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G-AGZB was an ex RAF  military transport  aircraft.  It was built in Santa Monica in 1943 , used by the RAF until demobbed in 1946 and sold to Railway Air Services, the airline arm of the railway companies before nationalization,  who used it for passenger work. G-AGZB was used until the Dakota was phased out by BEA and in fact completed the last Dakota flight by the airline - at the end of which it ran off the runway while flown by a senior BEA Captain and was badly damaged! There were no injuries apart from pride.

Renfrew in May 1946 when owned by Railway Air Services - Photograph by the late E. J. Riding courtesy of Richard Riding

One of the passengers had heard about the fog at Elmdon ( Birmingham ) and had asked the Pilot if they would crash. Naturally he answered most emphatically 'no' but had to eat his words.  

Always on the lookout for cheap planes, Channel’s Managing Director saw a bargain and bought the wreck, taking it to Southend aviation engineers BKS Ltd for a rebuild using parts from another DC3 that had crashed and had an engine fire on take off from Birmingham airport.  

Rebuilding took over a year, although this may have been done as a 'hospital job' when there was a gap in work schedules.

The type was ideally suited to Channel's operations which involved basic airstrips, many with grass runways, where the power and rugged design were a great advantage. Other contemporary airliners like the Dove and Heron were good performers but didn't have the grass strip performance and robust dependability of the DC3.

There is a saying in the industry - the only replacement for a Dakota is a DC3.

Limited edition Print by Dave Williams G-AGZB in 1962 ©Dave Williams 2002


Serial number: 92385 (c/n 12180)


FZ624  Dakota Mk III

29 December 1943 - delivered with serial FZ624 to RAF Dorval, Montreal, Canada.  RAF Ferry Command.

24 January 1944 arrived in UK

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 with 48 Squadron RAF - air drop of supplies to the Arnhem area.

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 medical supplies drop.

G-AGZB  Dakota III

16th August 1945 Transferred as  G-AGZB to Railway Air Services (Scottish Airways)

3rd March 1946  Transferred to the new British European Airways

G-AGZB  PIONAIR  "Robert Smith-Barry"

18th March 1947  Upgraded to BEA ‘Pionair’ specification and named  "Robert Smith-Barry" after the pioneer of dual control flight training.

31st October 1960   Crashed in fog at Elmdon Airport Birmingham after making the last BEA domestic Dakota flight. Overshot runway - no injuries.


13th December 1960  Purchased in damaged condition by East Anglian Flying Services Ltd ( trading as Channel Airways ). Shipped by road to Southend Airport.

Repaired with parts from Don Everard Aviation G-AMSF (c/n 25825) which had been written off in a crash.

1962   Commenced operations with Channel Airways

6th May 1962   crashed and written off - Ventnor, Isle of Wight.