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A visit to the Dutch Dakota Association.

Most of you know I’m still busy constructing a full size cockpit of a Dakota.  I’m always on the way looking for new information.  Collecting information about aeroplanes is already a difficult case; once you’re looking for  technical information it starts being an incredible difficult one.  A lot of luck and a the necessary perseverance will help you.
My birthday happened to be the lucky day.  A few days before I had contacted Mr Jeroen Plettenberg, operating officer at the DDA (Dutch Dakota Association).  I had told him a lot of my project and had asked him if he couldn’t take any measurements in the cockpit.  I wouldn’t have shown any objection if there‘d be any occasion to do it myself.  So I told him I’d easily like to come over to do the job.  Honestly I could never have dreamt for yes-answer, but the incredible did happen. 
One day later a email of Jeroen dropped in: he told me he’d like to take the measurements in one of the buses himself, but there was a chance, so he wrote, he could easily forget that measurement I needed.  So he invited me to come over and do it myself.  I could even choose the date.
I couldn’t almost believe  I got the chance to sit in one of the few remaining DC3  in Europe, let’s alone taking measurements and pictures of it. 
Next day I sent him a mail, asking if July 21st was alright.  It was perfect; in the middle of the week one or two Dakotas could always be admired.  The evening before I couldn’t sleep a wink.  July 21st, 8 o’clock am I was on my way to Schiphol Eastside, a distance of about 150 km.  

Jeroen had given me a perfect itinerary, so I arrived without any problem before the entrance of shed 3.  Being a bit in advance I could focus my video camera and having a first look in the shed.  There, in all his glory, stood the incredible beautiful PH-PBA.  This plane has ever been flied by HRH Prince Bernard.  It has been restored completely and has been painted again in the royal colours.  It is in a perfect state and is flown regularly.  It is maintained and managed by the DDA, but is still the propriety of the Prince Bernard Alpha Foundation.

After meeting Jeroen we made the acquaintance with some of his colleagues and with some members of the staff.  In his office J. gave the necessary information to his job as Operating Officer at DDA; afterwards we went to shed 3.
In the cockpit of the PH-PBA we started taking measurements  and pictures.  This plane is the real riding horse among the DC3s.  The inside op the plane hit my attention.  It was completely refurnished with modern comfortable seats.  The cockpit itself looks like new.  It is completely adapted to the requirements of a contemporary plane.  Provided is a radio stack with a new artificial horizon, VOR1 and VOR2.  All the other instruments (variant : controls) are original ones. 
There is no automatic pilot as this is not really necessary in a DC3: it can’t lose direction when it starts trimming.  As the captain says it in Dutch: “if flies like a razorblade”.  It took us about 2 hours.  Then we went to the next shed where the PH-DZZ stood, the DC3’s brother.  It had been flown the day before: one of the pilots had taken an exam with it.  Pilots have to sit for exams at regular times in order to keep the pilot’s licence. 
The DDZ is painted in the Martinair (MAC) colours.  When you enter this plane you are struck by the original inside.  It has been restored completely, but it looks like ‘in the good old days’.  Although a bit more simple, the cockpit has been equipped with modern gear and only the seats aren’t clad with soft sheepskin.  It wouldn’t be a Dutch plane if there wasn’t a reference to the shipping.  The steering-wheels of pilot and co-pilot have been neatly winded up with hemp fibre like a real ship.  Since April the PH-DDZ has been back in the air after 10 years of restoring.  The men and women at DDA have delivered an incredible beautiful work and a representative of McDonnell recently considered the DDZ as ‘Pure Magic’; this is really true.  This Dakota looks like it has just left the factory building. 

The visit came to an end.  It was the most beautiful anniversary present I could have dreamt of.  So I wish to thank all people of the Dutch Dakota Association and in particular Jeroen Plettenberg, who cared for this unforgettable day. 

Thanks to him I made a big step forward in the realisation of my own cockpit.  “Keep up the good work” and soon there’ll be my first flight in a DC3.  As a member of the DDA you can indeed enjoy a flight in one of their three planes at regular moments.


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© Verley Jan 2007-2017 original Dutch text from 2002 Translated by Joan Pacquets