After military service 11636 was released by the RFC (Reconstruction Finance Corp) in 1945, and served American Airlines as N33317, “Flagship Bristol,” for two years. It would have been at that time that the right hand passenger door was installed, per American’s standard practice.
Next was Arctic Frontier Airlines for about a year as N733A; followed by Pakistani AP-ADJ for Pak-Air for a short time. Then back to White Plains, NY as N733A until 1953. Next was apparently Canadian CF-HFT, and again N733A, with Amerada Aircraft & Equipment Co. Safe Flight Instrument Corp. then used it in developing their SCAT (Speed Command of Attitude and Thrust) Systems, and AutoPower (automatic throttle systems), after which they leased it to Bendix Corp.
Bob Burns, long time NASA employee and now aviation photographer and NASA historian sent me this info. “N2733A was operated for us by Bendix Field Engineering Corp., who provided pilots and electronic crews for all our Goddard aircraft. NASA Test Conductors would plan and actually direct on site testing. N2733A was the 2nd aircraft, we started off using a Grumman S2F-1 Tracker [BuNo.129151] that belonged to the U.S. Naval Research Lab to perform Mini-Track calibrations.” I’ll see if I can get more info and will update this.
Our family business in Coatesville, PA (Chris D. Stoltzfus & Associates, i.e. my father Chris, twin Karl and me) bought N2733A from Safe Flight Instrument Corp. of White Plains, NY, in July 1964. It was zero time since a major airframe overhaul by Aero Trades, and there’s an interesting story behind that.
It went something like this. Safe Flight had leased it to Bendix with the stipulation that it would be returned in the same condition as when Bendix received it, less normal wear and tear. When Bendix was done with it, Safe Flight insisted that the only way to assure its condition was to have the airframe overhauled. Bendix contested that of course, but Safe Flight prevailed in court, and we bought an airplane with a fresh major overhaul!
Father had a crew from Reading Aviation Service fly it home. It sat at our place, Stoltzfus Private Airport, Coatesville, PA, for about year. I was an A&P student at Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, OK at the time. Just before going home in February 1965, I was type rated in N42V, which was used by a local operator for charters and for giving type ratings.
That June Father asked me if I thought I could handle the ‘3, with Karl as my copilot, but he gave me the option of having someone come down from Reading to give me a refresher. Well – what’s a guy to say? I told him that we could handle it. Truth be known – I was confident that I could fly the airplane with an inexperienced copilot, but I was terribly intimidated by the thought of trying to show a DC-3 pro that I could do it.
We had a 2800’ grass runway. I was now a 900-hour pilot with 9.2 hours and eight landings under my belt, and Karl had no DC-3 time. I showed him how to work the gear and flaps and we roared off for Lancaster, PA, about 20-miles away. We did a couple of 360’s on the way, two patterns there, and headed for home.
On the way back Karl said he wanted to do the landing – his first in a DC-3. My better judgment and my sense of being “Captain” said that he should do some at a place like Lancaster first, and I said so. However, he’s my big brother (7” taller and 40-minutes older); he’s my favorite brother (my only
brother but that’s beside the point); and he can be fairly persuasive (can you imagine that!). It was getting toward dusk, but I relented and said he could give it one shot, and if it didn’t work out I’d do the next one and we’d park it. Fair enough? There was no need for “the next one.” It was a 1.1 hour flight.
We did more the next day, with 1.6 and six patterns at Lancaster, and the next day four and 1.7. By now we were old hands with the ‘3, so on the 17th Father had us run up to Lebanon, NH to pick up my sister Ruth Ann Glick and her husband Richard and family, and bring them home for a few days. On the 20th then we flew them back and took some other relatives along for the ride. It was four hours per trip. Life was good. Flying a DC-3 was a lot simpler back then.
You’ll see from the brochure (pdf)
that we had some pretty high-falutin avionics in our airplane including a 50-channel VHF transceiver (F.C.C. type approved, no less). We also had a PB-10A autopilot with flight path computer and approach computer. I don’t think we ever turned it on, but I’m not sure if it was because we wanted to hand fly it or because we didn’t know which buttons to push.
