FZ624 Dakota Mk III
It was one of hundreds of cargo and paratroop aircraft and was involved in the D Day landings and several supply drops to Arnhem as well as the Rhine crossings where it had some near misses with enemy fighters before being demobbed in 1946.
The aircraft was then sold for commercial use and became G-
On 18th April 1962 G-
There is a saying in the industry -
1943 Built by DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT COMPANY INC SANTA MONICA USA
Serial number: 92385 (c/n 12180)
Engines : TWO -
Notable moments in ZB’s military career.
19 February 1944 assigned to 48 Squadron RAF
26 February 1945 assigned to 10 Squadron RAF 1336 TSCU (Transport Conversion Unit) RAF Welford, Berks.
OPERATION MARKET GARDEN with 48 Squadron RAF -
18th September 1944 Down Ampney to Arnhem for resupply drop.
21st September 1944 Down Ampney to Arnhem for resupply drop. Heavy opposition from flak & fighters.
23rd September 1944 Down Ampney to Arnhem for a medical supplies drop.
The new nationalised British airlines were BOAC for long haul and BEA -
Like many others inherited from the smaller operators ZB was refitted and upgraded to a higher specification that was named ‘Pionair’ class. This included new seats and interior and better sound insulation. ZB entered service on 18th March 1947
The Pionairs were named after pioneers of aviation and ZB became ‘Robert Smith -
The Dakotas were popular, reliable and economic to operate -
Renfrew in May 1946 when owned by Railway Air Services -
ZB operated the last domestic Dakota flight for BEA, on the London Heathrow to Birmingham Airport service prior to pensioning off on 31st October 1960. There was a small ceremony at London before the plane departed and at the end of this, one of the passengers who had heard that there was thick fog in the Midlands and that Elmdon ( Birmingham ) had very poor visibility asked the Pilot, Captain Griffin if they would crash. Naturally the answer was most emphatically 'no' amidst much laughter.
An hour later, shortly after mid day, the aircraft, or what was left of it, was in scrub land at the end of Elmdon’s runway 34 and the Captain was eating his words. The runway was indeed fogbound but rather than diverting the crew attempted to land, missed the start of the runway and ran off the end, resulting in a very bent aircraft, a highly embarrassed senior Captain, and the ignominious end to BEA Pionair mainland passenger operations. Thankfully the only injury was to pride but the press had a field day and ZB looked destined for the scrap heap. Unfortunately fog would later play another far more serious role in the plane’s career.
A flight bulletin from a BEA flight on ZB. These were handed round the passengers
and contained brief details about the flight -
A set of celebration stamps were issued by the Isle of Man in 1984 and one of them featured ZB in her early BEA livery. You have to wonder if the people who chose that particular aircraft knew of its later history, although it achieved a degree of immortality in this way.
Freshly painted and ready to begin a new life with Channel Airways. ZB was destined to fly only 89 more hours until her final and fatal accident.