Miss Virginia N47E

Miss Virginia N47E C-47 Dakota Dynamic Aviation Prestwick May 24th 2019 D-Day Squadron
Dynamic Aviation's beautiful N47E Miss Virginia, Maddie Shinaberry at Prestwick in May 2019.

Miss Virginia is distinguished by her beautiful USAF post-war colour scheme which, for British readers, is so reminiscent of USAF Open Days at airfields such as Lakenheath, Mildenhall and Wethersfield during the 1960s. In fact, Miss Virginia, unlike most of her D-Day compatriots,  spent her military career in the USA and only ventured overseas in the 1970s with missionary operators Wycliffe Bible Translators. Immaculately restored by Dynamic Aviation and dedicated to Maddie Shinaberry, Miss Virginia has been a favourite of Oshkosh visitors in recent years. Her rebuild involved ‘significant polishing’ and this was very evident when she visited Prestwick on a sunny evening in May 2019 en route to Duxford for the ‘Daks over Normandy’ event.

Miss Virginia was built in 1943 in Douglas’s Long Beach factory as part of contract AC20669 for 122 C-47-DLs for the USAAF. Allocated the construction number 13816, she became 43-30665 with the air force (1).

She remained in the USA with training Command putting in time at Pope Field, North Carolina, an air base used to train troop carrier crews with paratroops from Fort Bragg. At the end of the war, she moved to the Air Material Command at Davis Monthan air base before joining the Arizona National Guard as 0-30665 in the 1950s (2). The Army later reclaimed her to use as a test platform until 1966 when she returned to Davis Monthan for storage.

On 21st May 1975, 0-30665 moved from her first ‘family’, the US military, to her second extended family, the Summer Institute of Linguistics with support from the Stoltzfus family. Registered N48065, she was issued with a ferry permit and departed Davis Monthan on 27th May 1975 piloted by the well-known missionary pilot Bernie May on a flight to Waxhaw, North Carolina.

William Cameron Townsend, born in 1896 in Southern California, had commenced selling Spanish language Bibles in Guatemala before moving-on to areas of the Amazon and Mexico. His belief that a reliable translation of the Bible would be beneficial to those speaking all languages led him to found the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) in 1934. Their initial aim was to provide Bibles in translation to multiple South American Indian languages and the creation of SIL was followed by Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1942. The two institutions were joined by a communications and logistics arm, Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) in 1948. Over the years JAARS operated a range of smaller aircraft in addition to the larger C-47s. Helio Couriers, Cessna 206s, 207s and King Airs were employed, often from remote airstrips. Their US base was established at Waxhaw in 1961 and much work was carried-out in Colombia and Peru (3).

Miss Virginia, initially with SIL, was re-registered to JAARS on 18th August 1977 and remained with them until 5th November 1980. 1981 was a turbulent time for the charity in Colombia with one of their missionaries, Chet Bitterman, kidnapped and murdered by the M-19 terrorist group. Their demand was for Wycliffe to leave Colombia and this may have been instrumental in the ownership of Miss Virginia transferring to the Institute Linguistico Verano and her appearance on the Colombian register as HK-2540P on 17th July 1981. the registration, slightly modified to HP-2540W, was cancelled on 6th December 1988 and, six days later, she reappeared on the US register as N7043N, owned by JAARS and based at Waxhaw once again (4).

N47E Miss Virginia C-47 Dynamic Aviation Duxford June 5th 2019
Miss Virginia on her take-off run at Duxford, June 5th 2019.

The following year, a new CofA was issued on 5/5/89 as N47E. She operated briefly for California Air Tours from Burbank in California from 30th November 1989, possibly on lease. California Air Tours was the holding company for National Park Airways which, under the ownership of Mike Suzuki, operated scenic tours to the Grand Canyon, largely for the benefit of Japanese tourists (5). Although inaugurated with 9-seat Cessna 404s and Piper Navajos, by 1989/90, California Air Tours was operating DC-3 N54542 in a 30-seat configuration under FAA Pt135 air charter regulations. Passengers were embarked at Burbank’s Martin Executive Terminal for the 2-hour flight to the Grand Canyon with on board commentary and assistance provided by a Japanese steward. The flights operated all year round in all weathers and sometimes had to divert from Grand Canyon Airport to Kingman, Arizona. there was at least one spell of mechanical downtime for their DC-3 and it is possible that N47E was chartered to fill the gap.

