Moving DTD to the taxiway Alpha, the location planned for the restoration.
(author's note: To be read with a strong French accent)
Many have followed the Plane Savers adventure during the last months. As memories are forgotten, I wanted to write down my own story with this aircraft.
A short introduction about myself, I love aviation since my younger age and started to fly when I was 14. My goal at the time was to be a pilot. I moved to Canada when I was 24 with around 350 hours on my logbook to fulfill this dream.
At the time (2001) there was no penury of pilots and the only job found was in the North, paying not enough to support my new family. In contrast, there was plenty of work in IT. I decided to change my career. In 2007, I had a serious accident, limiting my capacity to fly and I started to collect aircraft technical manuals and a few years later started Avialogs.
Fast Forward, 2017, I am helping the Montreal Aviation Museum with their library when I eavesdropped a talk about Aerovision selling their aircraft, a Canso and a DC-3.
During the nineties, there was a project to start a Museum in St-Hubert but it never happened. The Canso was lucky to be kept within the perimeter of the RCAF base, the DC-3 had no such luck, staying outside of the airport, accessible to everyone ready to jump a 4 feet fence. I started to do some research about this aircraft and discover her history .. D-DAY, Market Garden, Cairo, Karachi, TCA, Transport .. History has flown under her wings.
C-FDTD, April 2017
I wanted to know more about the sale in order to write an article for warbirds news with which I collaborated sometimes and contacted them:- Me: You are selling the Canso and the DC-3?- Aerovision: Yes, the Canso is already sold, we have a buyer for the DC-3 but he needs our help to move the aircraft, we can not provide assistance, I will let you know if he changes his mind. You are interested to buy the DC-3?- Me: Yes.
Here I ask for your attention. The biggest aircraft I worked on in the past was a Piper Super Cub. And I just told I want to buy a DC-3. Do not try to find any sense in this, there is none. Two days and the phone ring: Benoit, the DC-3 is not sold, are you interested? And I said again Yes. I guess a neurosurgeon would be interested to know what happened in my synapse at the time. I went to see the aircraft for the first time. She was not looking good. The key for the lock on the entry door was lost and I had to move my 6ft5 inside the escape windows in order to slide inside the aircraft. A lot of mold, birds, squirrels dejections and wasps nests... I move one of the floor panels and to my surprise, no corrosion. As I continue my inspection, following advises received about what to check and where; I realize the aircraft is in good condition. She is a diamond in the rough.
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DTD Cockpit, April 2017
As the city was requiring to get the aircraft moved within 30 days, I manage to secure a 6 months extension and a deal is agreed with Aerovision. I own a DC-3! Ok, but what's next?
The first work is to move her from the current location. After many years, the tail wheel is dug inside the earth, the tail cone collapsing under the aircraft weight and damaging the elevators in the process. I call to the rescue one friend, Pierre Gillard. He contacts the ENA school and Jean Potvin comes to the rescue with a tug powerful enough to pull the DC-3 from her ground. The tail wheel is totally corroded, the tire non-existent. I post a message on Facebook and Joe Garcia send me for free a used tailwheel tire. Pierre changes it and two weeks after we realize the inner tube is leaking ... I order a new one and bis repetita placent.
In parallel, I need to find a place to park the DC-3 securely. Mr. Gordon Livingstone from H-18 FBO contacts me and offers us ramp space on their apron. As H-18 is offering executive services, several restrictions are coming with, but at least the DC-3 has a place to go.
A week before the move, the aircraft has new visitors. the last data plate and the top cockpit console are stolen, The hamburger door is torn out and hangs only miserably with one screw. The aircraft is moved to her new location. A small logistic challenge, the airport fence has to be brought down on around 80 feet and brought up the same day.
Moving inside the airport perimeter
The move is done, C-FDTD is secure. A not for profit organization is created with Pierre, Rudolph de Patureaux and Keith Meredith in order to structure the work in progress and get more funding, the effort up to now being sustained by myself. In February 2018, I receive a call from Keith. "There are some DC-3 drawings at the old Noorduyn factory, they need to clean the place, are you interested to get them? I have a meeting with Keith, The factory was used to build Norseman, Harvard and converted C-47 to DC-3 after the war for Canadair. I was expecting to find a few blueprints (around 500 I was told) lying in one corner. No! They are located under the roof and the only way to go there is by using a cage setup on a forklift. One time at around 24feet, there is another 6feet to climb to have access to this area. And to my surprise, there are not a few blueprints but thousands of them ...When Douglas decided to stop the C-47 production in August 1945, Benjamin W. Franklin, Canadair president saw a business opportunity. He purchased all tooling, parts, and documents from the Douglas Oklahoma city plant. Around 250 C-47 were purchased from the military surplus in the USA and UK. They were converted to DC-3, their cargo door replaced by a passenger door or upgraded for military usage.
Robert St-Pierre helping to move all blueprints
What I have in front of me are around 14000 blueprints, original drawings by Canadair and by Douglas. There are even original Douglas DC-4 drawings for the North Star development and all Standard parts blueprints including these for the Douglas and Canadair Dataplates.
An agreement is signed and all blueprints are moved and securely stored.
My idea is to bring back the DC-3 to TCA standard, it will take probably between 5 and 7 years. I locate a C-47 for sale which can be used for parts. The aircraft is the one located in Peterborough, Ontario. Plane Savers viewers are familiar with this airframe.
Inspecting the potential spare parts donor
In parallel, crowdfunding efforts are started and some contacts are made with potential partners. As it is not possible to work on two large endeavors, Pierre Gillard prefers to focus on a museum project and start the MAQ with the goal to restore a CF-100 used as a testbed by P&W.
H-18 is developing their activities and the restoration of a derelict DC-3 does not fit really with executive jets. We are asked to move to another location. As there is no place available, contacts are made with the Saint Jean Sur Richelieu airport and agreement is signed.
The crowdfunding effort is not going well. One prospective sponsor has health issues and decides to not invest in the project, . I have to call off my purchase option on the Peterborough C-47 and advertise it for sale. This is how the Night Fright project acquired her.
I have a decision to take, to store the aircraft in the long term, or to find a buyer who will realize what I was not able to achieve, and if possible to keep her in Canada. After 3 weeks, nobody seems to be interested to buy her. Costs continue to roll, insurance, move to St-Jean (around 20 0000$) and an undefined future without the spare plane.
I decide to play my last card. I put the aircraft on eBay at a low price ($10000). I did not expect what would happen next. I have calls from newspapers, bids are starting, Basler and Preferred Airparts contact me to inquire about a possible turbine conversion. I contact each bidder to know about their project.
Buffalo Airways is among them. Messages are exchanged, I have a call with Mikey McBryan and his father Joe asking a few questions. Another call and a price agreed. the listing is removed from eBay.
Mikey wants to get the aircraft brought back to airworthy condition in St-Hubert. He has an idea about a vlog, Plane Savers. I believe I will not betray him if I say he did not expect such success.
He asked me to help with the local logistic, I will spend the next 6 months trying to support my best the realization of his project, sharing my time between my full time job, historical research, blueprint investigations, logistics requirements and some work on non-structural parts of the aircraft.
Most of you have seen the series on Youtube and I will not detail here what has been already documented. The whole project will also the subject of one forthcoming book. It was a team effort but the maestro, the one who made all possible is Ronny McBryan. By his knowledge, experience, trust, and the ability to teach and explain to all volunteers, he made this possible. I will always remember one sentence from him, if you start it, you finish it. C-FDTD, C-47A serial 12253, D-DAY, Market Garden veteran is flying.
Benoit de Mulder - June 18th 2019.