TUMBY BAY - For those of us who were in Papua New Guinea before and just after independence in 1975, the old Douglas DC3 was a familiar sight at every major and many minor airports.
First built in 1935 the DC3 became the workhorse of the golden age of aviation.
During World War II the military version, called the Dakota by the British and affectionately known as the Gooney Bird by the Americans, operated everywhere in PNG.
After the war both Ansett ANA and TAA flew DC3s. So did Air Niugini when it took over from TAA in 1973. They were noisy and basic but very reliable.
Mostly you had a comfortable seat to sit on but occasionally it was a canvas affair set side-saddle against an unlined fuselage with the cargo strapped down in the centre.
I once flew in one from Mount Hagen to Madang in 1968. As we were approaching the Wahgi Divide one of the engines began to smoke and the pilot shut it down.
We skimmed over the ranges just above treetop level on the remaining engine and descended into Madang. As we were slowing down on the airstrip the engine started to emit orange flames.
A quick squirt from the fire truck put it out and we disembarked. A few days later the old girl was once more chugging up to Mt Hagen, her engine repaired.
The DC3 was a tough old bird and it was sad to see her eventually retired from service.
Nowadays you only see DC3s as vintage aircraft at air shows.
That is until I came across a report on the ABC website about a Chinese base in Antarctica. In the report there were photographs of an aircraft at an Australia base that looked suspiciously like a DC3.
Why would Australia be flying an ancient DC3 in Antarctica I wondered?
Turns out that it is a re-manufactured and modified Douglas DC3 called a Basler BT-67 built by Basler Turbo Conversions of Oshkosh in Wisconsin.
The old DC3 had a cruise speed of 333 kmh, a range of 2,400 km and was powered by two Pratt and Whitney Cyclone engines.
So it seems the Gooney Bird lives on.
It couldn’t happen to a nicer aeroplane.