Veteran Douglas C–47 pilot Doug Rozendaal was sympathetic to the charges following along behind That’s All Brother. Although all are experienced in heavy radial-engine airplanes, some of the pilots in the other five Skytrains had little time flying military-style formation in DC–3s and C–47s.
“Flying formation is hard enough. Learning to do it in a DC–3 is a whole other experience,” he observed as the formation flew low over the English countryside near Duxford. With Rozendaal and fellow Commemorative Air Force pilot Andy Maag in the cockpit, That’s All Brother led the formation, just as it did 75 years ago on June 6, 1944, during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Then it led a formation totaling more than 800 C–47s.
But none of that will happen until everyone is satisfied that all the crews, some of them quite new to DC–3 flying, are comfortable with formation flying.
Rozendaal has his two charges break right and reform for practice. Later they move from a V to an echelon formation, again for the practice of changing positions when in close proximity to another airplane. Coach Rozendaal seems pleased with the progress, and soon we’re headed back over a farm of wind turbines and setting up for an overhead break at Duxford, where thousands await along a fence to watch our arrival.
Clearly all the crews of the D-Day Squadron are comfortable with their airplanes, having made the North Atlantic crossing over the previous 10 days or so. D-Day Squadron is the organization formed to support the 15 DC–3s and C–47s from the United States coming to the anniversary celebration. Another half dozen or so of the popular transports came from Europe for the experience. Most will stick around Europe for much of the summer, spending a week or more later in June flying into Berlin to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, the Allies’ nonstop supply chain of flights into West Berlin, keeping the citizens there fed and cared for in spite of starvation tactics employed by the Soviets.
Some will then go to events in Italy and elsewhere in Europe while others will begin the long journey home.
The DC–3/C–47 flying events in Europe have been organized by a recently formed group named Daks Over Normandy; the British name for the Skytrain is “Dakota.”
The AOPA media team on site will be reporting about the week’s activities via this website and our social media channels.