Final Flight for Douglas DC-3 (aka Dakota) at Kent International Airport

Final Flight for Douglas DC-3 (aka Dakota) at Kent International Airport

It truly will be the end of an era when passengers fly for the last time over Kent on one of the most significant and successful aircraft ever built, the Douglas DC-3, popularly known as the Dakota. On May 26th and 27th, Kent International Airport has the honour of being the final place in the county from which this iconic aircraft, which transformed civilian air travel and earned a distinguished military service record, will take to the skies with passengers on board.

Dakotas flew from Kent International Airport during its days as RAF Manston and the last two passenger-carrying examples in the UK – Romeo Alpha and Papa Yankee – are taking part in a farewell tour around Britain before EU rules force them into retirement. The 65-year-old planes, which served with the RAF during World War Two, are owned and operated by Air Atlantique Classic Flight, which has reluctantly decided it cannot convert them to comply with new legislation governing all passenger-carrying aircraft.

The regulations, designed essentially for 21st century jet aircraft, require items such as emergency escape chutes and oxygen masks, that, while essential on modern aircraft, are either impractical or impossible to fit on Dakotas and other large vintage aircraft. Matt Clarke, Chief Executive of Kent International Airport, said: “Quite simply, the Dakota is a legendary aircraft and we are extremely proud to be playing our part in its farewell tour, particularly given the airport’s association with the plane.”

‘Dakota’ was the RAF designation for the Douglas DC-3 and stood for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft. Flying for the first time in 1935, the DC-3 proved a hugely reliable and versatile aircraft and more than 12,000 were built, excelling variously as luxury airliners, transport planes, bombers, fighters, crop sprayers and general workhorses. The DC-3 has flown more miles and carried more passengers and cargo than any plane in history.

The military version was used extensively by the Allies during World War Two, played a key role in saving Berlin during the Cold War Airlift of 1948/49 and served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Mike Collett, chairman of Air Atlantique Classic Flight, said: “We are offering the British public one last opportunity to fly in what is universally recognised as the world’s most important passenger aircraft, the machine that introduced flying to the public.”

The flights are fully booked, but plane enthusiasts will be able to get a great view of the Dakota as it bids farewell to Kent from the airport’s perimeter fence. The Dakotas will be grounded in the UK for passenger flights from July 16, when the EU legislation comes into effect.

Source: Maxim PR

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