My name is Dakota
My name is Dakota. This is my story.
I was born on December 17, 1935. Soon to be 80 years old, still doing those Weight Watchers exercise routines have me feeling as young and vital as ever. My life started in Santa Monica, CA. It was early winter when I opened my eyes on the tarmac. What a day it was, I remember it clearly as if it was yesterday. Clear, chilly sky, small crowd gathered to see me fly for the first time. Clouds above kept calling for me, I was shivering with anxiety.
Suddenly, my engines started to roar, filling my entire being with enormous power and vigor. Brakes off, I rushed across the tarmac to full speed and not before long I was airborne. Such freedom, such joy! I glided across the sky, my metal body glistening in the sun, my wings stretched far, so far I thought they’ll encompass the globe below me. The first flight was short, but I knew there will be more to come.
My parents wanted me to be large, sturdy and reliant, but also elegant and beautiful. I was made for long flights, with sleeping bunks for my passengers. I made impossible distances short, and people could reach from one side of the continent to another in 17 hours or less. Seems long now, but at the time it was lightning-fast. I loved my job. Carrying people from place to place, watching them, listening to their stories, doing my best to keep them safe and comfortable. At that time they called me DC-3 or DST, as in Douglas Sleeper Transport.
Soon I was fitted with seats only, and became one of the favorite airplanes around. I usually carried 21 passenger and the crew across the sky. There were 10.000 of my sisters sharing the sky and doing what we were born to do – to fly people around, to their jobs, new adventures, vacations and back home to their loved ones. People loved me and I loved them back. I helped make air travel economic and popular, some even say I started a revolution in air travel industry, changed the way people think and feel about flying. I hate to brag, but such praises make me feel proud.
The War Years
Then everything changed. The war broke out. They fitted me for fight, made modifications such as cargo door and astrodome and called me C-47 Skytrain. I hated war so much. So I did my best to help make it shorter. At least I went places. My duties were to carry soldiers and equipment all over the place, as remote as Burma and as high as the Himalaya. Flying over the top of the world, the tallest mountain there is was risky, but i enjoyed the thrill. Flying The Hump they called it. In Great Britain they nicknamed me Dakota and Gooney Bird, after an albatross. Both names stuck, but I must say I prefer Dakota.
War is hell and I couldn’t wait for that nightmare to be over. The saddest thing was flying the bodies of dead soldiers back home. Those were the only flights I hated, I wept all the way. We all kept pushing on, weeks stretched to years. One of the things I’ll never forget was the D-day. Sky over Normandy was filled with my sisters. Soldiers and cargo, everything were carried almost exclusively by Dakotas. And soon the war was over. By that time there were something like 100.000 of us.
I finally took off the uniform, they fitted me back to civilian plane. It felt good to have comfy chairs back inside, and to get back to normal life. There were so many of us now, we spread all over the globe, nearly every air company had at least one Dakota in it’s fleet.
Still going strong
The years went by so fast. Things change, new models arrive, but I kept on going strong well into the seventies. Although I don’t fell like it, I am a granny now. An old bird that nests in the hangar, but still flying, even today in 21st century there are many of my sisters, lot of us still working for a living. I love watching my younger cousins taking my place. They are stronger, bigger and smarter, but one thing is the same. We all have the same heart, same passion for flying. I’m proud of them, as they are proud of me and other planes that paved the way.
It’s not like I’m being replaced, I just passed the torch on. And don’t forget what they said: “the only thing that can replace a DC-3 is another DC-3”.
The DC-3 continues to fly. For example, up in Yellowknife, old DC-3s are flown by Buffalo Air.