Some history of c/n 25928 from Brendan Odell, 15 July 2014.
Images from Brendan Odell collection.
This aircraft was built as a C-47B-5-DK by the Douglas Aircraft Corporation at Oklahoma City in Oklahoma and was completed on 7 September 1943. It was accepted by the USAAF on 15 October 1943 and allocated the number 43-48667. Under the lend-lease programme it was transferred to the Royal Air Force on 18 September 1944 as a Dakota Mk III and given the RAF serial number KJ897.
It then went to Air Command South East Asia Communications Unit (ACSEA) that was based at Ratmalana in Ceylon during October 1944. It also saw service in India during 1946. In 1947 it was ferried to No 12 Maintenance Unit in the United Kingdom and placed in storage until sold to Field Aviation on 11 June 1951 and registered G-AMKE to that company on 23 June 1951.
Moving on to BEA (British European Airways), which was based at Northolt and Heathrow in the United Kingdom on 16 October 1951, it became part of their fleet as a "Pionair" class Douglas DC-3 (Scottish Aviation DC-3 conversion featuring British instrumentation and an increased seating capacity of 32). Whilst in service with BEA the aircraft was named 'Sir Frederick Lanchester'. It was sold to Air Links Ltd, which was based at Gatwick Airport on 4 July 1961. Whilst in service with the Air Links aircraft was mainly used on various charter flights.
Meanwhile in New Zealand, a new start-up airline, SPANZ (South Pacific Airlines of New Zealand) were growing rapidly and with SPANZ up and running with three DC-3's, the directors were expecting a bumper 1961-62 summer season. With this prospect in mind, they decided to lease a 4th aircraft over that period.
After some searching overseas, they arranged with the British charter airline Air Links to hire their DC-3 G-AMKE for three months, with the option of buying the aircraft at the end of that time if it was found to be suitable for SPANZ operations.
G-AMKE departed Gatwick on the ferry flight to New Zealand and routed via Brindisi, Damascus, Bahrain, Karachi, Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Bangkok, Singapore, Djakarta, Denpasar, Darwin, Townsville, Brisbane, Norfolk Island, finally on to Whenuapai, north of Auckland. Crew for the ferry flight were Captain Chegwidden and G Clapshaw. G-AMKE arrived at Whenuapai at the end of its ferry flight from the UK on 15 December 1961. It operated with SPANZ using its British crew and retained its Air Links markings throughout its time in New Zealand.
However, expectations of a bumper Christmas trade were not realized, and SPANZ suffered a cash flow crisis in February 1962. Many staff were made redundant and the lease of G-AMKE was terminated. The aircraft left Whenuapai on 23 February 1962 for the return flight back to the UK, arriving there on the 7th March.
G-AMKE of Air Links
After it returned to the UK, the aircraft was sold into Rhodesia with Rhodesian Air Services as VP-YUU in October 1962 and pioneered the air service into Kafue later that year.
A British Pathe newsreel still exists of this event. Rhodesian Air Services was based at Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia. Their DC-3's livery consisted of a red tail with a stylized white 'R', a white semicircle on the trailing edge and a blue cheat-line. A seahorse was painted on the nose. VP-YUU operated with them until their closure in 1965.
Rhodesian Air Services advert
By 1966 the DC-3 had moved to the Zambian register where it became 9J-RDR with Zambia Airways.
It was retired at the end of 1970 (the Certificate of Airworthiness expired on 30 December 1970, and was not renewed), after an apparent minor accident a few months before and after being scrapped in 1989 at Lusaka finally ended up preserved, albeit in four pieces.
The first piece, the forward fuselage and cockpit is a display at Rand Airport near Johannesburg South Africa at Phoebus Apollo Aviation as a "Dak-in-the-wall-pub". The second piece, the aft end of the fuselage to the rear door, is a display in the SAAF Museum at Valhalla in Pretoria. The third piece is the section immediately aft of the rear door, including the Scottish Aviation style baggage door which was incorporated into the (aborted rebuild) of ZS-BXJ (s/n 12413), which is on static display at Benoni, Johannesburg. The fourth piece is a display at the SAAF Museum in Pretoria and part of a display with regards the "Warsaw Concerto". The upside-down bottom empennage of the DC-3 makes up the "nose" of a B-24 Liberator mock-up. The unique "Pionair" "Air-Stair" door, made by Scottish Aviation, survives too, property of Springbok Classic Air at Rand Airport.