June 5, 2019

The Dakotas of D-Day


This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, and anyone near a television will have undoubtedly seen programming of all the ceremonies marking the event. The embarkation, which sailed from Portsmouth in England, was of course largely a navy operation. However, the allied air forces were an essential part of the landing. Aerial bombing runs were conducted in the areas, Spitfires were omnipresent and troop-carrying gliders (Airspeed Horsas) were used extensively.

An Airspeed Horsa glider loading troops for the Normandy Invasion.

The one airplane that invariably comes to mind as being critical to the invasion is the C-47, or Dakota. Many people know it by the name of its airline version, the DC-3.

Hamilton, Ontario’s Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum has two Dakotas, which are distinguishable from DC-3s by the presence of a glider towing hook and a second door. One of the Dakotas flew in the invasion, serial number FZ692, and is still maintained by the museum in flying condition today. The RCAF had, at its peak, 169 Dakotas in its fleet.

Another Dakota of note that saw action during the invasion is the one that has just been rebuilt by a team led by Mikey McBryan of Ice Pilots NWT fame. The company started by his father Joe, and that Mikey now manages, Buffalo Airways, operates a number of DC-3s. The elder McBryan collects DC-3 parts, which his son depended on for the restoration.

“He’s got basically a Walmart of DC-3 parts,” says Mikey.

McBryan started the restoration project in March of this year, assuming at the time that much of the work on the Dakota would be done in the outdoor area at St-Hubert airport (CYHU), south of Montreal, where the then-abandoned and run-down Dakota was sitting. When he learned of the École national d’aérotechnique (ÉNA) and their presence on the same field, he reached out to them and they offered him hangar space for the project. In exchange, ÉNA students get a chance to observe the restoration project up close.

As eFlight goes to press (so to speak), Joe McBryan is scheduled to fly the Dakota on June 6.

The Royal Canadian Mint has issued a $2 coin commemorating the D-Day.

The Royal Canadian Mint is also marking the anniversary by putting into circulation a new $2 coin. The mint is selling them in rolls of 25 for $79.95.

The photo at the top features one of two Dakotas owned and operated by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum of Hamilton, Ontario.