That’s All, Brother Takes to the Skies!!!
by Richard Mallory Allnutt
So the day has arrived. It’s a frigid afternoon at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but the moment so many of us have been waiting for is here. The hangar door at Basler Turbo Conversions slowly opens, and the Commemorative Air Force’s D-Day veteran Douglas C-47A Skytrain That’s All, Brother is pushed carefully out into daylight in preparation for her first post-restoration flight. The aircraft has undergone more than 22,000 hours of painstaking effort to repair or replace any deficient structure, hardware and systems. She resembles a patchwork quilt in many ways, with shiny new skin matched against the olive drab and tan of her earlier days on the air show circuit dressed as an AC-47 gunship. But despite her mottled exterior, this aircraft is as solid as the day she first rolled off the assembly line in Tulsa, Oklahoma during early 1944.
Her pilots, Doug Rozendaal and Tom Travis, both long-serving CAF veterans, walk around the frozen airport ramp, inspecting the aircraft, before climbing aboard to run through their preflight checks. There is a 12knot westerly breeze and a thin layer of scattered clouds at 2,000 feet, but visibility is better than ten miles. We are a go!
Engine startup went smoothly, first number one, then number two coughed to life with the characteristic belch of white smoke from burned off oil settled in the lower pistons. With the engine gauges indicating in the green, and the preflight check list completed, the crew carefully throttle up and move slowly forwards down the long taxiway, heading towards runway 27. Basler’s facility is located on the far south eastern edge of the airport, so it takes some time to reach the runway threshold. The Skytrain reaches the apron and pauses a while, just off the active runway, to test the engines at full takeoff power and do a mag check before running through the final items on the check list. The pilots communicate with the airport tower, and receive permission to take the active….
As they turn on to the runway 27, the two men scan the sky for any air traffic that may be of concern. With that done, and a quick final check of the instruments, the copilot slowly pushes the throttles forward to takeoff power, and they release the breaks. That’s All, Brother’s brace of Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Double Wasp engines roar as the aircraft moves down the nearly 6,200 foot runway. Being almost completely empty, the aircraft gathers pace quickly for a C-47. The tail comes up at around 85 knots and then, slowly, the pilots lift her into the bright blue winter skies. That’s All, Brother is airborne again for the first time in over a decade! A Beech Bonanza chase plane followed close behind, and the pair flew for roughly 20 minutes before coming down again for a safe landing on the same runway. After a few adjustments, the Skytrain made a second post-restoration flight a short while later. Bravo to all at the CAF and Basler Turbo for making this resurrection possible!
Now that the aircraft is flying again, the maintenance crew will carefully check her over for any issues which need addressing. Once they are satisfied, That’s All, Brother will head to her new home with the CAF Central Texas Wing in San Marcos, Texas. Here another restoration crew will focus their efforts on finishing the details which will return the aircraft, as closely as practical, to the way she would have appeared in the early minutes of June 6th, 1944 as she set off on her historic mission to help free Europe from Hitler’s grasp. Some of the remaining restoration work will involve completing the navigator and radio operator work stations, and fitting out the fuselage with paratrooper seats as well as recreating the myriad decals that have normally lined the aircraft’s interior. They will, of course, repaint the aircraft’s exterior. She will regain her D-Day livery which will look very much like the graphical illustration shown below.
Another goal is to get That’s All, Brother ready for a return trip to France in June, 2019 to take part in Daks Over Normandy, an event which will see a couple of dozen C-47s in the air during the 75th Anniversary celebrations of D-Day. That’s All, Brother will need plenty of support to make this trip, so anyone who would like to help this project reach fruition should click HERE to see how they can contribute.