A sleek and silvery “relic” of aviation history flew into Columbus Municipal Airport last week to the delight of a handful of local flying buffs lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for the unexpected arrival.
The stopover by the Flagship Detroit, one of the oldest DC-3 aircraft still flying, was purely a matter of happenstance, said one of the witnesses, Delta Airlines pilot and Columbus resident Rusty Richards.
“They were flying from an air show in Dayton, Ohio, to another one in Terre Haute,” Richards said. “They saw that Columbus was on their route and would make a good place to stop for some training and to have a bite of lunch.”
The restored plane was one of 84 Douglas DC-3s that were built for American Airlines in the 1930s. This particular craft came off the assembly line in 1937 and has been flying ever since. It is one of the few surviving models from that period.
Operated by the Flagship Detroit Foundation, the plane is exhibited at dozens of air shows around the country each year as a demonstration of a time when air travel was an adventure, and for many people, a luxury.
It certainly was for Columbus retiree Bill Ardizone, who expressed regret that he didn’t have time to go to the airport to see the plane but had fond memories of his first flight on a DC-3.
“It was the late ’30s, and we were living in New York at the time,” he recalled.
“I was 7 or 8 years old, and my parents gave me a surprise one day when they took me to LaGuardia Airport and told me I was about to get my first airplane ride.”
The family had made arrangements with the airline for the youngster to fly to Boston, where he would be met by an uncle.
“It was one of those moments that always stay with you,” Ardizone said. “I still remember walking on the runway out to the ramp. You walked up steps in those days, and they were outside. I was greeted by a pretty stewardess named Miss Watt.
“It was so luxurious inside, and the exterior had that bright silver look. I still consider it the most incredible flight of my life.”
The Flagship Detroit had been restored to resurrect that feel of luxury. Richards, who knew one of the pilots on the plane’s crew, and some friends were given the opportunity to walk through the plane.
“I even got to escort it out of Columbus’ airspace,” he said. “As they were taking off I was able to get in my own plane and fly alongside the Flagship Detroit as it left the area.”
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