Friday, July 23, 2010
Some historic planes touched down in Kansas Friday. Three DC-3 military aircraft landed at Benton Airport for an anniversary celebration, on their way to what will likely be the largest gathering of that type of plane since World War II. The planes are on their way to Rock Falls, Illinois. From there, more than 40 DC-3's and C-47's will fly in formation to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
"Since the Normandy Invasion and the Berlin airlift, there's never been this many DC-3's together," said Jim Gabbert shortly after he landed his vintage aircraft at Stearman Field in Butler County.
Three of the planes landed at the field near Benton Friday to fuel up and continue their journey. These old planes went into service in the 1930's, providing military transport. The DC-3 was also the first commercialized airplane that could carry enough people and baggage coast to coast to make it profitable for the airlines.
"This is how everybody got around," Gabbert explained. "It took us, from Oakland to here, 9 hours. It would take you 14-15 hours to get coast to coast and that's what people used to put up with, but a train used to take three days."
"They were called goonie birds in the military, but they were passenger planes and just a really long-life airplane. They're still flying them," said Chuck Forte as he anticipated the arrival of the planes Friday afternoon.
As the pilots made their flyovers to check out the strip, about a hundred people waited in anticipation. Many World War II-era planes have deteriorated and are no longer flying, but these birds are precious. People from around the area came out to the airfield to watch them land and get an up-close glimpse of the past.
"A lot of these planes we've seen, the jet airplanes like the B-58 Hustler, the B47... They're parked somewhere or they're destroyed and we'll never see those fly," said airplane enthusiast Chuck Korte. "It's neat to see these fly, especially that many of them."
These airplanes will only be parked at Benton until Saturday morning when they will continue their flight to Illinois in order to take part in Monday's honor flight to Oshkosh. You can find a link to their website in the related links area under this story.