Tuesday 9 April 2024

A Normandy Invasion Survivor

Several years ago we had the opportunity at Chateauroux to see and get on board the last French DC3 that is still airworthy. Like 70 others of its kind at the time in the mid-20th century, this plane crisscrossed the skies, wearing the livery of Air France.


The Douglas DC-3 (Dakota) that took part in the Normandy invasion, then saw service with Air France.

last airworthy DC3 in France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

It was built in 1943 and participated in the Normandy Invasion of June 1944. Its job was to tow gliders and carry parachutists. Then in August 1944 it was down south, for the Allied landings in Provence. After the War and with Germany partitioned, it was one of the planes in the famous Berlin airlift (in French the name for this operation translates as the 'aerial bridge'.) Afterwards it carried celebrities and government officials, including President de Gaulle, and future President Mitterand, when he was a Minister of State.


  The plane has both a perspex dome (for celestial navigation using a sextant) and modern GPS based navigation.

Inside the cockpit of the last airworthy DC3 in France. Photo by loire Valley Time Travel.

Air France retired the plane in the 1970s and it became the Central African Republic President Bokassa's private plane, before being refitted as a cargo plane. Today it is a sort of flying historic monument, sponsored by Air France, making appearances at airshows around the country and legendary amongst aviation enthusiasts.

I've no doubt, as a Normandy Invasion survivor, this plane will be extra busy this year of the 80th anniversary of the famous Allied landings that signalled the beginning of the end of the Second World War in Europe. So if you are up in Normandy, do keep an eye out for it, and if you are as lucky as we were, you might even get the chance to hop onboard and get a feel for what it was like to fly.


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