Former Historic Flight Foundation’s DC-3 “Pan Am Airways” For Sale With Platinum Fighter Sales

Photo by Liz Matzelle via Historic Flight Foundation
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

In the fall of 2023 a Spokane, WA judge ruled that all of the Historic Flight Foundation’s collection of vintage airplanes was to be put on sale to satisfy business debts incurred by the foundation’s founder-related company. Platinum Fighters Sales was contracted to sell the entire collection which included a Supermarine Spitfire, a 1941 Boeing A75N1 Stearman, a 1945 Piper L-4J, a 1960 deHavilland DHC-2 Mk Beaver, and many others. All the airplanes were sold, except for the iconic 1943 Douglas DC-3C, s/n 20806, N877MG.

During its time at the Historic Flight Foundation’s facility at Felts Field in Spokane, Washington the pride of the place went to this Douglas C-47B Skytrain 43-16340 beautifully restored as a Pan American Airways DC-3C  passenger airliner, N877MG. As readers will know, John Sessions and his team flew this aircraft across the Atlantic in May of 2019 to take part in the D-Day Squadron’s events celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. (image Liz Matzelle/Historic Flight Foundation)

The Historic Flight Foundation’s DC-3 began life in the Douglas Aircraft Co. Long Beach, California plant as one of 300 C-47s built specifically for the China-Burma-India theater of operations. Unique features include long-range fuel tanks and supercharged engines for performance at altitude. Delivered to China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) in Calcutta, it supplied U.S. armed forces and Nationalist Chinese from 1944 to 1945.

Pan American Airways partnered with the Nationalist Chinese government to operate CNAC. Many CNAC pilots had flown with the Flying Tigers, which by that point in the war had been disbanded. These pilots sought cloudy weather or flew at night to avoid Japanese fighter planes. From April 1942, when the Burma Road was lost, until the end of the war in August 1945, CNAC crews made more than 38,000 trips over the Himalayan mountains, or the ‘Hump’ as it was referred to colloquially. They transported approximately 114,500 tons of people and supplies. Post-war, CNAC continued its operations as the leading airline in mainland China.

The airplane as it appeared in 1944.

In 1949, Civil Air Transport (CAT) acquired CNAC. Claire Chennault, of Flying Tigers fame, had formed CAT with the support of the U.S. State Department to keep CNAC aircraft out of Communist hands. Even so, the Communist and Nationalist Chinese disputed ownership of 71 former CNAC aircraft through British courts in Hong Kong. During this aircraft’s three-year stay at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport, waiting for the dispute to be resolved, she suffered damage when a booby-trap, apparently the work of a Nationalist agent, exploded and created a hole in the starboard wing. The court case ended favorably for CAT, and as a result, N877MG was soon on a ship bound for the USA. Grand Central Aircraft Company in Glendale, California converted the aircraft into a ‘Super DC-3’. Its new life as a VIP aircraft spanned five decades and included many owners, such as the International Shoe Machine Co. and Johnson & Johnson. The Historic Flight Foundation acquired N877MG in 2006 and based her at Paine Field, their home in Mukilteo, Washington State. Shortly thereafter, they began to restore the historic transport to recreate a Pan American Airways DC-3 airliner from 1949, while preserving the luxury interior enjoyed by corporate executives of the period.

For more information and details about this aircraft, visit Platinum Fighters Sales’ website.

The airplane was one of the fifteen airplanes that in 2019, joined the D-Day Squadron, the American contingent of Douglas C-47, DC-3, and C-41 transports that participated in the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Europe. This airplane could be deployed immediately to participate in the Squadron’s 2024 Legacy Tour.

A stunning photo by Rich Cooper of the airplane, in 2019, flying along the iconic Beachy Head cliffs in the south of England.


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