How to Fly a 78-Year-Old Douglas Dakota Plane in the Netherlands

The famous Douglas DC-3 is well known for being the most produced commercial aircraft in history. This is largely due to the number of military versions built that were later used for civilian purposes, such as the C-47 “Dakota”. Even today, you can still fly some examples, including one based in the Netherlands.


A brief history of the aircraft involved

These flights are operated by the Dutch Dakota Association, also known as DDA Classic Airlines. The particular Dakota this group flies bears the registration PH-PBA and, according to data from FlightRadar24.com, is an impressive 78 years old. ATDB.aero data shows that he started his career with the United States Air Force (USAF).

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According to DDA, the aircraft was stored in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany after World War II. Shortly afterwards it was purchased by Dutch Prince Bernhard and it was re-registered as PH-PBA (the last item on the record apparently representing Prins Bernhard Alpha).

Purchased in February 1946, its ownership was transferred to the Dutch State in March 1947, and it thus became a government aircraft. Although it retired from these duties in 1961 to be replaced by a Fokker F27 “Friendship”, it remained active until 1975, with Dutch aviation regulators using it as a calibration aircraft.

In custody

More than two decades later, in 1996, the Prince Bernhard Alpha Foundation was born. This prompted the initiation of a UK-based restoration project involving the PH-PBA, which returned to the Netherlands as an airworthy aircraft two years later. It should be noted that parts from another Dakota, PH-TCB, were used in the restoration of the aircraft. DDA originally painted the aircraft in a vintage KLM livery.

Between 2006 and 2010, one side of the aircraft featured a retro Air France paint scheme, commemorated by a visit by the KLM board to Paris using the aircraft. However, KLM ended its partnership with DDA Classic Airlines in 2016. This prompted the group to repaint the jet in a temporary livery of its own.

Nevertheless, in 2018 the PH-PBA was correctly delivered in the color scheme it wore when flying for the Dutch government. It retains this livery today and, although it was grounded at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it continues to operate regular leisure flights. Let’s see how you can fly on one of these trips.

The plane created a spectacular sight and sound as it flew over Amsterdam over the weekend. Image: FlightRadar24.com

How to fly on PH-PBA

DDA Classic Airlines operates a comprehensive schedule of scenic leisure flights using PH-PBA, which means that with a little planning ahead, avgeeks can fly there relatively easily. A quick look at its website lists four flights departing from Lelystad Airport (LEY) over the weekend of October 15-16, and another four from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) the weekend of October 22 and 23.

Depending on the exact nature of the flight in question, these seem to usually last 30 or 45 minutes. Tickets for 30-minute flights aboard the PH-PBA cost €150 ($145.42), while longer 45-minute jaunts cost €175 ($169.65). Further, DDA notes that the plane, which bears the name Princess Amaliaalso visits other neighboring European countries such as Belgium, France and Germany.

What do you think of DDA Classic Airlines’ preserved Douglas Dakota? Have you ever traveled on one of the group’s scenic flights? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Sources: ATDB.aero, DDA Classic Airlines, FlightRadar24.com

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