Classic Airliner Wearing Eastern Airlines Colors
By Chris Batcheller
There is something about large radial engines that speaks to
your soul. The thumping of its cylinders and the smell of burnt
100LL work to invigorate your senses. Experiencing the thumping of
a radial is becoming more and more rare.
When you stroll around the grounds at Oshkosh, you will see
airplanes new and old. In no other place can you see such a
diversity of airplanes parked in one spot. This was the case today
in AeroShell Square, where in one glimpse you can see a WWI Fokker
D VII Biplane, an experimental jet with the latest technology in
blended winglet design, and an old DC-7 workhorse.
Over at the DC-7, the flight and ground crew were both busy
wiping oil from the belly and placing drip pans under the mighty
radials that hung forward of the wing. This scene is much different
than just a few years ago. Turns out this bird had spent 30 years
withering in the sun and snow at St. Paul, MN. You would never know
it though as the perfectly polished aluminum glints off the sun.
Its trip to Oshkosh is a culmination of 6 years of restoration
effort in Opa Locka, near Miami, FL.
This bird is painted with a giant 'FLY EASTERN AIR LINES' down
the side. It's the "last operating passenger configuration DC-7B in
the world" according to pilot Brian West. He said that this
airplane will be used mainly for air shows, but it is also on an
FAA Part 125 certificate.
The aircraft is operated by Florida Air Transport, no ordinary
operator. They operate this aircraft and another DC-7, a DC-6, DC-4
and a DC-3. They recently operated for 2 months providing relief
effort in Haiti.
DC7 Pilot Brian West
"We were the first ones in Haiti after the military," pilot Glen
Moss told me. "We flew the Dutch Urban Search and Rescue in, after
they got stuck in Curacao because of the airspace restrictions
after the earthquake," Glen continued. "These were time critical
mission because people were still stuck in the rubble," he said,
"so we flew a lot of relief." Other missions included flying
medical materials from Atlanta, GA.
Just goes to prove that old radials can still pull their fair
share. Be sure to check out Florida Air Transport's restored DC-7B
at AeroShell Square this week.