A Cool Realisation


I had an interesting realisation before my flight yesterday which puts into perspective not only the passage of time, but just how much living history an inanimate object can have.


As most of you know, I fly a modernised version of a very venerable old aircraft. The C47-TP is an upgraded version of the old C47/DC3, better known as the Dakota, or one of its other numerous nicknames: Skytrain, Vomit Comet, Dak etc. It is a legend of the skies, being often cited as one of the key factors in the Allied success in the Second World War and being recognised as probably the most important commercial aircraft ever built.


We who fly these aircraft are aware on a superficial level just how great a legacy this is. The feeling of great pride to be flying such a piece of history is often overshadowed, though, by the fact that we would love to fly a bigger, faster, more modern machine. Every now and then, though, something comes up which brings the weight of this long legacy crashing down and we must acknowledge just what an amazing, enduring piece of machinery this is.


Yesterday I was up to fly my first sortie of the year, a circuit training sortie in horrible winds. During our pre-flight briefing one of the crew, knowing my love for history, brought out an old air observers logbook from ages ago which he had found in a flea market. I paged through the yellow and musty book and was delighted to see that not only was it filled with Dakota entries, but that it contained entries for the very aircraft we were about to fly. It was dated November 1945. It detailed a four-day journey from Cairo to Swartkop in South Africa, over 20 hours of flying time.


Now, let that sink in a bit. The aircraft I was flying in 2018 was bringing troops home from the Second World War. Of course, the aircraft had probably been flying before that as well, but it was one thing to know it, and another to see it in black and white. When you consider all the hundreds of crew who have flown that aircraft between that day and this, you cannot help but be humbled at being part of such a long line of succession.


So, although I will still grumble about wanting a bigger, faster, more modern machine, there will always be instances like this which bring me back to earth.