During the Spring of 1990, N47E moved to K&K Aircraft, a branch of the Stoltzfus family dynasty. Chris Stotzfus had a pioneering start in the aviation world, spraying crops during the 1930s. His company, Chris D.Stoltzfus and Associates, created the family’s start in agricultural aviation. In 1967 his twin sons, Karl and Ken, formed K&K Aircraft Inc at Harrisburg, Virginia. The new company was also a parts business which built training aids and resources from the remains of fighter aircraft wrecked during the Vietnam War. K&K moved to Kidron, Ohio in 1974 and commenced gysy moth spraying operations up and down the east coast in 1981 with Beech 18s. In 1982 the spares and components side of the company was separated out into Preferred Airparts, a company which remains based at Kidron and, under the leadership of Brian Stoltzfus, branched-out into DC-3 turbine conversions.

K&K’s involvement in large area aerial application to combat gypsy moth, mosquitoes and other pests had led to the purchase of a small fleet of C-47s to complement the Beech 18s. These remained in use until a very large fleet of Beechcraft King Airs was purchased from the US Army in 1996 (6). Although N47E was due to join the spraying fleet, she continued to work for the JAARS operation and is seen in Ken Videan’s photo (see above button) at Oshkosh in 1993. The Stoltzfus family have deep links with many religious organisations such as JAARS and the Samaritans Purse. N47E was eventually converted for agricultural operations during the 1990s and was fitted with spray bars which kept her in employment until the arrival of the King Airs.

By the turn of the century, the C-47 spraying fleet had been retired and put out to pasture at the Company’s home base of Bridgewater, Virginia. K&K had been renamed Dynamic Aviation in 1997 to reflect its changing functions and N47E was re-registered to the new company (7). Today, Dynamic has established a 40,000 square feet maintenance facility at their privately-owned Bridgewater Air Park in Virginia and employs over 500 personnel. The agricultural business has diversified into aerial fire-fighting, air survey and data acquisition and Dynamic has also developed a military support arm to operate aircraft for the US forces. They have modified Bombardier Dash-8 aircraft to carry-out mine detection and surveillance operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq and, today, own around 150 aircraft which they operate from 20 locations on four continents (6). Dynamic provided an escort aircraft to accompany the D-Day squadron aircraft on their voyage to Europe.

Following the end of agricultural operations, N47E remained out-of-service at Bridgewater for a staggering eleven years. The intention had always been to restore N47E to exhibition condition and the Stoltzfus family planned to have her flying in time for the 2010 ‘The Last Time’ historic gathering of Dakotas at Rock Falls, Illinois – an event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the DC-3’s first flight.

The restoration reputedly took 7000 man hours to complete and involved new avionics, instrument and control panels, a reconditioned starboard engine, new firewalls, hoses, overhauled propellers and reconditioned oil coolers and carburettors. The work was completed a mere 8 days before the scheduled appearance at Whiteside County Airport, Rock Falls. Registered to Dynamic Avlease on 23rd July 2010, N47E appeared at Rock Falls the following day piloted by Karl Stoltzfus. She subsequently took part in a 21-Dakota formation at EAA Airventure Oshkosh fly-in on July 26th. Since then, she has been an Oshkosh regular appearing at the 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 events (and probably many of the others since 2010 as well).

Miss Virginia C-47 N47E Prestwick May 2019
Miss Virginia under the lights at Prestwick, May 24th 2019

In 2017, N47E became ‘Miss Virginia’ – a name which had once been appended to the P-38 which shot-down the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in 1943. However, for the Dynamic Aviation family, the September 16th dedication was to Miss Madison Shinaberry, a friend of the Company who had died the previous December. Maddie was a 21-year old honours graduate, dual degree student and ballerina who had suffered from pulmonary hypertension. A double lung transplant in 2009 had given Maddie another seven years, which included an overseas university semester in Copenhagen, but she died on December 16th 2016. She had qualified to participate in the Miss Virginia contest after becoming ‘Miss Southwestern Virginia’ and the title was selected for N47E, an aircraft which she knew well.

N47E C-47 Miss Virginia Maddie Shinaberry Prestwick Scotland D-Day Squadron May 25th 2019
N47E, Miss Virginia's tribute plaque to Maddie Shinaberry.
Miss Virginia N47E rear cargo door
Miss Virginia's passenger and freight doors and the very tidy stowage area.
N47E C-47 Miss Virginia Dynamic Aviation Prestwick 25th May 2019
Miss Virginia holds 'open house' at a wet and windy Prestwick open day, May 25th 2019.

