An NWT aviation star’s race to repair a World War Two aircraft in time to commemorate D-Day’s 75th anniversary is entering its final hours.
The old, beaten-up Douglas DC-3, found by Mikey McBryan, is receiving finishing touches in Montreal before – hopefully – taking to the skies to remember the 1944 Allied invasion in which the plane took part.
Buffalo Airways’ McBryan has been working to restore the aircraft since late last year, chronicling the project in a series of daily videos.
The DC-3’s big flight is supposed to be on Thursday, June 6. Twenty people have worked tirelessly for months to get the aircraft ready.
“There are definitely snags. There are definitely problems, if you want to call it that. We’re not out of the woods yet,” a frantic McBryan told Cabin Radio as the hours ticked down on Wednesday morning.
“We’re doing everything possible to make sure it can go.”
The deadline is so tight that McBryan and his crew say simply getting the plane off the ground on Thursday will be a powerful recognition of its role in one of World War Two’s key turning points, 75 years ago to the day.
“We are going to be just flying here in Montreal, at the Montreal Saint-Hubert Longueuil Airport, as our own little D- Day celebration,” he said.
McBryan explained there were many challenges to fixing the aircraft.
“Montreal had the worst spring in 20 years, that was an issue,” he said. Just the [sheer number of] tasks, what we were doing… I haven’t even had a chance to think about it.”
McBryan says he’s going to hold off being proud of his accomplishment until he sees the plane take off: “Our whole goal is to get this airplane flying and I won’t be able to sleep until that one moment.”
Major air show appearance
Buffalo is famed for its fleet of vintage DC-3 aircraft, which continue to serve the communities of the NWT.
This DC-3 was built in January 1944, in Oklahoma City, by the Douglas Aircraft Company.
On the night before D-Day, 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 recounted in December that the DC-3 also flew in five missions during Operation Market Garden, another World War Two military operation 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.
Once repairs to the plane are complete, McBryan plans to bring it to Oshkosh, Wisconsin – home to one of the world’s largest air shows, AirVenture.
McByran says 750,000 people joined him in attending the air show last year.
This year, the DC-3 will have the honour of taking centre stage at AirVenture. McBryan says that’s “pretty cool.”
The northerner in McBryan could not complete this project without his best friend, he added.
Mikey flew his dog, Stuka, out to Montreal to be a part of restoring history.