How a retired DC-3 became a Clipper...
A decade long mission to honor the people and legacy of Pan American Airways
Pan American Airways. The name alone conjures images of the Golden Age of air travel. Stalwart crews pioneering long range flying over oceans just barely conquered by steamships. Hardy teams carving facilities into coral atolls, mountainsides and jungle clearings, building a global logistics empire to support the needs of aviation in places where few, if any had ever flown. Pan American inventing new techniques and equipment to meet tasks nobody had ever encountered in order to connect continents and peoples who had previously been separated by months of ocean travel...
Pan American Airways.
Everything you know about air travel today can trace it's genesis back to decisions made by Pan American staff. They taught the world to fly as they learned to fly the world. The company has been gone more than 25 years, but remains one of the most well recognized brands on the planet. The spirit and soul of the people who built her lives on in the brand recognition that they built.
In 2009, Robert S. Randazzo, the head of Nevada based PMDG, decided to acquire a DC-3 for restoration. A huge project in it's own right, he recognized immediately the opportunity to turn an already legendary airplane into a remarkable ode to the legacy of Pan American's employees the world over. Nearly two full years of research and preparation followed by painstaking attention put to tasks such as matching 70 year old paint color specifications, development of proper fonts and artwork in order to match colors, markings,signage looks and feel in a manner appropriate for such a mission.
Our ship, originally a C-47B and one of the last new DC-3s to be produced, had operated primarily in private hands with brief stints in tourism before becoming the last DC-3 to fly in scheduled passenger service in the United States. She was put up for sale in 2003 and remained so until acquired by PMDG Flight Operations in 2011 for the specific purpose of this flying restoration.
The original registration number of every Pan American DC-3 was carefully fed into the FAA's registration database with only a single registration coming up as available for application on an airplane. N33611, had originally been applied to a ship lost in a takeoff incident in Port of Spain in 1942. Knowing that this would provide a fitting testimony to an enduring legacy while also inspiring a "never give up" narrative fitting to both PAA and the ubiquitous DC-3, the number was reserved for use on our restoration project..
In 2012, our Clipper was finally painted by the Straube family at their paint facility in Ogden, UT.
She wears the colors and markings sported by Pan American during the optimistic post-war years. Bright, sharp and distinguished, the contrasting color and bold stripes evoke the enthusiasm of the era, and radiate confidence and strength when standing on a sun-soaked aircraft stand.
Our Clipper has operated up and down both coasts of the United States with warm and nostalgic reception no matter where she flies. She makes appearances primarily at small town airshows where the presence of an airplane with the stature of a DC-3 serves well to increase local enthusiasm for a small airport and general aviation. Everywhere she goes, former Pan American staff share their stories and relive their contribution to one of history's greatest challenges.
In their honor, our crew works hard to keep Clipper Tabitha May clean enough to pass even the fastidious expectations of employees trained under Andre Priester's watchful eye.
We hope you will have the opportunity to come see her for yourself.
Please consider a contribution to help cover the cost of this historic journey by visiting our contribution page.