff, first around war-ravaged Cambodia, and then Somalia and Kenya.
    But events took a tragic turn when first Morris’ son was killed, and then Morris himself was murdered in 1995. Ever since then the aircraft has been left to slowly decay at Mombasa Airport.

    Anno 2021 there was nothing of value on the aircraft, hence the tiny price tag: less than 400 US dollars.
    There were only five others there at the auction, ZK-BBJ had no-one bidding on it. The duo got it for a measly US$300. The bigger cost came with moving it.
    The idea is to turn the plane into a restaurant. The duo will keep the registration number and also paint it in one of the many liveries it has had over the years in New Zealand.
    The duo are documenting it in their Facebook group Project Dakota.'

    For more details on the buyers and ZK-BBJ, including pix and video, click the link above for Alan Granville's excellent article!


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    Last updated 10.Dec.2021