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Monday, June 1, 2015

Councillor's personal recollections of trusty Dakota

 
* The World War Two era Dakota which overflew Llangollen recently. 
 
Llanblogger’s recent story about a World War Two Dakota transport plane overflying Llangollen has prompted personal recollections of the trusty aircraft from local county councillor Stuart Davies.

Last week we reported that a C-47 Dakota, in D-Day identification markings, had flown twice through the Dee Valley last Thursday afternoon, causing a great deal of interest each time.

Later, llanblogger learned from the public relations team at the Battle of Britain memorial Flight (BBMF), based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, that the plane – identification number ZA947 – had been making its way to and from a families day at RAF Valley on Anglesey when it was spotted.

Cllr Davies (pictured below) has now been in touch to tell us of his own warm memories of the type of aircraft.

He said: “I noted with interest the story about the Dakota aircraft flying over Llangollen.
“When I first went to work in Angola in 1977 I flew there in what was then the latest modern aircraft, a DC10.

“When I arrived I was shown to the plane that would take me north to Soyo, a small village on the banks of the River Zaire. It was a Second World War Dakota that was being used by the oil companies there for internal transport.

“It was a rugged workhorse that could land on a dirt strip or a tarmac one.

“Built during the war, the design brief was that it could take off, with a load, on one engine.”
Cllr Davies added: “I found out later it had served with the Belgian air force.

“This design was to my liking because one day, when the `Dak’ I was on lost one of its engines due to a malfunction, it carried on without any problems.
“Its ruggedness and simplicity was also evident on another occasion when I was in charge of getting a drill rig crew-change home.

“The starter motor wouldn’t start the port engine, however with the help of a piece of rope and my trusty co-workers, we got it going.
“The rope was wrapped around the propeller and a chain gang of the workers pulling on it soon had it going.

“Health and safety eat your heart out!”
The Douglas C-47 Dakota is acknowledged as one of the most successful aircraft designs in history.

It became one of the world's most famous military transport aircraft and saw widespread use by the Allies during World War Two and subsequently by air forces and civilian operators worldwide.
The BBMF website shows that the C-47 Dakota seen in the skies above Llangollen last week was manufactured in the USA by Douglas in March 1942 and initially issued to the United States Army Air Force.

In September that year the aircraft was transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and served in Canada during World War Two.

It was subsequently deployed to Europe with the RCAF until declared surplus to requirements by the Canadians in 1971.

The Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough then purchased the aircraft and has used it for a variety of tasks and trials, including dropping sonar buoys through holes cut in the fuselage and for launching remotely piloted vehicles.

Cleared for dropping paratroops, she often displayed in this role and occasionally appeared in the static park at air shows.

In 1992 the Defence Research Agency, the successor to the RAE, declared ZA947 surplus to requirements.

The aircraft was adopted by Strike Command and issued to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in 1993.

As there are now no other multi-engine tail wheel aircraft in RAF service outside the BBMF, the Dakota is an important training asset used for initial training of aircrew for the BBMF multi-engine aircraft and for renewing the currency of the flight’s Lancaster pilots each year.

The Dakota is a sought-after display aircraft in her own right and, as such, appears regularly on the air show circuit either on her own or as part of a BBMF formation.

She continues to be capable of para-dropping and is used in that role for special commemorative events.

ZA947 is now painted to represent Dakota FZ692 of No 233 Squadron, around the D-Day period in 1944.

That aircraft, which was named ‘Kwicherbichen’ by her crews, was involved in para-dropping operations on the eve of D-Day and subsequently in re-supply and casualty evacuation missions into and out of forward airfields in the combat areas.

The female nurses who escorted the casualties on these flights became known as ‘The Flying Nightingales’.

By the end of 1944, 1,092 stretcher cases and 467 sitting wounded had been evacuated to England by the 233 Squadron Dakotas.

* Fore more details about the aircraft see: http://www.raf.mod.uk/bbmf/theaircraft/dakotahistory.cfm

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