Return of the RAAF C-47B ‘Dakota’


After months of restoration, an old Douglas C-47B ‘Dakota’ will sit pretty in the RAAF Amberley Aviation Heritage Centre for visitors across the country to enjoy.

After a bumpy journey, the ‘Dak’ or ‘Gooney Bird’ as it was affectionately known will now call RAAF Amberley home.

Arriving at Amberley in February last year, the aircraft suffered damage to the wing during its convoy from Nowra.

Squadron Leader Paul Ashby who headed the restoration operation said it came close to falling off the truck.

“We had to go down to Nowra to pick up the aircraft and unfortunately on the trip back, it suffered some damage,” he said.

“It didn’t quite fall off the truck, but it came close to it, so that damage had to be repaired here.”

There were some other challenges during the project, including manpower, financial constraints and the obvious, repairing an aircraft that is close to 80 years of age.

Despite the setbacks, the project concluded only one week later than planned.

Dealing with rust around the cockpit area and other parts of the plane presented the volunteers and technicians with a challenge, which they enjoyed.

“We were fortunate that the aircraft was in a lot better condition than what we normally get them.. normally they’re a not much more than a smoking hole in the ground,” he said.

“A lot of the panels had to be replaced and that’s where we use apprentices to do that stuff, under the guidance of qualified tradesmen.”

While it was a mammoth task involving current RAAF personnel, reservists, retired servicemen and volunteers, SQNLDR Ashby could not be prouder of the effort – and urges the public to see it with their own eyes.

“I look at this thing and I’m proud of it.. the F-111, eh.. it was pretty and whatever, but this thing here.. this one has history,” he said.

“This one has been to war three times, the F-111 sort of just threatened. I’m hoping people come to see this aircraft.

“There are a few of them around the place, but we’ve got the only one that’s like this.”

The Dakota C-47B A65-86 is the longest serving operational aircraft in the Air Force, entering service with Number 35 Squadron at RAAF Amberley on 15 April 1945.
Her 5- year operational career included service with 36 Squadron, the RAAF Transport Flight – Japan, Central Flying School and the Air Force’s Aircraft Research and Development Unit.
A65-86 was withdrawn from RAAF operational service in December 1998, and her last flight was to Nowra where she was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy Historic Flight.
A65-86 is back home at RAAF Amberley – this time to stay.
The ‘Dakota’ joins the impressive line up of historic military aircraft and memorabilia for public enjoyment at the RAAF Amberley Aviation Heritage Centre.

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