Former Pan Am DC-3 Becomes Airworthy

Courtesy of Joe Crawshaw

The Historic Flight Foundation, based at Snohomish County Airport (KPAE, also known as Paine Field) in Everett, Washington, has completed the restoration of a DC-3 with a rich history, a project that took about five years to complete. The airplane is now airworthy for the first time in a decade and has been added to a long list of historic airplanes available for rides for the members of the foundation.

The history of the foundation’s DC-3 began in 1944 as a C-47 in Asia. “We think it’s the only C-47 or DC-3 that is airworthy that was flown by the CNAC [China National Aviation Foundation],” said John Sessions, founder of the Historic Flight Foundation. The airplane was also in the hands of Claire Chennault for a short period before returning to its country of birth and receiving an N-number in the late 1940s. The airplane served the Pan Am Airlines for a few years before becoming an executive transport airplane.

Because of the Pan Am heritage, Sessions decided on a 1949 Pan Am paint scheme, which includes “the correct color blue, the 48 stars of the flag and the big number on the wing that they used to have even on airliners,” said Sessions.

In addition to the paint scheme, the complete exterior refurbishment, which was completed by Sealand Aviation in Cambpell River, British Columbia, included restoring the airframe’s skins, overhauling the landing gear, replacing the window glass and reversing a previous Super DC-3 conversion, a transformation that included major modifications such as changing the tailwheel from retractable to fixed, removing the clamshell doors and altering the entire nose section.

Everything firewall forward is new or overhauled to zero time, including the engines and propellers. “She should be good for some relatively low maintenance service for quite a while,” said Sessions.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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