Early 2014 Anne Cor Groeneveld, Martin Scheffmann and I went on a trip to Johannesburg – South Africa to review the condition of the DC-4 Skymaster and meet with our local partner Skyclass.
Anne Cor and Martin joined in their capacity as board members of the foundation, I was requested to join because of my technical expertise as a CAMO engineer at JetSupport.
After an 11 hour long flight and short night at the hotel we made our way to the airport to meet our friends and inspect the aircraft. ‘Our’ Dutch DC-4 is currently stored and taken care off by Skyclass.
Skyclass is a company based at Rand Airport near Johannesburg. They already operate and maintain amongst others a DC-3 and two DC-4’s on behalf of the South African Airways Museum.
Skyclass has a well-maintained fleet, which they operate on charters and scenic flights. Their experience with these classic aircraft will be very useful for us in the future.
Before the board members started their meetings with Skyclass we were very anxious to see our ‘Dutch’ Skymaster – and listen to Anne Cor ‘s stories from when the aircraft still operated out of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
Hard to keep up with AC after he spotted our Skymaster.
The aircraft is fully recoverable due to it being complete, no significant damages, complete set of logbooks and apparent fairly complete technical records.
Constraints to recover and maintain the aircraft are the availability of sufficiently skilled technicians and spare parts.
The current fuselage condition of the aircraft is fair. The basic frame appears to be in good shape and has minor effects of the long time unpreserved ground condition. The interior needs intensive cleaning and the cockpit needs reinstallation of preserved components.
Ongoing research is in progress on the work required on the components and system upgrades/modifications. This includes assessing the regulatory compliance of the installed components and the needed system upgrades/modifications.
It is the intention to bring the aircraft navigations system to a BRNAV/RNP-5 status. If this requires the coupling to a auto pilot system is not yet clear, this may be a constraint as it is unknown if the autopilot function can be restored.
As much as possible I will try to reuse the experience build up by the Dutch Dakota Association, for example the maintenance schedule created late in the 1990’s. Adopting this programme and our intention to acquire a Dutch registration for the aircraft provides large challenges such as balancing the large experience gained by Skyclass, South African Airways and South African Air Force against component inspections and overhaul requirements that have been detailed by Douglas in 1947 and that where possibly not addressed by SAA.
Currently I am most concerned about the maintenance required on parts and components because of it extensiveness and the uncertainty if there are possibilities to have all the work performed, against which certification standard, failure consequences and the cost involved.
Other modifications to consider are;
– Re-location of the radio and nav controllers to a location easily accessible to all crew members.
– Upgrade of the transponders to meet regulations
– Installation of galley systems to provision for onboard catering
– Alternate heating system. Research has shown that there are similar systems as currently installed but with a modern design.
Overhauls to be considered are:
– Engine/propeller #3 overhaul and repair
– Resurface of the flight controls
– Possible re-installation of autopilot system