Dakota Update – Tracking Them Down!

By me
All (one) photos me too, copyrighted

Having been in doubt about the true identity of the Željava C-47 – mislabeling it as 212-something – I was pleasantly surprised to find out that someone had done some research where I haven’t :). After having posted one of the photos seen here on Airliners.net (link here), someone – to whom I’m very grateful – quickly corrected the registration to 71212.

This got me thinking (by an odd, circuitous route): why not try and track down all the surviving Dakotas that were operated by the former Yugoslav Air Force (surviving being a very loose term here)? This of course necessitated some thorough research, so to start myself off, I decided to concentrate on the five examples I’m familiar with (having remembered another one yesterday and found the fifth in a magazine):

  • 71203 at Zadar-Zemunik, Croatia
  • 71212 at Željava, Croatia
  • 71214 at Belgrade, Serbia
  • 71248 formerly at Rajlovac near Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, now at Merville, France
  • 71255 at Otočac, Croatia

I believe that in the end these will probably represent the sum total of all the survivors – at least those still in Europe (some may have been sold overseas). Lacking proper aviation museums – except the Aeronautical Museum at Belgrade airport – many of these aircraft have either been sold, scrapped or dumped as gate guardians across the countries of former Yugoslavia, with little effort made to preserve them. But despite that – and the fact that an object the size of a C-47 is not all that easy to hide – I wouldn’t be surprised to find several more in out-of-the way backwoods places across the length and breadth of the western Balkans…

The Dakota Locator, Version 1 :). The locations of all the ex-Yu Daks I've been able to find so far (with the note that 71248 is now restored and in France)

Daks in the Jugoslovensko Ratno Vazduhoplostvo:

A bit of history first, to put it all into perspective. As far I’ve been able to find out while browsing though various magazines, the YuAF had acquired about 50 C-47s/DC-3s between 1945 and the mid-70s in two batches (in addition to 11 Li-2s/Li-3s). A number have been dismantled for spare parts outright – notably those from the second batch – while the rest were split between three squadrons:

  • the 675. transportna avijacijska eskadrila (transport aviation squadron), based at Batajnica airbase in Belgrade, which was a VIP outfit reserved for President Tito
  • the 677. transportna avijacijska eskadrila based at Niš in Serbia
  • and the 679. transportna avijacijska eskadrila based at “my own” Pleso airport here in Zagreb

All of these were phased out in 1976 (the Lisunovs in 1971) with the arrival of new Antonov An-26 turboprop transports, still used today by the Serbian AF.

1. 71203 / C-47… / cn unknown:

The first Dak on the list is a “new” one I’ve found while browsing through Aeronautika magazine. It is located at Zemunik airbase near Zadar, an active training base of the Croatian Air Force, but that’s as far as the information I have goes. Being on base, it is not freely accessible to the general public, so there’s – so far – very little chance of taking down its construction number and using the resources of the internet for something useful :).

2. 71212 / C-47B / cn unknown:

This C-47 you’re already familiar with from my previous post. The least-known of the lot, I think this may be the only B model here (though I have my doubts now about whether it may actually be a non-supercharged A version) and is arguably the worst one off. If it were just missing a couple of parts, it’d be okay, but some crossfire during the Balkan Wars has done its bit as well…

3. 71214 / C-47A-35-DK / cn 16472/33200:

On the other side of the scale is the best preserved C-47 I’ve been able to find in the area, on permanent exhibit at the Aeronautical Museum at Belgrade airport. Thinking this was a B model as well – was given this information on a visit to the museum several years back – I subsequently found out it was an A model, which cast some doubts on whether 71212 was of the same sort, given that their Yugoslav AF serials were very close.

Another photo of 71214 - pretty much the same as the last :). The best-preserved example to remain in ex-Yu, 71214 is the only one fortunate to end up in a museum where it can be maintained at least somewhat

71214‘s history is still eluding me, but given that it was one of the most versatile aircraft of WW2, I’m sure it has a few interesting stories to tell :). Having the serial will also help during my upcoming thorough search…

4. 71248 / C-47A-80-DL / cn 43-15073:

The most fortunate Dakota from these parts is of course 71248, now happily living out its days, restored, in a proper aviation museum in Merville, France. Quite a famous machine, 71248 was originally the “SNAFU special” of the 440th Troop Carrier Group, 95th Troop Carrier Squadron, USAAF 9th Air Force, and has a combat record that makes for some very impressive reading – D-Day, Italy, Market Garden, the Ardennes and Operation Varsity, the last large-scale paratroop operation of WW2. Sold to the French Air Force after the war, by the early 70s it had found its way into the Yugoslav armory and survived the breakup of Yugoslavia as a sad, neglected derelict, sporting the locally-famous “MAY BE AIRLINES” sign.

Found in 2007. by enthusiasts from France, it was donated to the “SNAFU team” by the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is now – after a year’s restoration and €90.000 euros invested – gracing the grounds of Normandy looking better than new! 🙂 You can find a lot of  information and “Before” and “After” photos on the aircraft’s official website, www.the-snafu-special.com.

5. 71255 / C-47… / cn uknown:

The last on the list is another “mystery C-47”, which I believe may be an A model. Serving as a gate guardian at Otočac sport airfield in mid-Cro (ICAO location indicator: LDRO), this one is in a tiny bit better state than 71212 – differing in the fact that it was not shot at :). Its history is muddled too, with almost no information on it available after some cursory Googling – and very few good pictures, which I’m hoping to put right one day… 🙂

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