By Scott Plummer
When one hears the name Breitling, it conjures up images of luxury and fine design. The Swiss manufacturer of precision chronographs is well known for their line of aviators watches and cockpit clocks. They have also demonstrated a great commitment to vintage aviation as well, sponsoring several aerial demonstration teams, and even the restoration of a graceful Lockheed Super Constellation. They have also supported the restoration and flight of a legendary DC-3 airliner as well, and that aircraft is the focus of this article.
Now registered in Switzerland as HB-IRJ, the aircraft is a rare survivor, being an authentic DC-3A airliner, rather than a far more common military C-47 derivative. American Airlines ordered the aircraft back in 1939, receiving her on March 12th, 1940 as NC25658 and bearing the name Flagship Cleveland. WWII soon intervened, of course, and the aircraft flew with the US Army between April 4th, 1942 and April 1st, 1944. She then returned to regular American Airlines use. Trans Texas Airways took ownership of the DC-3 in February, 1949, operating her until the late 1960s. The venerable transport then joined Provincetown-Boston Airlines in 1971, flying as a short-haul commuter until the carrier folded in the late 1980s. The aircraft bounced between a number of different charter lines in the years that followed until Francisco Agullo bought her in 2008. The aircraft received a major overhaul in Opa-Locka, Florida. The Swiss-based Super Constellation Flyers Association began operating the DC-3A in 2009 and have flown her, under the Breitling flag, ever since.
The magnificent Breitling DC-3 is currently embarked on a round-the-world flight. Starting out from Geneva, Switzerland in March, the legendary aircraft began its ambitious endeavor slowly heading east, stopping in dozens of countries along the way. The final destination for the grand tour is currently scheduled to occur during mid-September at the Breitling-Sion Air Show in Sion, Switzerland. As of writing, the aircraft is already well over 70% of its way around the globe, and currently sitting in Dallas, Texas. Regular WarbirdsNews contributor, Scott Plummer, caught up with the beautiful aircraft a couple of weeks ago when it stopped at the Lyon Air Museum in Santa Ana, California. This article is filled with his images from that stop, and the following words describe his experience….
On July 14th, the Breitling DC-3 landed at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California where it visited the Lyon Air Museum. A small group of invited local media were allowed to see this historic aircraft up close, take a flight and interview her crew. Captain Francisco Agullo, owner and chief pilot for the round-the-world flight took time out of his busy schedule to give WarbirdsNews a plane-side interview about the reasons for the tour and the aircraft’s history (see video interview).
As part of the Breitling DC-3 visit, the aircraft departed John Wayne Airport for a scheduled, 30-minute promotion flight over Orange County so residents could see this historic aircraft in action.
The Breitling DC-3 will soon make its way to the largest aviation event held in the United States, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where this aircraft will be on static display.
Breitling’s commitment to aviation is well known in Orange County, due to its sponsorship of the Breitling Huntington Beach Air Show, coming this September 29 – October 1, and the North American tour of the Breitling Jet Team. The Breitling Jet Team, with its fleet of seven L-39C ex-military trainers, has an enviable reputation for their performances, and is the only civilian jet aerobatics team of its kind in the world. They concluded their most visit to the USA last November, with a final performance in Orange County before returning to Europe where they are at present.
Look for the Breitling DC-3 on display at the 2017 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this July 24-30th.
Many thanks to Scott Plummer for bringing us this article, along with his marvelous photography! To see more of Scott’s video and photography work, please click HERE.