Mr. Douglas Flies Again
Industry News | Jan 09, 2023
Mr. Douglas Flies Again

USPA Staff

Photo above: Mr. Douglas takes off from the Tullahoma Regional Airport.

On November 13, the legendary jump plane Mr. Douglas took to the skies for the first time in over two decades, returning home to DeLand Municipal Airport in Florida, home of Skydive DeLand. The DC-3 had been grounded at Tullahoma Regional Airport—home of Skydive Tennessee—for the past 23 years, but for the last five years has undergone an extensive community-driven restoration process led by Cliff Alfinche, Mark Borghorst, Tom Hayes, Dick Higley, Joe Nepute, Gary Parham, Eddie Phillips, Clayton Rees, John Rostoks and Mike Rouse. Borghorst flew Mr. Douglas to DeLand alongside co-pilot Dan Gryder and Hayes, who served as flight mechanic.

The Mr. Douglas Society Inc., the non-profit organization that owns the plane today, says the plan for the DC-3 is “to become a flying, living museum for America’s future aviators and parachuting enthusiasts,” and will continue outfitting the plane with modern avionics and controls in DeLand. The hope continues to be for Mr. Douglas to travel to special boogies and events to operate as a jump plane in a limited capacity. More information can be found at mrdouglas.org.

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Dallas Wittgenfeld

12/6/2023 10:57 PM

The Mr. Douglas DC-3 as we know him N129H is way more than just an antique (83 year old) 28 cylinder jump-wagon.

This Mr. Douglas was born in 1941 as the very first United Airlines DC-3s that changed the world's airlines and transportation forever. He then flew to start the Western Airlines sister airline also. Nobody ever thought about jumping out.

A Father and Son couple of billionaire hotel moguls took a liking to our favored bird machine and turned it into a flying Hilton Hotel decor and sported the Beverly Hills Hiltons from Hollywood out out to the Nevada Flying M Ranch resort. Barron Hilton became known as "the flying innkeeper" and this is his own DC-3.

Donald Douglas himself was so enamored with the Hilton DC-3, Donald Douglas bought it back for his own corporates to utilize of as a sales example of corporate aviation in the mid 1950s. Nobody had ever kicked the door off the flying limousine and tandem'd-out anybody until the 1970s when Florida tourism boomed and so did skydiving in central Florida.

In the 1990s the giant gas-eater radial engines dropped dead on the airport ramp in Tullahoma, Tennessee laying for 23 years rusting while turned into a wasp and birds nest with all flat tires.

The best part of this story is that the handful of restoration cadre are all old school skydivers and DC-3 jump pilots at the helm and saving Mr. Douglas. 5 years later after toiling in the rain, snow, hurricanes, and tornados the Gooney Bird has taken flight on the new engines, new tires, and new control surfaces; even blue and grey leather cockpit upholstery.

New statement of fact is: Mr. Douglas has never flown so good as it does right now. He is ready for another 83 years.

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