Dinner Flights

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Here in Melbourne we have at least one DC-3 based out at Essendon airport (YMEN) that’s operated by Short Stop Jet Charter. They have it available for winery tours, joy flights and dinner flights. It’s not uncommon to hear it out on a good night flying a group of people around the Port Phillip Bay area & over the city. It’s a beautiful sound and I’m very pleased that these guys are able to keep it in the air.

Actually, it’s in the air right now and I’m listening to it as it flies around the city, passing over us here and there. The house is quiet as everyone else is asleep, but I’m working and the drone is soothingly wonderful, triggering thoughts from my past.

I have very fond memories of being in the right place at the right time while hanging out at Bankstown airport (YSBK) in Sydney and helping with the DC-3s that were parked there. Working with Captain Jack Curtis to taxi one that needed to be moved due to some works being done. This involved pumping the hell out of the wobble-pump to get the engines primed & started then sitting in the copilot’s seat and watching out the window to ensure we didn’t chew up any cones. Another time I went along as we taxied from one side of the airport to the other, wound up sitting inside and chatting while the aircraft was used as a backdrop for a photoshoot, then taxied it all the way back. During an airshow at Bankstown in the 90’s I was cleaning the DC-3 between rides and helping to guide people to & from the aircraft plus wheeling the steps in & out. Later I helped walk the wing when we had to bring one out from the static park to replace the one giving rides after it’d gone U/S. When the airshow itself started, I got to sit on top and watch the show – best seats in the house.

Many years and a few countries later, I was at Moorabbin (YMMB) in the dark at 5am on the Royal Victorian Aero Club’s flight line preparing our assigned aircraft to go on RVAC’s Dawn Patrol when I heard that beautiful drone once again. I called it and we all stopped to listen for it. Sure enough, a set of lights could be seen flying a distant downwind, rolling onto base and then coming in to land in the dark. As it came over the threshold we could confirm it as the old Ansett DC-3 and didn’t it look beautiful. I caught up with the crew just before the pilot briefing for a quick chat about people, places and so on. Magic moments.

I would really love to learn to fly the DC-3 at some point as it’s a beautiful aircraft and we need new pilots to help keep the old birds flying. Maybe I’ll head over to the USA to get a type rating via Dan Gryder and the HERPA DC-3. I didn’t realise this option existed until I heard about it on Aero News and listened to Stephen Force doing his SIC rating.

For now, I’ll just looked forward to the day when I’ll be able to spare some $$$ to go on one of Short Stop’s dinner flights. Of course, I’ll be wanting to spend the flight on the jumpseat in the cockpit instead of in the passenger chairs (who needs food – just let me do the flight up front).

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One Response to Dinner Flights

  1. Steven Pam says:

    DC3’s are gorgeous, aren’t they.

    I heard VH-TMQ last night, too. I was at a barbecue(“Garden Chef”, actually, but that’s another story) in Northcote and pointed it out to someone. It was pretty much dark at the time and they wondered how I could tell what it was. I explained about the unmistakable sound of those two big radial engines – and that it was pretty much a regular thing on Saturday nights.

    I also took some pictures of TMQ at Essendon around 2001. One of them is on flickr, and another photo from that session was selected for the Fuji ACMP Australian Photographers Collection 8 (“The Collection”), which was very cool.

    I went to the Dawn Patrol a few years ago, too. I turned down a ride in a Queen Air because I thought I’d get better shots at the airport. In the end I managed to capture a belly landing! And some cool shots from and of the tower.

    I have a few other DC3 shots here, too.

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