Imagine more than a squadron of Douglas C-47s winging across the Atlantic in three-ship formations, joining up with 15 more from Europe and as far away as South Africa. The armada will sweep across France 75 years after the Normandy invasion of June 6, 1944.
That dream is the goal that animates Moreno “Mo” Aguiari, executive director of the non-profit D-Day Squadron.
Mo and others from the Squadron came to SUN ‘n FUN with two of the C-47s that are scheduled to make that historic flight next year. And both of those Douglas transports are pedigreed veterans of the original Normandy landings.
This is no last-minute lark. It’s a serious venture estimated to need a lot of donations and volunteers if it is to execute its mission.
“The budget is $2.6 million,” Mo says.
He is upbeat about the ability to raise the needed funds and in-kind support, but he is always on the lookout for donations. Volunteers and owners of C-47s and similar DC-3s around the U.S. are working on the project.
“The plan is to continue building the momentum up to France,” Mo explains.
As honorable as the 75th anniversary mission to France is, that’s not the end of it.
Mo embraces the story of the citizen-soldier, the American G.I. who stepped away from a peaceful civilian life and parachuted into the hell of war over Normandy.
He likens the C-47, evolved from the civilian DC-3, as a metaphor for that transition that brought the full might of the United States to bear on the Axis in World War II.
Mo sees an opportunity for ongoing educational programs honoring those citizen-soldiers and their can-do attitude long after the last anniversary C-47 returns from France.
Getting 20 C-47s that are three-quarters of a century old across the Atlantic requires informed planning. Lists of likely spare parts are being compiled, and Mo says logistics planners are looking at the possibility of having several spare engines available for quick changes should that become necessary at any point along the route of flight.
The veteran C-47s and DC-3s will follow the classic World War II North Atlantic ferry route to England, stopping in Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland to gas up before reaching Duxford in the UK.
Because some en route facilities have limited gasoline trucks, the overseas migration will be timed with cells of three C-47s arriving and departing before the next cell gets there to assure a smooth flow, Mo says.
A C-47 can tank enough gasoline for each leg of the trip including the possibility of weather diversions, but some planes may carry auxiliary tanks to stretch that.
As the momentum builds for the Atlantic crossing, the American C-47 crews will participate in safety training. Their bold journey is scheduled to kick off in May with a formation flying parade over New York City, along the Hudson River.
The C-47s will unite with their foreign counterparts at Duxford on June 2, 2019, with commemorations honoring the D-Day flights before the armada flies to Caen, France, on June 5.
The historic effort is called Daks Over Normandy. Dak is short for Dakota, the British name for the C-47.
Four days in France will be a whirl of Normandy commemorative flights, including jumps by 250 paratroopers riding under World War II-style parachute canopies, Mo explains.