Its nose is seemingly tucked up to the Chevy dealership across the street in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. But this piston-era behemoth is in for more than an oil change. The Perna family wants to complete a DC-7-based restaurant for their northeast Florida airport.
Globe-circling DC-7Cs, the ultimate in Douglas’ legendary piston airliner line, were billed (in a play on words) as “The Seven Seas.” In fact, they were also “globe-topping.” SAS used them beginning in 1957 for its unique polar passenger flights from Scandinavia. Developed initially for non-stop NY-LA flights in less than eight hours, the design could reliably complete the westbound trans-con non-stop after progressing to the DC-7B and DC-7C versions. A total of 338 were built in all.
Four 18-cylinder, 3,250-hp Curtis Wright R-3350 engines drove the ultimate Douglas piston-liner to a 359 mph cruise, carrying 3,565 gallons of 100/130 at max payload. Old 115/145 gas boosted engine power to 3400 hp. Turbo-compounding was responsible for some of that power. With three PRTs (power recovery turbines) in each exhaust flow, turbo-compounding contributed 450 of those horses but had a history of in-flight fires and maintenance complexity. (The original -3350 stained the initial reputation of the B-29 in World War II.)
Most DC-7 mainline passenger service ended after a brief five years, cut short by new 707 and DC-8 jets. It was the smaller DC-6s that soldiered on flying short-haul routes; big DC-7s disappeared into cargo ops. That’s what N381AA was doing until hanging up its spurs in 2005 after 33,000 hours.
So how did this 112-foot fuselage, said to be the last DC-7 built, find its way to restaurant duty?
It’s like this: Brother Danny Perna owns Epic Aviation at New Smyrna Beach. His brother Skip (Anthony) Perna is a chef. Danny discovered a similar effort, The DC-6 Diner, in Coventry, England, on a business trip. So why not go one better?
The brothers bought their 1957 DC-7 at Miami’s Opa Locka Airport in 2012, loaded it (sans 141-foot wings and tail) on a flatbed and hauled it up I-95. The whole thing was an episode of “Shipping Wars” on the A&E cable network.
Since then wings, tail, engine nacelles and props are back on, she’s up on her gear, some interior work has been done and this summer’s painting completed “the look.”
The flight deck is being fully restored as a conversation piece near a small bar up front. Dining for 40 will fill the cabin. (There’s also proposed outdoor planeside seating for another 25.)
Among the gimmicks of airliner dining: Headsets piping in KEVB tower and flight attendant call buttons at the tables — presumably to devil the wait staff!
Sure, it’s been done before. East Coasters may remember the Lockheed Connie rooftop bar above a restaurant in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, on Route 1 north of Philadelphia. There was at least one old Beech 18 on a roof out West, I remember. A DC-3 still stands beside I-4 between Orlando and Tampa to tout Kermit Weeks’ Fantasy of Flight museum. (It’s now more properly upright to preclude all those plane crash calls 911 received from startled out-of-state motorists passing in the night.)
Do you know of others? Let’s us known in the comments section below.
Not sure when “The DC-7 Grille” will serve its first dinner. There’s still a hold awaiting local government decision after the Perna’s late response to city comments on its license application. A Spring 2013 opening has already turned to “end of the year.” Now, Danny and Skip are awaiting further word before proceeding.
I hope this thing comes off. If it does, I’ll tell you about it. Then, drop in as you cruise down Victor 3 to your Florida vacation. Taxi on over to the Epic Aviation ramp, “change planes” and have something to eat.
© 2013 Drew Steketee All Rights Reserved