Seeing an older lady
I was on a road trip recently, away from my fiancée for three days, and I took the opportunity to visit an older lady. Perhaps she is not elegant, actually she probably never was — but beauty is more about style and how one is carried, is it not? More than a few men have been devoted to her and for quite some time. I was merely dropping by unannounced knowing that there is always a standing invitation to visit. When I last saw her she had hardly anything covering her and men were methodically stripping her in the hot Florida sun. On this visit she had put on a new coat of green with white. In fact she was ready to show off both of her somewhat large, pleasantly round and just jutting right out there … double row radial engines.
Of course, I am talking about the WW II vintage Douglas C-47 Skytrain known as the Tico Belle that is operated by the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum located in Titusville Florida USA. Flying for more than 65 years she suffered a major mishap during a landing in 2001. The VAC has repaired the C-47 after several years of effort and returned her to flight in 2009. She will participate in local flights as well as selected air shows.
The C-47 aircraft does not have the flash of a fighter aircraft, nor have the size of a bomber — but history does not happen without logistics and that effort requires cargo aircraft. The Skytrain (in civilian dress it is known as the DC-3 and in the UK as the Dakota) flew combat missions, as well. Missions types were infantry parachute drops, glider towing, combat cargo drops, flying the infamous route called “The Hump” between India and China during WW II, and as a gunship in the Vietnam War armed with three 7.62mm Vulcan miniguns as Puff the Magic Dragon.
The Tico Belle was personal witness to several historic events. She was used during the Normandy Invasion, as well as the desperate relief of Bastogne, and in the equally desperate Berlin Airlift. One can fly in the Tico Belle locally, around the Titusville area, for a modest fee (especially when compared to other WW II era aircraft) and she is scheduled to appear at a reunion jump at Fort Benning on 22 October and at the Orlando Executive Airport on 31 October.
Seeing the engines catch, the propellers spin and the airplane taxi was a treat. Then to witness her depart the runway to shortly be intercepted by a chase aircraft which carried the museum’s photographer was a wonder. The chase aircraft was flown expertly and smoothly — so smoothly as to appear an easy task. But consider that the chase aircraft (a Beech T-34 Mentor) flew in from on high while decelerating as the Tico Belle was accelerating and climbing from the runway. The pilot got into formation with the C-47 without overshooting or lagging behind — a nice piece of aviating to witness on a bright, sunny and hot Florida day!
Posts regarding the Valiant Air Command Warbird museum will be forthcoming in November as well as December, stay tuned