There are days in your life never to forget, and thinking about the DC-4 Skymaster includes a couple of these days. For me, it all started when I was living in Rome and we decided there to try and get the DC-3 over to celebrate 80 years of KLM serving Rome as one of its’ destinations. It was so incredible to see not only our customers were excited, but also KLM staff and basically any bystander were impressed. This is flying in the pioneering times where commercial aviation started to take-off. And we even got in the Rai Uno news bulleting with it!
It also reminds me about the stories of my grandmother, who flew back in the fifties to see her sister who migrated years before to California, USA. When I told her that I would join KLM she was so excited that the whole journey was told again, in detail. My father and uncle were less enthusiastic since they had heard the story so often (and were not allowed to join at the time!).
Then, the day came that a friend of mine called me up and said that he wanted to pass by our house at the island of Marken, where I life. It was Lars, one of the pilots of the DC-3 that came to Rome. He told me that together with some others he had set-up the Flying Dutchman Foundation (FDF) that bought a DC-4 Skymaster. A twinkle came into my eyes and when he asked whether I wanted to join, the only answer I could give was ‘yes’.
So we started making a plan, together with a fantastic team of people. The plan was made including what needs to be done and based upon that, a budget made. Now we are in the middle of getting the money together and the first sponsors are there. But I still did not see, or better tasted, the DC-4 myself. So last week Lars and I took a couple of days off, bought a ticket to Johannesburg and then, after a night in the hotel, we set off to Rand Airport, where she is standing at the museum. And how nice it was to see her and I was impressed! Again, a moment never to forget. It is a big aircraft, bigger then I imagined, room enough for 50 vintage business class seats and even better, the cabin looked like we could take-off right away. Just the right aircraft to show that airline industry has a fantastic history and lots to come, exactly what we want to achieve with the FDF.
Of course, a lot is still to be done, cockpit upgrade, engines to be done and the renovation of some parts of the structure, but all definitely doable. After an hour or so we left again and later, we met the people that are ready to take up the work. They confirmed that it is a good aircraft and that with the plan in hand, we could make it fly again.
So now we are back in The Netherlands with even more enthusiasm to make this work. The coming months will be crucial but I am confident that we can make it work. And just thinking about it to arrive in The Netherlands in 2016, that will surely be again a moment never to forget! Just before we left for Johannesburg we started a crowd funding campaign, with your help we can show our partners the support we feel and get our mission airborne!
Olaf works for KLM Engineering and Maintenance as director training, he is a board member at the Flying Dutchman Foundation and he is responsible for partnership development.