Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey to Europe Crewing a Vintage DC-3 D-Day Squadron’s 2024 Legacy Tour One Year to Launch

Shelair's unique aviation blog series.

Highlight

As the executive director of the D-Day Squadron (DDS), an organization focused on honoring the Greatest Generation and the legendary DC-3 “Dakota,” I am excited to share our planned return to Europe in 2024 as we commemorate DDay80 and Berlin75 anniversaries. This Memorial Day, we honor all those who paid the price for our freedoms today. May we never forget the blood shed for what we enjoy today. Come on this journey with us and experience flying history and flying freedom! 

We are thrilled to have Sheltair as one of the newest Affiliate Partners to the D-Day Squadron’s DC-3 Society. The DC-3 Society is the first type society of the DC-3 aircraft which provides type-specific guidance for operating the DC-3 and its variants, including the C-47 and C-53, as a way to maintain airworthiness for the models so that future generations can see them fly. The society also serves the legacy of veterans who flew, maintained, and required the model to prevail in conflicts ranging from World War II to the Vietnam War.

Commemorative Memorial Day Feature on D-Day Squadron’s Planned Return to Europe for DDay80 and Berlin75 for the 2024 Legacy Tour

Happy Memorial Day to all! My hope is that as you read this, you take a moment of silence for every one of our servicemen and servicewomen who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms – for the ability to get up each day and live our lives, hug our family, eat out at our favorite restaurants, fly our airplanes, drive our vehicles, listen to our saved music playlists, feel safe in the comfort of our homes. Every day, I give gratitude to the fallen, those who fought for God and Country, the unsung heroes, the veterans who died in combat so we may embrace each day.

As I write this blog, I type this from Milan, Italy, looking at the Arco della Pace (Arch of Peace), which sits to the northwest of the Sforzesco Castle. The Arch dates back to the 19th century, however, it is believed its origins can be traced back to a gate of the Roman walls of Milan. The castle was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan. It was later renovated and enlarged in the 16th and 17th centuries and houses much of the city’s museum and arts collections today. There is so much rich history not only in Milan, yet throughout Italy overall. And speaking of ‘history,’ that is the focus of this month’s blog post. Flying history to be exact.

Two pictures of a building.

In May 2024, a squadron of DC-3 vintage aircraft will assemble in this great nation, a northeast location, to train, prepare and organize for a Northern Atlantic crossing, retracing the legs flown by World War II veterans, in the very same aircraft, 80 years prior. The crossing called the ‘Blue Spruce’ route, is unmatched.

The route? Oh yes! It is a cold one for sure! From the Northeast United States, we will complete legs to Presque Isle, Maine, Goose Bay, Canada, Narsarsuaq, Greenland, Reykjavik, Iceland, Preswick, Scotland, then to Duxford, UK. In Duxford, the squadron – as was done in 2019 – will base their operations at the Imperial Warbird Museum (IWM) before assembling with the international contingent of Dakotas for a commemorative crossing of the English Channel into Normandy. There, we will drop more than 150 parachutists in period WWII uniforms and equipment, over the same drop zones as was done on June 6, 1944. Again, the Northern Atlantic crossing is challenging. We face incredible weather issues and delays, as well, some of the most difficult runway and terrain to fly into and through. Only the most seasoned pilots are permitted to fly these routes, for good reason! The Northern Atlantic Crossing is NOT for the faint of heart. Six total flight legs must be completed and involve crew rest, refueling, proper maintenance, formation planning, weather, flight planning and logistics.

Join the D-Day Squadron's 2024 Legacy Tour.
Mike Killian 4 Skydive view.

Our 2019 feat was so rewarding, we received the attention of the Gary Sinise Foundation and were able to bring film producers, Adrienne Hall and Mecky Cruz of Sound off Films to film, document and capture our now-famous mission! Their work, with the help of several additional associate producers, film donors and supporters, resulted in an award-winning documentary film called, “Into Flight Once More.” Into Flight Once More is a 70-minute documentary film, narrated by actor and veteran advocate, Gary Sinise.

You can watch our documentary film on all major streaming devices. It is also available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray: https://www.intoflightoncemore.com/

Can you imagine? It will take our D-Day Squadron 15 days, close to 3,000 nautical miles, approximately 15 hours of flight time, 120 gallons of oil, more than 1,400 gallons of fuel, and roughly 150 crew to make this historic transatlantic crossing! While this is no easy task for those of us who crew and fly these aircraft today, we have the luxury of modern avionics, navigation, and some squadron aircraft are restored with insulated material. These luxuries were not the case for WWII veterans in 1944. At the ripe ages of 19, 20, 21, and even 22, they flew these aircraft with dead reckoning and the stars for navigation. Complete respect for these young soldiers, who, while flying, knew their fate awaited them behind enemy lines.

