The Aircraft

Flying Bulls Douglas DC-6B
(OE-LDM)

 

• Aircraft Type: Douglas DC-6B

• Operator: Flying Bulls

• Year of Manufacture: 1958

• Powered by: x4 Pratt & Whitney R 2800 CB-3

• Colour Scheme: 1936 Berlin Olympics

 

The DC-6B was built in 1958. This airplane, with its terrific history, left the restoration plant in Salzburg in the year 2004. Its sheer size and unmistakable retro-design make it beyond a doubt the crown jewel of the collection in Hangar-7 at the Salzburg Airport. Because of its history especially, the plane is known in aviator circles worldwide.

Already in the same year it was built, the DC was delivered to the national Yugoslavian airline JAT. Head of state Marshal Josip Broz Tito had it converted to a luxury plane for himself and his illustrious guests. By 1975, Tito was bored with the plane and sold it to Zambia’s head of state Kenneth Kaunda. He, too, used it as a VIP airplane. When he also lost interest in the DC-6–the jet age was just arriving in Africa–it was simply stored in a corner of Lusaka’s airport.

There Chris Schutte, operator of small airline business in Windhoek, Nambia, stumbled upon it. He originally intended to purchase it for replacement parts for his DC-4, but he discovered that this DC-6 had a sister plane that rolled off the assembly line directly after it. The two are the last DC-6’s ever built. Schutte bought both at once and first restored the Tito plane, later its sister as well. Both airplanes were in service in Schutte’s business until 1999: sight-seeing over West Africa, tour flights to the Victoria Falls, promotional flights with Miss Universe, and much the same were their duty. The growing tumult along the border to Angola in 1999 put a considerable damper on the tourism business, and Schutte was forced to sell the Tito DC-6.

In March 2000, Sigi Angerer, former head pilot of the Flying Bulls (retired 2013), read in an airline magazine that a DC-6 was for sale in Africa. Angerer acted fast, and two days later he met with Chris Schutte at the airport in Windhoek to draw up a preliminary contract.

On July 7, 2000, the plane took off in Windhoek. On board were Sigi Angerer, two experienced captains from South African Airways, a film team, the flight engineer from Schutte’s business, an assortment of replacement parts, and a lot of oil for refuelling. The flight to Salzburg took four stages, lasted nearly 28 hours, and went without a hitch.

The restoration began in 2001 at a factory constructed in part for the DC-6. It left the factory in the summer of 2004, three years and tens of thousands of hours later. The plane’s registration in Namibia was cancelled and transferred to an American register under the identification number N996DM. It received a completely new interior–true to the overall historical concept as far as possible–, four new engines, and modern flight electronics. During the extremely complex restoration work, the airplane was completely dismantled into individual components and then reassembled. The plane’s condition was not as good as originally thought, requiring considerably more work than expected. But there’s a happy ending–not only the virgin flight, but also the unanimous judgment of the experts prove that this airplane is better now than it ever could have been when new.

In July 2013 the DC-6B was finally given Austrian citizenship and now operates under the Austrian registration OE-LDM, making it the first DC-6B to ever receive an Austrian code.

Images: Flying Bulls