1997 Swissair DC-4 Flying Adventure

Swissair DC-4 Flying Adventure

July 1997




While reading the Swiss spotter magazine Jetstream back in 1997, I noted that a DC-4 in 1940ís Swissair era colors would be offering flights to the general public later that summer. It had long dreamt of a chance to ride on a vintage piston propliner and I booked a seat for the July 5th flight in Luxembourg. The flights were being offered by Swissair to celebrate the 50th anniversary of transatlantic operations and 1946 built DC-4 ZS-AUB (c/n 42984) was being leased from the South African Historic Flight for the flights. For the lease, the aircraft was assigned the new registration ZU-ILI. ZU stands in South Africa for experimental aircraft and ILI was chosen in remembrance of DC-4 HB-ILI, which served with Swissair in the fifties. During that summer tour in 1997 the plane was even allowed by the Swiss authorities to carry the HB-ILI registration during domestic flights within Switzerland. On the day of my flight, the DC-4 arrived from Zurich two hours late due to engine problems, which had taken mechanics in Zurich all night long to resolve. Finally, it was time to board the DC-4, which was parked beside another oldie!
The sound of the four piston props was great during takeoff and after reaching our cruising altitude, engine power was reduced and the reassuring throb of four radial engines continued as we took a leisurely flight over the countryside.
A visit to the cockpit revealed a vintage control wheel and antique instruments!
The cabin was equipped with modern seats but with 1940ís era restroom doors.
After the landing we had the opportunity to photograph the DC-4 on the tarmac. Curious ground crew also noted the unusual visitor and took advantage of the opportunity to have a closer look at her.
A short time later, the DC-4 engines were started for a second sightseeing flight. After completing this flight, the DC-4 returned to Luxembourg to pick up passengers for the return flight to Zurich, scheduled for later that afternoon. Again the engines came into life with much of smoke and shortly after the DC-4 climbed into the sky.

So my first ride on a piston powered aircraft turned to be an extraordinary experience never to be forgotten. Back in 1997 I had no idea that three flights on a Connie and one on a DC-3 were in my future. These flights have also been documented in articles on this website.

Rainer Spoddig
June 2006

Photo Credits: Rainer Spoddig

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----Created 8 December 2012----