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DC-3 Under Renovation at North Little Rock Airport

This is the kind of beauty a proper restoration can become.

This is the kind of beauty a proper restoration can become.

Living in Arkansas I have often felt like I live in a bit of an aviation void.  For a city as large as Little Rock there just isn’t much compared to cities of similar size.  We have a small national airport that has Southwest 737s as its biggest commercial client.  I work at the Air Force Base so I get more than my fair share of C-130s, and the occasional fighter that zings by on its way to somewhere else, but it is hard to really get excited about much around here.

After a little searching I also learned that Beechcraft has a facility here, as well as Dassault which does all of its finishing for its US customers here in Little Rock.  I am planning on getting a tour of that facility in January so standby for that.  But even with these finds I have still felt a major void when it comes to aviation.  Then a few months back I heard about a story on the radio that got my Avgeek senses buzzing.

Something about this angle on the DC-3 reminds me of the grandeur that it represents.

Something about this angle on the DC-3 reminds me of the grandeur that it represents.

They said there was a DC-3 that was recently purchased by someone at the North Little Rock Airport that they were planning to restore.  I was super excited, but then life just got busy and I had to delay my pursuit of what is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.  After seeing the beauty that was restored at Historic Flight Foundation I can’t help but love the historic feel of those planes.  In many ways they were a gateway from the early days of aviation to the modern age.

I was a little concerned that I may not ever get out there because I was scheduled to leave home for a while and wasn’t sure I would have time.  But, as any devoted Avgeek would do, I made some time to get out there and get some pictures to compare with later as the work progresses.  I took my nuts about planes son and drove out to the airport in search of what can easily become the coolest plane in Arkansas.

These engines will obviously get a major overhaul to restore them to their former glory.

These engines will obviously get a major overhaul to restore them to their former glory.

The North Little Rock Airport sits back off all of the main streets and actually butts right up against an Army base so it took me a little while just to find an entrance, let alone the one I actually was looking for.  I finally found what looked like an FBO and pulled in hoping I was in the right place because my son would be pissed if he didn’t get to see some planes like I promised.

There is just something about the DC-3 that moves me.

There is just something about the DC-3 that moves me.

We walked inside to find a couple of older gentlemen  and a couple of dogs sitting around talking about planes.  As an aside, that is one of my favorite things about aviation.  We aviators, or Avgeeks if you prefer the increasingly popular terminology, can sit around for hours talking about planes and it never gets old, even if it is the same stories.  I asked them if this was the place with the DC-3 to which they responded it was much to my delight.

By this time my son was already trying to push the door open to get outside so I quickly chased after him with the reassurance that it was perfectly fine for us to go out there.  Most of the ramp at Barrett Aviation is scattered with small single engine aircraft, but right in the middle of the ramp is this comparatively massive DC-3 that has more character than you can imagine.

My favorite little #Avgeek growing his love of aviation even more.

My favorite little #Avgeek growing his love of aviation even more.

My son and I proceeded to walk around the plane admiring all of its many facets.  This plane has clearly been through a lot over its life, and in many ways looked like it was ready to collapse from sheer exhaustion.  That being said, it still had a feel of incredible workmanship that had gotten it to this point still mostly in tact.  As you can see from the pictures I took, they certainly have their work cut out for them, but I am sure when it is finished it will be restored to all of its former glory.

This landing gear has seen better days.  Also notice the buckets to catch dripping oil that is all over.

This landing gear has seen better days. Also notice the buckets to catch dripping oil that is all over.

It just goes to show you that you can find aviation stories anywhere.  What secret gems of aviation have you found in your searching?  Please share your stories in the comments below as I would love to hear about it.

If you need a little more inspiration to go out and look, stay tuned for something I am writing for a fellow Airplanista’s blog in the near future.

September 29, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Are UAVs the Next Disruptive Technology in Aviation?

Like many of you, I’m a bit of an aviation junkie.  Of late my favorite drug has been UAVs for a variety of reasons.  Admittedly they are not as sleek and sexy as big airliners or even private jets.  They don’t carry the pure speed and maneuverability of military jets, but they sure are a major point of debate right now.

The predator has been in use since 1994 by the military but is quickly finding other users.

The predator has been in use since 1994 by the military but is quickly finding other users.

Everyone is starting to have an opinion on UAVs, whether it be as an aviation nut, or as someone concerned with privacy issues (honestly an aspect of the debate I really don’t understand, but I have nothing to hide).  There was even an article on CNN this week

about a group that is working towards having commercial aircraft with no pilot.

Personally I don’t know that that will ever happen for a number of reasons.  The largest being I think it will be a hard sell to most people to trust a computer at 40,000 feet.  I also don’t really see the point as you will still need someone to control it.  Even if one person could control two or three from the ground you are still talking about a person that will garner quite a hefty wage, but that is likely a debate for another article.

A few months back I remember reading an article about disruptive technology in aviation.  Even with all of the advances made over the years, you could argue that the last truly disruptive technology development was when jet engines were first used.  It completely altered the possibilities of aviation.  You could carry substantially more, at a much faster rate, across much longer distances.  It truly raised the ceiling on aviation.

But since that time, everything else has simply been essentially enhancing what we already have.  GPS has had a tremendous impact, but it is just another form of navigation, and let’s be honest, could there be anything more potentially disruptive than taking the pilot out of the airplane?

There were various forms of lighter than air travel in the forms of balloons and gliders in full size and model form, but until the Wright Brothers successfully achieved manned, powered flight the floodgates of aviation had been held back.  We may very well be at the point of such a flood again.

Just imagine the possibilities.  In the small-scale you have police agencies and farmers that are already utilizing this technology to enhance their efforts.  Random people are securing small UAVs just for recreational purposes, and finding any number of different capabilities.

If a UAV can takeoff and land on a carrier, what can't they do? (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/Released)

If a UAV can takeoff and land on a carrier, what can’t they do? (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/Released)

On a much larger scale the military is already utilizing UAVs all over the world.  They provide essential intelligence gathering capabilities to the war fighter that would other wise put people in great danger.  I could even see future cargo aircraft having no crew on-board.  Imagine how much more time and cost efficient operations would be if you didn’t have to worry about duty days, hotels, and per diem.

Naturally that would translate to the civilian cargo sector where the benefits could be even larger.  FedEx and UPS pilots are some of if not the highest paid pilots in the industry.  I am sure that they would both be happy to eliminate large numbers of pilots that they are paying $300,000 plus a year.  The planes are already capable of doing  a lot of the work themselves anyway, so how hard will it be to take the next step?

I honestly feel like we are at least 15-20 years away from any of this happening on a large-scale, but technology is adapting at a faster rate than it ever has before, so I could be wrong.  Whether it is 5 years or 50 years the one thing that is certain is that UAVs have already created quite a disruption and I have a feeling they will continue to do so for a long time.

September 17, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.