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'That's All Brother' leads the pack once again'That's All Brother' leads the pack once again

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.

  • "That’s All Brother" toes the line. The Commemorative Air Force owns the C-47 that led the D-Day invasion 75 years ago. It was built by Douglas Aircraft in Oklahoma City in late February 1944 and went on to lead the D-Day invasion, taking off from England for Normandy, France, in the late hours of June 5, 1944. Photos by Chris Rose.
  • C-47 "That's All Brother" is ready for its wake-up call on a crisp English morning at Duxford.
  • Clearing the cylinders to prevent a hydraulic lock is part of the preflight on radial-powered airplanes.
  • Pilots Doug Rozendaal (left) and Andy Maag are among the pilots of "That's All Brother." A clever fake panel carrying period instruments hides the modern Garmin GTN 750 navigator and G5 attitude indicator when it is on display.
  • Winging our way over the English countryside.
  • "D-Day Doll" is a C-53 Skytrooper built at Douglas Aircraft's Santa Monica Factory in July 1943 and, like "That's All Brother," is a veteran of D-Day.
  • "Flabob Express" forms up with "D-Day Doll." "Flabob Express" is a C-47 built in Long Beach, California, in 1943 and quickly transferred to the British Royal Air Force, where it was known as a Douglas Dakota.

“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.

On June 5, it will lead some 25 of the models back across the English Channel where dozens of parachutists will exit the airplanes, popping classic round chutes, landing in fields just beyond the beaches of Normandy, France, re-creating the events that began the end of World War II as the Allies took back Europe from the tyranny of the Nazis.

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.

Thomas B. Haines

Thomas B Haines

Editor in Chief
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
Topics: Vintage, Events

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