So this story really starts back during Labor Day 2006 when Fred Miller insisted that I come down to FRG to see the old war birds and bombers on display for Labor Day weekend at the American Airpower Museum located at FRG. So not being a big military guy I was reluctant but went. I guess I caught a bug when I was there because the site of all these classic birds was amazing! I still really can’t fathom that these planes are over 60 years old and still flying, truly a testament to their original manufactures and the people today caring of them.
So anyway on that same weekend I decided to book a ride on the C-47 aka DC-3. I’ve never been on classic piston liner and thought what a great way to really be one of the few today who has flown in a classic airliner. Unfortunately for me last year the C-47 blew an engine on the flight before mine and was laid up until this past spring. Fast forward to Saturday September 16, 2007…
The museum contacted me in early September to rebook my flight for this weekend and not really thinking I booked the 10 AM flight. I should have booked the afternoon flight so I could have slept a bit later. The night before I walked into my house at 3:15 AM only to be up at 8 AM for my flight.
I arrived at FRG about 8:40 that morning and checked in with the flight desk and they asked me if I wanted to go up on the 9:00 AM flight being I was already there, so I was said “why not.” So they got me into the “Canteen” where I was yelled at for being late and told to get in line (even though I wasn’t late)! “SON YOU DON’T GET TO MY SQUAD LATE, NOW GET IN LINE OR GIVE ME 50!” “YES SIR” I responded and took my place in line. I was given some military gear to get into to reflect the WWII ear, man even without the gun, ammo and all the other stuff that clothing is pretty dam heavy. We were briefed a bit and then the “SGT” asked why we wanted to do this, so being the geek that I am I said “because old planes are cool” He just about fell on the floor laughing.
We were then taken out to the tarmac where that beautiful C-47/DC-3 was waiting, engines still cold, sun glaring down on her as she awaited her passengers. I really didn’t believe I was about to leave the ground on a plane that was built in 1943, but life is to short not to experience its unique side. So we got on and was handed an official safety card. Now seeing the aircraft type on the safety card say “C-47” was just way to cool.
As soon as everyone was strapped in they turned the engines on. OH MY GOD!!!! Boys and Girls there’s nothing like the sound of radial piston engines on a Sunday morning! Can’t really describe it you have to live it to understand just how cool those babies are to hear.
We proceeded to taxi to the far end of FRG where we paused for a couple of minutes as they preformed a engine run up test, man it was loud. Finally we rolled onto the runway and off we went. Being it was tail dragger everyone slides a bit to the rear and you can feel he tail of the plane move back and forth. Then like magic the tail lifted off the ground and just a moment later we genteelly left the ground.
Looking out the window at the props and the wing really was inspiring, I just couldn’t believe and still can’t I was flying in such a classic plane. We headed out towards the south shoe of Long Island and east just over Fire Island. What a day to fly to, man you could see all the way to Montauk and on the way back a clear 60 miles to New Jersey. The skyline of Manhattan was 50 miles away but seemed like you could reach out and touch it!
As we flew out over Long Island we milled about the cabin and flight deck taking pictures, talking to the crew, and simply admiring the history of this plane. After about 40 minutes of flight we were instructed to take our seats and we began our decent and straight in arrival back to FRG, talk about a smooth landing to! I’ve had worse landings in a 747, this Capt greased this bird in.
After deplaning we thanked our crew went back inside took off our gear and went on our way. I stayed to watch the 10 AM flight leave and then headed back home to do yard work…Interesting how in a course of a day you can go from reliving history to mowing you’re lawn…
In all it was a fantastic experience and I want to encourage each of you if you have the opportunity to do something like this to do it, you’ll never forget it. The American Airpower Museum at FRG is truly a wonderful place where not only is history preserved but where it lives!