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Airspeed A.S.57 Ambassador 2

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G-AMRA Douglas DC-3C Dakota Mk.VI c/n 26735/15290 - BIA AIR CARGO - London-Gatwick Airport in the UK - 14 July 1971 historic aeroplanes

In 1932, Douglas Aircraft Company Inc. started the development of a twelve-seat, two-engined, all-metal mono-plane with retractable landing-gear. The prototype of this first Douglas Commercial, the DC-1 flew first on 1 July 1933 and was delivered to Transcontinental & Western Air. However just only one DC-1 was built, this aircraft became the start of a succesfull series of airliners. TWA ordered twenty production aircraft, which were designated DC-2. The Douglas DC-2 had a larger engine and seated 14 passengers. The plane made its maiden flight on 11 May 1934 and entered service with TWA on 18 May 1934. Due to its performance in airliner service a growing number of orders were placed by airlines all over the world, including by K.L.M. Due to the succes of the DC-2, Douglas developed and built what many consider to be one of the greatest planes ever: the DC-3. The prototype Douglas DC-3 flew first on 17 December 1935, and this transport aircraft was built in larger numbers than any before or since. In its initial form, the Douglas DC-3 was powered by 1.000 hp Wright R-1820-G2 Cyclones and accomodated twenty-one passengers. In 1936, the DC-3 was joined in production by the DC-3A with two 1.050 hp Pratt and Whitney R-1830-SC-G Twin Wasps, and maximum accomodation in this model being increased over the years to twenty-eight passengers. The DC-3B entered production in 1937. This version was similar to the DC-3A apart from 1,100 hp Wright GR-1820-G102A engines. The bulk of the aircraft producted became the Douglas C-47, a military transport version of the commercial DC-3 airliner. A 7500-lb. cargo load or twenty-eight troops may be accomodated. With the breakout of WW II, a fast growing number of the C-47 and its variants were ordered. The C-47 entered service service with the U.S.A.A.F. in 1941 and became the world's most widely-used general-purpose military transport aircraft. When production termintated, 10,926 C-47s and its variants having been built in the U.S.A. Licence manufacture also having been undertaken in Japan and the U.S.S.R. The Russian licensed copies of the DC-3 were built near Moscow and in Tashkent and designated Lisunov Li-2 (4,937 built). Licensed copies of the DC-3 built in Japan were designated Showa L2D (487 built). The Douglas DC-3 / C-47 and their variants were known under more than two dozen nicknames; wellknown nicknames were Skytrain, Gooney Bird, Dakota and Dak. After the war ended, large numbers of C-47s and its variant entered the civil market, a number of these C-47s were remanufactured and known as Douglas DC-3C.

