Friday, January 14, 2011

Retired but still working

If you walk down a certain street in Taupo an unexpected shape becomes apparent. Spot the odd thing out...
The Taupo McDonald's features an extra dining area in the form of a retired DC-3. I'm not sure if this is awesome or completely undignified, but at least it is still around.
It is actually a reasonably historic airframe (with even a compiled history listed here ). Besides being a veteran of the pacific second world war with the US and Australian Air Forces, it was used by SPANZ (South Pacific Airlines of NZ (wiki) ) in the 1960's to unsuccessfully challenge the then government owned airline monopoly in NZ. As an enticement to travel, particularly with tour groups in mind, SPANZ DC-3's were fitted with enlarged windows for the passengers, the modified aircraft being dubbed 'Viewmasters' . Here is what the McDonald's DC-3 looked like when it was an airliner. Post SPANZ it was converted to be a crop-duster/top-dresser, before winding up here.
While the engines are long gone, the propellers can be rotated as you walk past if you are tall enough to grab a blade. Either deliberately or accidentally, they were re-installed in fine pitch (blades parallel to the plane of rotation), minimising the chances of a strong enough wind from the wrong direction setting them twirling pinwheel-like and bopping passer-by. I'm not sure if that scenario is even feasible, but it sounds fun (unless you are one of the ones bopped).
Also earning a living in retirement in Taupo is this Russian (probably Soviet when it was built) Mil Mi-8 helicopter attached to a local scenic helicopter flight company base and cafe. A bunch of these were brought out to NZ in the 90's as heavy lift helicopters, mostly for logging operations with varying degrees of success. This one has been parked up near Huka Falls for a while, having wound up a long way from its place of origin. The Mi-8 (wiki) was/is the Russian equivalent of the Huey, only a lot bigger and gruntier.

About an hour and a half down the road south at Mangaweka is another DC-3 preserved as a billboard/cafe, that has become something of a landmark over the years, sitting on a corner of the main north-south highway. It has recently been repainted into not-authentic-for-it's-history (found here) , but thematically appropriate enough colours:
Which is good, because for most of the 2000's it looked like this:
The cookies aren't that bad, but if planes could be embarrassed....
Back in 1999 it still wore the colours of FieldAir (pic), the last owner that actually flew it (minus the Rangitkei River Rats and 747 titles naturally), and one of the companys that used DC-3's as top-dressers into the 1980's. Prior to that it was an airliner for NAC, the National Airways Corporation (wiki) that was the domestic arm and forerunner to Air New Zealand. NAC called their DC-3's 'Skyliners', which has been referenced in the titling on the nose and tail of the new colour scheme.
Incidentally, props are due to my lovely wife, for recognising the Mangaweka DC-3 as a DC-3 without any prompting or even discussion from me. This is a feat worthy of note :)

1 comment:

fish said...

Heh heh. "thematically appropriate". I hope Lauren reads this!