Real Aero Club de Espana (Royal Aero Club of Spain)

Summer Classic Fly-in & Historic Vehicles meeting

At Villafria Airport, Burgos, Spain.

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In recent years there has been a massive increase in interest within Spain for classic and vintage aircraft and vehicles. The legacy from the 'Franco' years with WW2 aircraft and military vehicles still being used by the Spanish military made the Spanish population ashamed of how old fashioned their country was compared to the rest of the World. Thankfully, 35 years since General Franco died, November 1975, many people in Spain are actively involved restoring and flying old aircraft.

On a countrywide basis there is The Royal Aero Club of Spain, one of the World's oldest Aero Clubs having been formed in 1905, at the birth of powered flight. The current President, D.Jose-Luis OLIAS is a very keen classic aircraft supporter, owning the unique Piper L-14 Army Cruiser, an ex Italian Air Force Cessna Birddog and last but not least a 1942 Willys Jeep. He has been one of the main driving forces within Spain using his influence and contacts to further the cause. Burgos, a lovely city 200kms North of Madrid has a large ex military base at Villafria, now with a brand new Civil Terminal and runway, the original air force base is still there with two large hangars constructed in the 1930s. This was where the First Classic Aircraft fly-in was held which attracted a number of great aircraft, ranging from an airworthy Bleriot replica brought up from Valencia, two North American T6 Texans right up to the Air France DC3 (C47) which flew in from Paris.

The DC3 is a WW2 Normandy veteran having been used by the USAAF; the repairs to the fuselage where it was hit by bullets can still be seen. This aircraft's documented history is intact, as 42-23310 and SN.9172, it arrived in the UK after flying across the Atlantic in time for D Day. On June 6th it towed a glider across the English Channel towards Cotentin, the glider tasked to land close to the famous Church of Ste Mere Eglise where a parachutist landed and was trapped on the steeple, a dummy is there to this day! It was at this point the aircraft was hit by anti aircraft fire. Nothing too serious which allowed the aircraft to continue operating flying over supplies for the rest of the Normandy campaign.

Come July the aircraft flew via Gibraltar and North Africa to the North of Rome. It was used for dropping arms to the resistance before returning to the UK to be used once again as a glider tug for the ill-fated 'Market Garden' operation. It was also used for paradrop ops during the same attack.

For the rest of the War it continued to be used for similar operations surviving to be sold to a civil operator after the War, in this case Scottish Airlines who converted it to its civil DC3 guise, registration: G-AGZF with a new SN.141406.

Then the Berlin crisis erupted with West Berlin being blockaded so the aircraft was requisitioned by the British government to carry supplies to Berlin, it carried out more than 50 supply flights during the airlift.

In 1952 it was sold to the French Air Force and the interior was fitted out for VIP passengers. Two of the many VIPs to travel in this aircraft were General de Gaulle and Francois Miterand.

After this period the aircraft was sold to various civil operators, then in 1974 the DC3 was given to the 'Emperor' Jean Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic and registered as TL-JBB. After his downfall it stayed on in Central Africa as TL-AAX.

By the 1980s it was back in France as F-GDPP and used for cargo flights within Europe until these flights were no longer commercially viable. In 1989 scrapping became a serious threat, the saving of the aircraft was the first France DC3 association formed by pilots of Air Inter and Air France and supported by the Aero Club of France plus many others the aircraft was flying again during the 1990s all over France and Europe. However, an engine failure caused another serious crisis and it seemed that this was the end. A second life for the France DC3 association came about and with even more help from various people and organisations, not least Air France, Air France Industries and the French aviation authorities have secured the future of F-BBBE(now back with its original SN.9172). The new management team lead by the President, Gabriel Bishop and the Vice President, Jacques Lumbroso guide the safe operation and financing of this great aircraft. Sadly, so far no UK visits have been made as no sponsors have come up with the funding for it to cross the Channel, Vice President Jacques Lumbroso is always open to offers, France DC3 have a lovely aircraft to show off!

Robin Norton - August 2010.
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