Here is the Mission Accomplished Video Recap of the 2019 Mission: D-Day Squadron Mission Recap

Crewing a Vintage DC-3.

Some WWII veterans are alive today to tell their stories. One in particular, Lt. Col. David Hamilton, the last living C-47 Pathfinder pilot from D-Day, turns 101 this July 20, 2023. For his 101st birthday, in partnership with the CAF (Commemorative Air Force) and EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association), Dave will join the D-Day Squadron at the largest airshow in the world: EAA AirVenture, a 70th anniversary for EAA.

David Hamilton OSH23 poster.
David Hamilton and C-53.
Thumbs-up Hamilton 10x8 Flight.

Check out a short interview with David Hamilton, before the D-Day Squadron launched on the 2019 journey back to Europe for DDay75 and Berlin70: Interview with Lt Col David Hamilton, D-Day Pathfinder Pilot

Normandy Drops photo by Gary Daniels.

Why the 2024 Legacy Tour name? This effort is dubbed the “2024 Legacy Tour.” With many WWII veterans having ‘flown west’ since our D-Day Squadron’s 2019 mission, 2024 will be an opportunity to focus on both the LEGACY of these WWII veterans and the legendary aircraft that served as the backbone to multiple war campaigns.

Troops of Rich Cooper Photo.

“Our veterans are our window to the past, and this is a chance for us to continue honoring those who made sacrifices for the freedoms we have today,” shared D-Day Squadron’s mission chief pilot, Eric Zipkin. Eric will fly the lead C-47, WWII combat veteran, “Placid Lassie” throughout the entire journey.

What’s the timeline and can you follow along? Why yes! We have a busy European tour schedule of commemorations. While visiting Italy as I write this post, I am excited to share that we have plans to return to Venice as we did in 2019! Check out the proposed 2024 timeline below:

  • May 15-25: Training and Blue Spruce Route Crossing
  • May 25-31: Europe training and buffer for weather / mechanical
  • June 1-2: Imperial War Museum, Duxford, multiple events/flyovers in UK, photo flights before English Channel crossing
  • June 2-10: Normandy DDay80 and Jump Operations
  • June 10-15: Berlin Airlift 75th and Germany events
  • June 15-19 : Lido Italy/Portugal
  • June 19-28: Return to North America

Classic Eisenhower Addressing Troops DDay.

Like Sheltair, we are excited to bring along our affiliate partners, corporate partners, donors, fans, and followers to Europe. On May 20, 2023, the D-Day Squadron launched its first level campaign, called a Kickstarter, to raise funds for the mission. You can find the details of the 2024 Legacy Tour, plans, timelines, and giving opportunities here: https://www.ddaysquadron.org/2024-legacy-tour

Check out the 2024 Legacy Tour Promotional Video just released: D-Day Squadron | 2024 Legacy Tour Promo Video

Journey to Europe with the D-Day Squadron's Vintage DC-3.

While we are no strangers to challenging and rewarding global flight missions, this upcoming tour may be our last. The DC-3 is so well built, as long as it’s well maintained, serviced and crewed properly, it can last forever. The issue we face: our pilots are aging out and there are so few young pilots succeeding them. Just as the aviation sector battles workforce talent challenges, so does the warbird community. To get a DC-3 type is not entirely costly, however accessibility is key. Knowing an operator and an instructor can be limiting. That is why in September 2020, the D-Day Squadron established the first of its kind, a DC-3 Society to aid in the longevity of the airframe, support airworthiness, pilot training and operations of the DC-3 type aircraft. This is the very arm of the organization Sheltair participates in, supporting DC-3 operations that fly into each of the 21 FBO locations. Its fuel distributor, Avfuel, is also an affiliate partner to the society.

DC3 Society Affiliate Partners.

Do you want to get involved in the 2024 Legacy Tour? We invite you to find out more! Get in touch with us, as we have volunteer opportunities, a need for fundraising and corporate support, and more. Email: director@ddaysquadron.org

_____

As I advance this themed monthly blog with Sheltair, you will become more intimately involved in special projects FAC has oversight of. Some of these, just to give a teaser, involve WWII aircraft, a presidential aircraft restoration, global flight missions, female flight training scholarships, and more! FAC is now a team of 10 and growing. We love to have fun, we all enjoy the freedom of flight, engaging with industry, and supporting this sector with everything we have. We invite you to learn more about us here: FunDAvConsulting.com

 

Stay tuned for the June blog!