FAA Hits The Show Circuit

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It's not often you'll see a bunch of FAA guys all misty-eyed, but agency spokesman Greg Martin assured AVweb there was barely a dry eye when this aircraft lifted off from Oklahoma City Airport Monday. "It was kind of an emotional moment for our people down in Oklahoma City to see this DC-3 take off nine years after its last flight," Martin said. N34, the oldest aircraft in the FAA's fleet, left for a maintenance inspection in Wisconsin before potentially returning to service in an unaccustomed role. Assuming the agency can come up with some gas money, the old bird is being dusted off to visit places like EAA AirVenture, Kitty Hawk and Dayton this year. It's all part of a PR campaign (gasp!) proposed by the agency to mark the centennial of its raison d'etre. (more)"This being the 100th anniversary of powered flight, we thought we'd do something a little different this year," said agency spokesman Greg Martin. In addition to being put on static display at the major centennial events, the FAA plans to enter the DC-3 in the re-enactment of the National Air Tours scheduled for later this year. Various FAA honchos, including Administrator Marion Blakey, are expected to fly in N34, but it's not likely the ship will become Blakey's main ride for the centennial year (the agency has a G-IV and a bunch of Lears). This airplane was in built 1945 and served the U.S. Navy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa before being turned over, along with 16 others, to the FAA in 1963. For the next 22 years it crisscrossed the U.S. checking the accuracy of navaids in the National Airspace System. While the other 16 were sold off as surplus in 1985, then-Administrator Donald Engen ordered N34 restored to the colors of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, the FAA's predecessor, and it's pretty much sat in a hangar ever since. Getting it back in flying shape wasn't much of a chore, however. N34 had been retired (sigh) with almost-fresh Pratt and Whitney radials. "I think there were about 30 hours on one and about 300 on the other," said Martin.