Phoenix Rises From the Kudzu?
A Phoenix rose from the ashes or should I say from the kudzu of Central Georgia. The oldest Douglas DC -3 in existence returned to the skies this past month, departing Griffin, Georgia heading for its new home in Punta Gorda, Florida .
The aircraft, eventually designated N133D, (c/n #1499) was the sixth DC-3 off the Douglas DST line. It was delivered to American Airlines in 1936. It served during World War II as a cargo and transport aircraft for the Army Air Corps / Air Force and after the war it returned home to American Airlines.
In 1950 American sold the aircraft to Ozark Airlines where it transported freight and passengers until 1968 when it logged its final Ozark mission, Flight 311, ferrying passengers between Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta, Georgia. Ozark sold its DC-3s to Airline Aviation Academy to make way for the jet aircraft that were quickly replacing propeller piston aircraft, like the DC-3, as the preferred vehicle for passenger transport. In 1972 Mr. Bob McSwiggan purchased Airline Aviation Academy and its DC-3s, renaming it Academy Airlines. He operated the DC-3s including N133D from their new home base in Griffin, Georgia.
During its life with Academy Airlines it served primarily as a freighter, making flights hauling anything from newspapers to auto parts to computers from anywhere in the southeast including, Tallahassee, Boca Raton, Orlando and Atlanta. It even landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida transporting the auxiliary power units for the Space Shuttle Challenger back to the manufacturer for overhaul.
Unfortunately, in the 90’s it wound up on the ground in Griffin, where it hasn’t moved since. It has stood watch over old the grass field at the Griffin-Spalding County Airport for many years where the sun, wind, rain, even ice and snow have taken their toll. Occasionally, DC-3 enthusiasts and historians have ventured here to Griffin to pay their respects, ask questions and take pictures of the weathered hull sitting motionless amongst the waiving grass.
Luckily, this past year Mr. Frank Moss purchased the old girl, (formerly known as the American Airlines Flagship “Tennessee”). He and his family have made numerous trips from their home in Florida up here to Griffin bringing with them parts, including new engines, propellers, cable, wiring and control surfaces where they strove to get her in good enough flying shape so that they may fly her to Florida where she will undergo a complete restoration.
It was sad to see her go but I think an even greater tragedy would have been to watch as the kudzu eventually claimed her.