Having also posted photos of the Željava C-47 71212 on a local aviation forum, I was pleasantly surprised recently to find that some knowledgeable members had chimed in, keeping the discussion going with some very juicy details and stories of Dakotas in former Yugoslav service (both with the the YuAF and JAT, the state air carrier). Among these were the fates of three examples that had ended up with the South African Air Force – are still happily flying today in turboprop form! 🙂 So to update my small list – and with a lot of help from both the guys on the forum and the website they had directed me to – here goes:
1. 71237 / C-53D-DO / cn 11746:
A very interesting one this, apparently the only Skytrooper to have been operated by the YuAF. Essentially a stock C-47A fully adapted for paratroop drops, the Skytrooper was a common sight towards the end of the war, but few seem to have survived till today. Originally completed in 1943 as Hay Stack Annie – and taking part in the D-Day landings of 1944 – 71237 had served its first post-war decade in Scandinavia, where it flew for various small airlines before becoming part of the SAS fleet in 1949. Like all the three aircraft to be mentioned here, it was part of the batch bought from France in the 70s, serving with the French Air Force as 68819 from 1959 until it was transferred to the civil register as F-BRGI in November 1972. According to reports, it was sold to the YuAF “later that year”, operated now out of Zagreb (finally a local! 🙂 ). Just four years later, in 1979, it was back on the civil register as YU-ABW of the Obrazovni Centar Zračnog Saobraćaja (OCZS) training center, also based at Zagreb. Seeming to have bad luck with civil life, it was sold the same year to the Atlas Aircraft Corporation, becoming N8017Z – a “career path” also shared by the other two aircraft in this entry. Like them it would be returned to army life with the SAAF in 1981, where it became 6875. Today, it is a smart C-47TP, fittingly fitted with Pratt & Whitney PT6s 🙂 (of note, this is not the more common Basler BT-67 conversion, but a broadly similar South African modification – many thanks to Marko Beloglavec for the correction).
2. 71241 / C-47A-15DK / cn 12704:
71241, an “ordinary” C-47A this time, has had an even more interesting life. Manufactured in 1944, it was transferred to the Soviet Air Force the same year (an interesting fact, given the license-built Li-2 had entered service five years before), which had in turn passed it to the reborn Polish Air Force within several months. Following the end of the war, it had served with LOT Polish Airlines for 14 years, being sold to Finland as OY-AIC (a Nordic theme seems to be emerging here 🙂 ). Heading south, it had then flown with the French Air Force as 92857 – and on the civil register as F-BRGM – until sold to the YuAF in the later part of 1972. Like 71234, it was based at Zagreb and became YU-ABU of OCZS in 1979, while its subsequent “career path” had seen it registered as N8071X with Atlas Aircraft Corporation and 6887 with the SAAF, where it too received the C-47TP turboprop conversion in 1995.
3. 71254 / C-47B-1-DK / cn 14101/25546:
Finally a confirmed B model! 😀 The only one of the three ultimately ending up on the civil register, 71254 had followed the usual USAF-French AF-YuAF path, flying as 348285 and F-BTDE while in France. A bit of a registration melee ensued, the aircraft first becoming 71254 (1972) and then YU-ABV (1979), N8071Y (1979), 6880 (1980), N330RD (2000), ZS-OJL (South African civil register), 9U-BHL (Burundi, raising a few eyebrows) and finally back to South Africa as ZS-OJM, where it remains to this day, flying for the Red Cross :).
4. The tally:
With the total now at eight aircraft – about a sixth of the number bought, if my calculations are correct – this is coming along pretty nicely :). So far we have:
Hopefully I’ll be able to dig out more info of my own soon, just as soon as I get my head out of my ATPL studies and realize that yes, there is a world with fresh air outside… 😀