Since returning to the USA, Miss Virginia has continued to be maintained by Dynamic Aviation’s Legacy Maintenance team at Bridgewater. During the Covid 19 crisis she has made several tribute flights over retirement homes and emergency service bases in the Shenendoah Valley.

Dynamic Aviation's C-47 N47E Miss Virginia at Duxford June 5th 2019
Miss Virginia takes-off from Duxford on june 5th 2019, en route to Normandy.

References:

(1) Information from Air Britain, The DC-3 and its predecessors by JMG Gradidge.

(2) Information from Jack Wolbrink’s site www.avia-dejavu.net which mentions that 0-30665 joined the ANG at Oklahoma City. Similar information is available at www.warbirdaviation.co.uk.

(3) Information from the SIL, JAARS and Wycliffe websites.

(4) From www.aerovisuals.ca website.

(5) Information from the LA Times, www.ruudleeuw.com (with contribution from ex-California Air Tours pilot Walt Brubaker) and www.aerovisuals.ca 

(6) From Dynamic Aviation’s own website.

(7) Some sources give 1st August 1996 as the date N47E was registered in the Dynamic name.

Miss Virginia at Prestwick Open Day May 25th 2019
Guard duty in the Scottish rain: Miss Virginia at the Prestwick Open Day May 25th 2019.

Miss Virginia’s journey to Normandy 2019:

N47E departed her home base of Bridgewater, Virginia, on May 10th 2019 en route to Maryland where she was on static display on May 11th at Frederick. On 14th May she was at the ex-Fairchild assembly plant airfield of Hagerstown, also Maryland, before joining the other eight aircraft at Waterbury, Connecticut on May 15th 2019.

Following the Hudson River flypast of the Statue of Liberty and the press day at Waterbury on May 16th,  Miss Virginia led the departure for Europe on May 19th with an 07:04 take-off en route to Presque Isle, Maine. The first night stop was made at Goose Bay, the last stop on the North American mainland. From here, the squadron was divided into two flights: one departed Canada on May 20th, the second on May 22nd after some weather downtime. Miss Virginia led the first wave and commenced the five hour transit to Narsarsuaq, Greenland at 06:36.The same day N47E travelled on to arrive at Reykjavik, Iceland at 20:32 before the final long over-ocean flight to Prestwick on May 22nd. She was on the ground in Scotland at 14:19 BST and remained there for the open days on May 24th and 25th. Her final stage on the journey to Duxford took place on May 27th with a 10:12 departure from Prestwick for the two hour flight to Cambridgeshire. 

Along with the rest of the Squadron, N47E took part in the Duxford Open Days on June 3rd to June 5th, departing for Caen Carpiquet with the formation on June 5th. Following the D-Day June 6th commemorations, June 7th proved too wet and windy for flying and N47E joined the exodus to Wiesbaden on 9th June 2019.

The days at Wiesbaden air base were very successful, despite mixed weather, and included a ‘Rosinenbomber’/ Candy Bomber pass over the airfield with Colonel Gail Halvorsen on 10th June. The weather was poor on 12th June which meant that the flight to Fliegerhorst Fassberg was delayed until the following day. June 13th dawned fine and, after a mass take-off from Wiesbaden, the formation flew north, passing over Hanover’s Langenhagen Airport before splitting into two contingents, one bound for Jagel and one for Nordholz.  Miss Virginia was the first of eleven C-47s to land at Jagel before the group headed on to Fassberg. Here Miss Virginia was at the end of the queue of 20 odd C-47s landing in slightly turbulent conditions. The Dakotas were soon parked alongside the forest and ready for refuelling and display.

The planned ‘candy drop’ and landing at Templehof on June 16th was frustrated by the Berlin Council’s bureaucracy and politics which prevented a landing at the disused airport at Templehof. This didn’t prevent a huge gathering of spectators and photographers at the airport to see the formation en route to a flypast of Tegel and Schonefeld prior to a return to Fassberg.

Miss Virginia went on to visit Salzburg in Austria before flying back to Prestwick on June 20th. The return across the Atlantic was by way of Iceland, Kangerlussuaq (Sondrestrom/Bluie West-8 ), Goose Bay and Burlington. N47E was home in Bridgewater on 23rd June after an amazing six weeks of World travel where she delighted all who were privileged to see her. Thanks are due to Dynamic Aviation for both Miss Virginia’s participation and their support of the D-Day Squadron with their King Air escort aircraft. Good luck to them with their restoration of ‘The Original Air Force One’ !

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