Dakota Update – 71253 at Otok pri Metliki, Slovenia

By me
All photos me too, copyrighted

Despite wry and humorous remarks from the side about what am I going to do in life after I photograph the last known Dakota in the lands of former Yugoslavia, I was genuinely looking forward to finally seeing it at the first opportunity I got :D. Last weekend’s torrential downpour – and the occasional floods it had spurred in both Croatia and Slovenia – had ruled that out at the time, but this week’s clean, crisp air and sunny skies were just begging for some photo ops. So, catching a free afternoon (a Friday no less), I decided to finally make the leisurely 90 km drive to Otok pri Metliki, just a hop across the border away…

Now, given the track record established by our three surviving Daks in Croatia, all sad and broken, I had expected 71253 to be in pretty much the same state – especially since Google Earth imagery had shown it to be apparently isolated on a small hill, far from anything or anyone. However, driving up that hill, my view obscured by the crops on the sides of the road, I was in for quite a big surprise…

Looking absolutely brilliant and stunning in the pale afternoon light. In marked contrast to every YuAF Dak I've personally seen, 71253 has its own little display area and information plaques, all of which are regularly maintained - indeed, I had arrived just as the gravel was being leveled and evened out
Up close and personal :). The details on this thing are fantastic - even the engine has been cleaned up and restored to show status! However, I'm told that the interior and cockpit have pretty much been ransacked a number of years ago, a fate that even the best open-air preserved exhibits apparently can't avoid...
Interestingly enough, 71253 is wearing an RAF desert camo scheme used in the North African theater during WW2. Whether or not 71253 had indeed flown with the RAF in North Africa is not (yet) known - but either way, these colors have in many respects helped it avoid the fate of its sisters 71212 and 71215 at Željava and Otočac respectively. Having been painted in a variation of this scheme since 1986, 253 had already lost its Yugoslav identity by the time the Balkan Wars started in 1991, sparing it from the ensuing widespread destruction of all Yugoslav symbols (traces of which are abundant on 212 and 255)
Quite a view from here :). Located at the site of a former WW2 improvised airstrip, 71253 was set up in December 1980 as a monument to the dozens of similar strips set up around Slovenia by Partisan forces during the conflict. Used to great effect by USAAF and RAF Dakotas - and in the later stages of the war also by Soviet Li-2s - for supply and evacuation missions, they offer an explanation of 71253's RAF paint scheme 🙂 (many of the aircraft operated by the RAF's Balkan Air Force wore desert camo... its Spitfires even sported air intake sand filters)
From every angle the amount of effort involved in preserving and maintaining this fantastic aircraft is easily visible... the coat of paint seems to be very fresh too (and well applied)
Even the landing gear bay - not the most often looked at part of the airplane it must be said - is beautifully done. It must have been quite a task to wire all this together...
I had hoped that I would find at least some traces of 253's true (former) identity - like I did with 255 - but no luck, not a code or data plate in sight. Sometimes paint jobs are too well done 😀
Still as evocative a sight as it was during WW2 🙂

2 thoughts on “Dakota Update – 71253 at Otok pri Metliki, Slovenia

  1. as for wheel well color- would have stayed the same original color the light blue as seen in picture was no dout OVERSPRAY did U ever try to mask a wheelwell?

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