Ice Pilots NWT’s Mikey McBryan will aim to restore a “D-Day Bomber” Douglas DC-3 aircraft in time for the historic Allied invasion’s 75th anniversary next year.
According to McBryan, the aircraft’s logbooks suggest the plane, carrying paratroopers, dropped a dozen 20-pound bombs on June 6, 1944.
The Buffalo Airways base manager in Yellowknife said a squadron member had scribbled an entry at the time reading: “A small surprise for the troops defending the coast in France.”
The DC-3 has not flown in nearly 30 years, said McBryan, and has been stripped of parts – a new challenge at an airline famed for its continued operation of the workhorse aircraft.
Over the winter, McBryan and family plan to build up the engines, wheels, brakes, flight controls, and cockpit in Red Deer, Alberta – where Buffalo owns a damaged sister plane which can be gutted for parts.
Components will then be shipped to Montréal, where the ‘new’ plane is grounded at Saint-Hubert Longueuil Airport, so the plane can be assembled in time for a test flight on the anniversary of D-Day.
McBryan’s posts about his plans on Facebook and Instagram have received more than 10,000 likes at the time of writing.
“It’s crazy. It’s really hit a nerve of the core aviation fans. Aviation is niche, and vintage aviation is even nicher,” he said.
“I think it’s a cool project that people from all around the world can almost feel a part of, because of social media and how you can follow along.”
McBryan plans to post photos and updates of the restoration process, He said he has already been approached by two film crews interested in producing documentaries.
“With social media, as I see it, everyone else will see it,” he said.
Buffalo also plans to fly the DC-3 in July at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, which dubs itself “the world’s greatest aviation celebration.”
‘No regular goonybird’
On Facebook, McBryan detailed the aircraft’s history, saying, “This isn’t just any regular goonybird.”
“I started reading up on the history of the aircraft itself and how important it was to D-Day, and that just inspired me to go, ‘Hey, maybe this is something we can do,'” he told Cabin Radio.
“I contacted the owner and he was over the moon that someone like Buffalo Airways would be interested in the airplane, because they spent so much time and effort on the airplane and they want to see it fly.
“They don’t want to see it in a museum or cut up for a new airplane.”
The DC-3 was built in January 1944, in Oklahoma City, by the Douglas Aircraft Company.
On the night before D-Day, on June 5, the plane took off at 11:20pm as part of a fleet assigned to neutralize German forces along the beaches to be used for Allied landings.
The logbook shows 17 paratroopers jumped from the plane shortly after midnight, landing near Touffreville, France, with a mission to destroy bridges over the Dive River.
McBryan recounts that the DC-3 also flew in five missions during Operation Market Garden, another World War Two military operation that took place in September 1944.
After the war, the aircraft was sold to Canadair. It flew for Trans-Canada Airlines until Transport Canada purchased the plane in the 1970s.