In 1944 Douglas C-47B-15-DK s/n 15290 was built by Douglas at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA. With number 26735 a new construction number was assigned to the airframe.On 25 November 1944, the aircraft was delivered as USAAF Skytrain '43-49474' to the United States Army Air Force. On 18 December 1944, the aircraft was delivered to RAF No. 45 Group at Dorval, Montreal, Canada, as lend-lease Dakota Mk.IV 'KK151'. On 3 March 1945, the aircraft was assigned to 238 Sqdn at that time operating in India and Burma. In June 1945, the 238 squadron moved to Australia to provide transport support for the British Pacific Fleet as part of No. 300 Group, officially disbanding there on 27 December 1945. In April 1946, the 'KK151' was ferried to the UK to join 525 Sqn at RAF Abingdon. On 1 December 1946, No.525 Squadron at Abingdon was renumbered 238 Squadron. The same month, Dakota IV 'KK151' was tranferred to 46 Sqdn. On 25 March 1949 the 'KK151' was assigned to RAF Oakington in support of the Berlin Airlift after West-Berlin was separated by the Communists. On 17 September 1949, after being withdrawn from military service 'KK151' was placed in storage with No.12 Maintenance Unit and offered for sale. In March 1952, the 'KK151' was one of six Dakotas that were purchased from the Royal Air Force by Mr. J.A. Wilson, a Liverpool businessman. The aircraft were bought to be operated by Starways, and on 8 March 1952, the 'KK151' was registered G-AMRA as a Dakota 6 with J.A. Wilson. The G-AMRA was never operated by Starways, and on 5 March 1953, the G-AMRA was sold and registered with Airwork on 11 April 1953. During 1953 the aircraft was operated under U.K. government contracts taking troops to the Canal Zone in RAF livery with serial 'XE280'. In October 1953, the G-AMRA was leased to Aden Oil Refining. in November 1953, G-AMRA arrived in the Transair fleet, some 3 years before Airwork took control of Transair. On 1 July 1960, when the Airwork Group merged with Hunting-Clan and Air Charter to form the British United Airways Group, Dakota 6 G-AMRA was still in service with Transair. Morton Air Service, also part of the Airwork Group, became part of the British United Airways Group in July 1960, but retained its seperate identity. On 1 November 1962, the G-AMRA was transferred to Morton Air Services. In 1968, the BUA group of companies underwent a major reorganisation and Morton was absorbed into British United Island Airways, BUA's new regional affiliate. G-AMRA was now flying for BUIA. On 3 June 1970, the G-AMRA was registered with British and Commonwealth Shipping Company (Aviation) Ltd. as new owner, but remained in service with BUIA. In July 1970, BUIA officially became British Island Airways, ahead of the BUA sale, but also after British and Commonwealth Shipping was sold to Caledonian Airways in November 1970, the G-AMRA remained in service with BIA. On 16 April 1973, registered ownership of the G-AMRA changed to British Island Airways. In January 1974, Site Aviation bought the last three BIA Dakotas, including G-AMRA that was ferried to Castle Donnington for overhaul by Fields Aircraft Services, including repaint in Site Aviation colors. On 8 January 1974, Dakota G-AMRA arrived at Glasgow and operated just one charter flight for Site Aviation to Aberdeen the next day, before all three aircraft were repossessed by their former owner due to non-payment. From 15 March 1974 until December 1974, the G-AMRA was leased to by Macedonian Aviation. In December 1974, Humber Airways purchased the entire Macedonian Airways fleet of Dakotas, including the G-AMRA and on 30 December 1974, the aircraft was registered with Humber Airways. The airline was negotiating for several contracts on the North Sea oil rig work, but these contracts failed to materialise, and on 13 January 1975, it was announced that Humber Airways would cease all flying immediately. The DC-3s were located at Exeter, never having flown a service for Humber Airways. On 8 July 1975, the G-AMRA was sold and finally on 25 August 1976, registered with Intra Airways as new owner. On 7 July 1978, the G-AMRA was sold and on 18 July 1978, registered with Lease Air, a company trading as Eastern Airways. On 3 December 1978, the G-AMRA was painted at Norwich as 'Aeroflot CCCP-7245' for the TV-movie 'The Atom Spies'. On 21 October 1981, the G-AMRA was sold and registered with Dak Holdings as owner and Air Atlantique as operator. On 15 March 2000, ownership changed to Atlantic Air Transport, and on 17 July 2007 to Air Atlantique. In service with Air Atlantique and Classic Flight the plane flew pleasure and cargo flights transporting all manner of different loads. She also flew in the Berlin Airlift 40th Anniversary flypast and was noted at various air displays around the UK. The Dakota appeared several times in numerous films like Steven Spielbergs "Band of Brothers" and TV roles. In July 1991, the G-AMRA was even painted in a fictious 'Empire Airways' livery for the episode 'Death in the Clouds' of the series 'Agatha Christie's Poirot'. After a major overhaul in 2000, the G-AMRA continued to fly pleasure flights. In 2013, the G-AMRA was sold in Germany and on 30 July 2013, Air Atlantique’s Douglas DC-3C G-AMRA departed Coventry Airport for Berlin-Schönefeld. Its new operator Air Service Berlin plans to keep it flying as a permanent memorial to the 1948 Berlin Air Lift in which the DC-3 played a significant role. On 23 October 2015, Douglas DC-3C-R-1830-90C G-AMRA was registered with the Forderverein Rosinenbomber c/o Air Service Berlin at Berlin-Schönefeld Airport, Germany. On 14 July 1971, Douglas DC-3C Dakota VI G-AMRA was seen in service with BIA Air Cargo at London-Gatwick Airport in the UK.

page last updated: 21-07-2018
Copyright © Jack Wolbrink, Emmen, the Netherlands

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