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  Government Surplus C-47, R4D Aircraft, at NAF Litchfield Park

Last revised 1/4/13
 


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The Litchfield 5


In 1966 our family bought five C-47/R-4D's at the U. S. Naval Air Facility in Litchfield Park, Arizona. Here's the stories on those five aircraft in CN order.

Click on the Construction Number to see aircraft photo/s and info. (Some are not posted yet)
  CN Registration, notes Brochure Item, Page
  26224

N3706A, eventually scrapped at Coatesville, PA

5, 2
  26263

N2401, our sprayer for many years, then MFI, in FL, and then scrapped

12, 4
  26618

N91374, our sprayer, and then sold, and impounded in S.A.

6, 2
  26877

N2400, served MFI for many years, still in operation

15, 5
  33180 N91375, in-flight fire on first flight, burned up on the ground 20, 6
   

 

 
"Litchfield NAF Here We Come"

On Feb. 15, 1966, Chris D. Stoltzfus & Associates, of Coatesville, PA, bought four government surplus C-47/R-4D's on D.O.D. Sale No. 49-6034. The company was owned by my father Chris, and my twin Karl and me. As you will learn when you read the account of C/N 33180, we soon had to buy a fifth one.

The aircraft were in storage at Litchfield Park Naval Air Facility, just west of Phoenix, AZ. Our plan was to use them for sprayers, and for an air cargo business that Father so desperately wanted to start.

Two of the four were R4D-6’s that had been leased by the Navy to North Central Airlines, who had operated them as N2400 and N2401. Others of the 32 aircraft on the sale had been leased to several different airlines and you can see the list here as a WORD document or PDF, with some basic information on each.

Here's the brochure as PDF pages. It is marked "Work Copy" and that it is. It has Father's notes from when he inspected the airplanes and I caution you that his handwriting was unique. (Truthfully, there were times that he called me into his office to interpret something that he had previously written, and I could!) So, Cover - - page 1 - - page 2 - - page 3 - - page 4 - - page 5 - - page 6 - - page 7 - - page 8 - - page 9.

North Central used the Wright R-1820’s, so they converted N2400 and N2401 to Wrights, and then returned them to the Navy that way. They are probably the only two Wright powered R4D-6’s that the Navy ever owned. The other three were your more typical C-47, R4D-6 and -7 with P&W R-1830’s, some of which had also been leased to airlines but retained the P&W engines.

Karl and I kissed our wives goodbye and assured them we'd be back in three weeks. Nearly two months later we had the aircraft all home - except for the one that burned up on the ground at Litchfield Park Airport and the one we had to abandon in Lubbock, TX for a few months with a blown engine.

N2400 was almost complete, but N2401 had an oil tank, oil coolers and some tail gear parts missing. The others were minus engines and the entire firewall forwards, some oil tanks, retract struts, main and tail gear parts, instruments, control surfaces, flooring and more. We had to scrounge up the parts and put the airplanes back together. Karl reminded me recently of how depressed he was the first time he saw our derelict DC-3’s!

We hired two mechanics (Jack Kendall ?? and Dale Kerns ??) to help us. Karl is a much better mechanic than me and although I worked on the airplanes some I also did the parts chasing. I was DC-3 type-rated and he wasn’t, so while we did fly two aircraft home together, he had to stay in AZ and work most of the time and I flew airplanes home with someone else as they were ready.

Don’t let anyone give you the impression that flying a DC-3 is a big deal. When I started to test fly these aircraft and ferry them home, after their being in storage for years, I was a 1000-hour pilot with 16-hours of DC-3 time and 85-hours multi-engine (mostly Beech 18). Charles Kough, my copilot on several aircraft, had no previous DC-3 time. They’re a taildragger; bigger; and heavier on the controls than your typical Piper, Cessna or Beech; but they’re a wonderful machine. As Father said, “Know what you want an airplane to do; know how to make it do that; and just do it.” We did.

Since three of the aircraft had no engines, we pulled the firewall forwards off of N2733A, (C/N 11636) which we had at Coatesville. We’d truck the QEC's to AZ, install them on one, and I’d fly it home. Then we’d pull them off and truck them back out and do it again. Actually, it wasn’t quite that smooth because of some glitches along the way. Our ‘33A was an airliner and these were military systems and firewall connections - but more on that when we get to N91374.

Since the radios were incomplete, we rigged up a Narco Mark V for ferry flights. It was mounted on the bulkhead behind my head, with the VOR indicator on top of the main unit, and was operated by my copilot. We used Sectional charts and he gave me left/right info as we went. I thought I was hot stuff with my 90-channel, crystal controlled comm, as up ‘til that time the most sophisticated thing we had in our fleet was a Narco Mk II Omnigator – with “whistle stop tuning.” Don’t laugh – the Mark V is the radio I used in spraying with N2401 for several years (still mounted on the bulkhead behind me) until Karl bought the aircraft after Father’s death in 1981 and installed KX-170’s in the panel. We didn’t have an intercom until then either – we talked loudly and made hand signals.

The government was phasing out Litchfield N.A.F. when we were putting our C-47's together. We watched them ferry aircraft to Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and saw contractors cut others up for scrap.

The order in which we flew our aircraft out of Litchfield was N91375, N2401, N2400, N91374, and N3706A. 1966 was my first season as a spray pilot, flying a 450-Stearman, so soon after I got N3706A home Karl and I were off to New York. In July then, we went back to Lubbock for N2400, changed the engine in one day and ferried it home.

Just for fun, I’m including a couple of photos that I took in March ‘09, at the Phoenix-Goodyear Airport, which is the former U.S. Naval Air Facility, Litchfield Park, AZ. There are certain similarities and some things are very different! These were long, hand-held shots and some are not as sharp as I would like, but here they are. It looks a lot different now than in 1966 with its rows of C-47's, Douglas A-4's and more!

 

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