Caring for the 77-year old – The practical problems
Just like a 77-year-old needs a geriatric ward, an ageing plane needs the maintenance similar to one too. Its dietary requirements, for one are different than its younger counterparts. The DC-3 feeds on AVGAS, a fuel that isn’t easily available in all parts of the world. Satiating its hunger for fuel is part of the reason Nagpur was shortlisted as a stop on the ambitious tour.
A commercial flight on this twin-engine propeller plane is quite a rare event these days. The few flights they do take are not commercial in the traditional sense of the word, but for private owners. The technical requirements for such flights and those for an air show that the plane participates in are not too different. Were it to fly commercially, the requirements would change drastically in terms of take-offs, landing, etc., but the standards remain the same from a technical point of view.
25,000 Nautical Miles while on World Tour
We live in the Jet Age
Compared to a Boeing 737, the most significant difference is the amount of maintenance the DC-3 needs to keep the airplane safe and operational. Not only the Boeing 737 carries a significantly larger number of people, the maintenance required is a fraction of what is spent on a DC-3.
It’s nothing short of a ponderous proposition, from what we saw. Buying one is a matter of a couple of million dollars, but the upkeep is capable of draining one’s entire inheritance, that is, if you have any! No wonder DC-3 wears the tag of ‘vintage’ like a badge of rank an old WW II veteran would.
Longest flight managed by the DC-3 in its lifetime – Over 7 hours from Oman to Bahrain
New bottle, old wine
We agree that a DC-3 in flying condition is no small feat. A medieval shovel, for all the graves it has dug, will remain medieval in all its years of survival and continual maintenance. There have been many up-to-date and necessary additions made to keep the DC-3 air-worthy – the weather radar, communication and navigation radios, oil indicating systems, the hoses that carry all fluids in the aircraft – are definitely not 77, and they get maintained and replaced regularly, embracing modern technology, wherever possible.
Next long-haul flight coming up from Chittagong to Phuket – 7 hours 15 minutes
Touching great heights no more
The aircraft will perform up to about 17,000 feet, but since it’s not a pressurised aircraft, lack of oxygen limits the physical capacity of the hoomans flying it. Ideal altitude for an aircraft this old is between 8,000 and 12,000 feet above ground. We wonder if the air up there compensates for the heat we endured, or being closer to the sun would make those flying in it feel like Icarus, but we’ll leave it at that.
There are no flying simulators available for the DC-3 anymore.
Other than the two spirited pilots, the Breitling Douglas DC-3 has another passenger on board – the 550-piece Limited Edition Breitling Navitimer, which is completing the world tour along with the DC-3 and will bear the seal of the Breitling DC-3 World Tour as testimony to its travels. Touted for release once the tour is over, the mechanical Chronograph is on our list of must-haves too.
Over and out!
A piece of tech on the captain, other than the Breitling on their wrist – The iPad