DC-3 VR-HDB Betsy

VR-HDB in Hong Kong's Science Museum 2002

C/n 4423 was built as a C-47-DL under contract AC15847 for the U.S. Army Air Force Corps (USAAC). It was assigned serial 41-18385 and went overseas in 1943.
It was registered to R. Farrell, Hong Kong with tailcode NC58093, which was subsequently changed in Oct.1946 to VR-HDB for Cathay Pacific Airways.
American Roy C Farrell and Australian Sydney H de Kantzow founded Cathay Pacific Airways in Hong Kong on 24Sep1946. Initially based in Shanghai, the two men eventually moved to Hong Kong and founded Cathay Pacific Airways. Legend has it that Farrell and a group of foreign correspondents thought up the airline's unique name in the bar at the Manila Hotel!
C-47 4423 moved on and was registered to New Guinea Airways as VH-MAL on 23Aug53. Only to be reregistered 2 years later to W.R. Carpenter & Co. In June 1959 Mandated Airlines became the new owner, 2 years later renamed Ansett-MAL. On 09Mar69 it was registered in the name of Ansett Airlines of Papua/NG, on 28Jul73 the paperwork was amended to Ansett (P&NG) Ltd.
Bush Pilots Airways leased it from Sep73-Mar74 and by then Cathay Pacific had it in its sights for a preservation project.
Cathay bought 'Betsy', as the Skytrain was lovingly named during its years of operation by CPA, and it was delivered in Sep.'83, upon it was transferred to The Hong Kong Museum of Science and Technology.

"The Douglas DC-3 and its Predecessors", by J.M.G. Gradidge (Air-Britain Historians, 1984)
Gil White also wrote a history on c/n 4423

Colin Devellerez wrote me in Feb.2016 on this DC-3:
"During the ownership of VR-HDB by Roy Farrell and H.de Kantzow it was operated in Burma, with its sister aircraft VR-HDA.
Both aircraft flew under the banner of CPA, an airline formed by the two owners in Hong Kong and subsequently sold to Butterfield and Swire, in Hong Kong who continued to operate in Burma.
During VR-HDB's operation in Burma, circa 1950/1953, one of the aircraft engines caught fire on the airfield in Bhamo in Northern Burma...
The fire caused extensive damage. One of the wings had to be replaced and the aircraft had communication and navigation system had to be re-wired.
A wing was attached to the belly of another DC-3/C-47 (!) and flown at a low altitude to Bhamo sans doors by Captain Steele.
A crew of airframe, engine, instrument engineers some from HAECo in Hong Kong including myself a radio mechanic were flown to Bhamo.
The new wing was attached, the old one burned on the field at Bhamo, a new engine was also flown in and refitted while the aircraft communication and navigation system was totally rewired by myself.
In your article you quote Gil White as a reference; in his article he mentions in brief the engine incident of VR-HDB. The information you got from me is a little more detailed, as I was actually in attendance during the whole repair process (which took something like ten days), not to mention that I was a passenger in the aircraft that had the wing attached, to the belly, piloted by Captain Jimmy Steele!

I could give you more detailed information of how we lived, what we did and how one of the Chinese mechanics from Hong Kong spotted a tiger on the airfield one evening causing us to cease work every day thereafter at around 3:30 pm!

After completion of the repairs the 'Betsy' was flown back (with the ground crew onboard including myself) to Mingaladon airport in Rangoon, where it continued to be in service until CPA's activities in Burma ceased and both 'HDA and 'HDB were flown to Hong Kong; after which time I lost contact with both aircraft.

It should also be interesting to note that Roy Farrell's operations in Burma included the company he had incorporated in the Philippines, known as Amphibian Airways with 3 Catalinas and a full complement of Filipino aircrew and maintenance staff; CPA continued operations in Burma with its two DC3/C-47s VR-HDA & VR-HDB. It is possible that by that time Farrell had either diminished or sold his interests in CPA to Butterfield and Swire.""

Colin about himself, to see where this inside info is coming from!
"I started my career in 1949 as an 19 year old apprentice in the Maintenance Department under the tutelage of an Australian, Walter H Malmborg, Chief of Avionics in Amphibian Airways owned by Roy Farrell.
We maintained the two Catalina operated by Amphibian Airlines, the two C-47's of CPA, one C-46 of Thai Airways later to become Thai International Airlines, and the one C-47 of Indonesian Airways (later to become Garuda Indonesian Airlines) and two C-47 flown of Trans Asiatic Airlines, operating in Burma.
All theses airlines were chartered by the Union of Burma, to provide continuity of supplies and transportation during the Karen insurrection in Burma. We also provided Avionic maintenance to several other airways passing through Mingaladon airport. I was the Avionic Mechanic sent to Bhamo to rewire VR-HDB after its engine caught fire in Bhamo!
After Amphibian Airways closed its doors, I went to work with the Union of Burma Airways, until I left Burma in 1955 and continued my aviation career in Avionics in the United Kingdom and the United States of America until my retirement to Australia in 1997."
"While rummaging among my stuff I came across two pictures relating to VR-HDB.
The first one is me standing on the steps of VR-HDB. The second is with my foot on the removed engine from VR-HDB.
Both pictures were taken in Bhamo, Burma.

External link:
Cathay has a story to tell: Cathay's history
In May 2019 this photo was shared on Facebook, showing DC-3 'VR-HDA' in front of the Cathay building in Hong Kong
DC-3 VR-HDA in Hong Kong
Photo by Oliver Blank, on Facebook's 'Aviation Wrecks and relics' (May 2019).
VR-HDA is a fake tailnumber, the most recent identity for this C-47A (c/n 9525) was RP-C1101.
It was flown out of the Philippines in Feb.2006, restored and put on display in front of the Cathay Pacific Admin. buildings in Hong Kong. An earlier photo can be found on my Photos by Friends & Guests #17

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Created: 8-9-02 Updated: 10-11-04
Last updated 25.2.2016