That August (1965) Karl and I flew ‘33A another hour, and again in December. Plans were to convert it into a sprayer and that winter Karl built the first of two tanks that would go through the passenger door. Those plans were interrupted when the C-47’s I describe as “The Litchfield 5
” became available. My next DC-3 flight was in April 1966 when I started to test fly those aircraft and take them home.
We used the engines off of N2733A to fly the C-47’s to PA, as I will describe there. N2733A was parked until August 1967 when I did a test flight after we reinstalled the engines. Our sales brochure said it had 17 hours since the overhaul by Aero Trades, and they were all (using the word rather loosely) mine except for the initial delivery flight in 1964. If you look at the brochure you will see that it was an often-overhauled DC-3 as it moved from owner to owner. Many shops back then routinely did DC-3 major overhauls.
The history in the Stoltzfus brochure is not quite accurate. The aircraft started as a USAAF C-53D-DO, not as an American Airlines airliner. Also, the brochure doesn’t mention the time when Bendix operated it for NASA, shortly before we bought it.
Father sold ‘33A to Roger Ward in October 1967. Ward had won the 1959 and 1962 Indianapolis 500 and was the 1959 and 1962 USAC Championship Car champion. By that time Karl and I were both in college in Harrisonburg, VA. We were no longer part of Chris D. Stoltzfus & Associates and were launching K&K Aircraft in order to pay our way through college.
Father’s asking price was $34,500, but Ward bought it for $18,000. I think you’ll enjoy the1969 newspaper clipping
on his proposed flight from Indianapolis to the Astrodome in Houston! You might want to sign up real quick. Note that they misspelled his first name.
After Ward, ‘33A went through a couple of owners. Rusk Aviation of Kankakee, IL registered it in Aug. ’74 and was owner when the aircraft was stolen in Florida in May, 1977. Now let’s see – what might one do with a DC-3 that you stole in Florida in that era?
Additional Photos, click on number
I don’t have a clue when or where this photo was taken. It was obviously before we bought it because we stripped it before we sold it. From the tape around the door and the cockpit windows it appears to have been in storage, and it looks a bit derelict. Those are KC-97’s in the background. Possibly it was pre Safe Flight, or post-Bendix and before we bought it. Any ideas out there?
N2733A as operated by Bendix. Bob Burns refers to it as a C-53D-DO.
Another Bob Burns photo. Note that cool fuel truck there – or maybe it was an oiler. It’s definitely not “Alaska style.”
‘33A as it sat at my home place in Coatesville, PA. That big stone house had walls well over a foot thick. I lived there from 1946 until I married Elaine in 1960.
Karl was a real mechanic, but not licensed. I was licensed but was never a real mechanic, so guess who got to do a lot of the paint stripping at Coatesville! This and subsequent photos were taken by my mother, Irma H. Stoltzfus.
N2733A seemed to have a special place in Father’s heart. Maybe because it was his first DC-3; it had such an interesting history; and was in such spectacular mechanical condition. Father was an incredible pilot and flew our FM-2 Wildcats, TBM Avengers and Chase YC-122’s, but never a DC-3. In fact, he was never off of the ground in any of his ‘3’s.
I like this shot – with me in the left seat. Note my hands on the throttles like a responsible Captain would do.
“Okay – okay – okay Karl, let go - I’ll show this one too.” (Note however, that he doesn’t have his hands on the throttles like a responsible Captain would although maybe the Raybans make up for that.) He got his type rating soon thereafter and flew DC-3’s for many years. Actually, he has lots more hours than me and a lot of turbine time, so he knows the meaning of “Captain – Sir" much better than I do.
John P. Stoltzfus, otherwise affectionately known as “Uncle John” to me and “JP” to many others. My father’s youngest brother, he was always my favorite uncle (I had many uncles). Among other things, his having been the Delaware State Champion stock car driver in the 1950’s, as “The Flying Dutchman,” really impressed Karl and me as boys. Uncle John got his type rating a bit later and flew ‘3’s for a number of years.