Flight check: Auckland to Tauranga on a DC-3

Elisabeth Easther flies on a DC-3 to Tauranga and travels back in time.

The DC-3. Photo / WTA
The DC-3. Photo / WTA

The plane: The DC-3 (aka Douglas Commercial) is a fixed-wing propeller plane, and this particular one was manufactured in Oklahoma, flew in the US during World War II and was decommissioned in 1959. It flew in a number of countries after that but was relegated to a static display in Queensland in the early 1980s until, in 1987, a group of New Zealand Warbird members bought it and committed to a full rebuild.

Class: One size fits all on this retro 30-seat beauty.

Price: This flight was transporting passengers to the "Classics of the Sky" airshow in Tauranga and tickets were $140 each.

On time: There was a bit of a weather glitch, but it actually worked out well because, instead of needing to be at Ardmore Airport at 7am, we were called for 8am, which suited us just fine on a Sunday morning.

My seat: On the way over we were in the front row, 1C and on the way back in the back row, 7C. Both provided good window viewing and the legroom would have suited a basketballer. Keep an eye out for the original NAC-style upholstery.

Fellow passengers: A mixture of plane and airshow aficionados ranging in age from eight to retired. More males than females.

How full: Every seat was spoken for, and the crew were in the jump seats.

Entertainment: Because the doors to the flight deck remained open throughout the flight, we were able to watch the pilots as they operated the original systems, as well the modern GPS. You can even visit the flight deck and, as we flew at about 500m all the way to Tauranga, we had a pretty good view of the land beneath following along Kawakawa Bay, Firth of Thames, Paeroa, Waihi and Matakana Island before landing in Mt Maunganui.

The service: Jessica and Scott were in charge of passenger service while Geoff and Jolon took the controls. They all displayed a genuine affection for their plane and its history.

Food and drink: The service on these charter flights usually includes tea, coffee, OJ and cookies - however, on this day refreshments were served before departurebecause of the weather delay. Charter flight catering can range from the planned tea and coffee, to casual platters and cheese boards or silver service with fine linen, glassware and crockery. Scott handed around a basket of mints on the way home. But you don't fly on this classic airliner for the nibbles, it's the total experience - it will be 70 years old this year.

The toilets: Yes. One at the rear of the aircraft.

Luggage: A daisy chain of passengers joined in with the crew to load things people couldn't fit under their seat into the hold - and no one was charged for excess baggage.

The airport experience: Scott and Jessica set up a table of coffee, tea and biscuits at NZ Warbirds HQ at Ardmore, which was very welcome first thing in the morning. And the parking is free all day, not like that other airport in Auckland.

Would I fly this again: You bet. The crew not only take you on a flight in this classic DC-3 airliner, it's also a flight back in time. This plane's sister ship in the South Island has recently been retired so grab a boarding pass while you still can. Regular trips are available to the public on Sundays.

Find out more at: flydc3.co.nz or phone 0800 FLY DC3.

- NZ Herald

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