Opa-locka Airport - January 23, 2008
Opa-locka Airport - November 11, 2008
Ralph M. Pettersen
I visited Opa-locka Airport on Veteranís Day 2008 to get a first-hand look at progress on the restoration of former Eastern Airlines DC-7B N836D. The exterior work is essentially complete with Carlos Gomez and a small crew wrapping up work on the interior. Two lavatories, salvaged from a DC-9 being scrapped at Opa-locka, had been installed but still needed to be trimmed out. Wall panels had been installed and Carlos estimated that installation of the remaining trim would be completed in a few days. The cockpit is being completely restored and was being detailed the day of my visit. In addition to finishing up the interior, exterior punch list items include a gear swing, engine tests and adjustment of the many control cables, limit switches and mechanical stops. Engine runs are in the near future and itís not out of the question that the old girl will make her first post-restoration flight in early 2009.
In addition to DC-7B N836D, Opa-locka Airport is home to Florida Air Transportís (FAT) fleet of prop freighters including DC-7B N381AA, DC-6/C-118 N70BF and DC-4 N406WA. Roger Jarman, owner of Atlantic Models, has been a frequent visitor to the FAT ramp during the restoration project. It was during these visits Roger came to appreciate the truly unique nature of the aircraft that frequented the ramp. He and Carlos were talking one day and brainstormed the concept of painting these aircraft in various classic airline color schemes. Their timing was perfect when, in October 2007, the FAA issued a ruling that allowed historically significant aircraft to carry passengers as a source of preservation income. The ruling stipulated that the aircraft had to belong to a 501(c)3 tax exempt entity and Historical Flight Foundation (HFF) was born with the goal of preserving and operating classic prop airliners. HFF applied for tax exempt status in January 2008 and received final approval in May 2008.
Carlos Gomez and Marc Wolff, operating as Legendary Airliners LLC, currently own N836D and have agreed to sell it to HFF once it is fully restored and certified for flight. FAT will be contracted by HFF to provide flight crews and maintenance support. Long range plans call for the purchase and restoration of a DC-3, DC-4, C-118/DC-6, M404 and CV-440. HFF is currently in the process of acquiring DC-4 N406WA, which hopefully will happen some time in 2009. The aircraft will be painted in 1950ís vintage PSA colors and a passenger interior will be installed allowing it to join the DC-7B on the airshow circuit. Additional information about HFF can be found on the HFF website.
There are plans for a MIA-PHX-MIA passenger flight in March 2009. Once in Phoenix, sightseeing trips to the Grand Canyon are also in the works. July plans call for a trip to Orlando for the Airliners 2009 show with appearances at both Orlando Executive and International Airports. An application has been made for participation at the 2009 EAA Air Venture event in Oshkosh during the last week of July. A European tour is also a possibility. Seats for a 1-hour flight are planned at $300 per with no membership requirements. This seems like a formula for success to me!
These are exciting times at Opa-locka and I wish Carlos, Marc and Roger good luck with their plans!
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Ralph M. Pettersen
November 11, 2008
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