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Setting New Horizons Earning the DC-3 Type - Here is My Story, a Letter to the Old Lady, N44587

Setting New Horizons Earning the DC-3 Type - Here is My Story, a Letter to the Old Lady, N44587

Written by Catheline Leoni

Firing up the right, then the left engine from the left seat. Both are running smoothly. That’s a good start! Thank you N44587!

To tell you the truth, I am a little nervous dear old lady. I have done all my ATP training with N272R, but your little sister just decided that she did not want to take a check-ride today! The winds are blowing from the East at 20+ knots and we are going to fly instrument approaches to the North instead of Kenai. Slight last minute change of plans. I am not as familiar, but that should be ok. Let’s get our clearance.

Please keep making me look good 587! We are both into this. This is a very important day for me and I am so excited it has finally arrived! For you, this is a very unusual day too! You have seen so much throughout your life since 1944 and over 50,000 hours of flight time! You are not used to fly out of Anchorage empty to perform check-ride maneuvers. You are a workhorse, not a training airplane. I sure hope you are going to enjoy the ride and provide another great service in helping me making a life-long dream come true. This is really what it is…

I set myself this goal of flying DC-3s almost 10 years ago, when I helped ferrying an older sister of yours on a halfway trip around the world from England to New Zealand. The time has come, after completing all my pilot certificates and flying commercially in Alaska, to take my DC-3 type rating.

I have worked with passion and dedication for my company, Desert Air Transport, and received so much support in return. My boss and coworkers have become a family. I have learned tremendously from my captains. They have shared with me all their DC-3 knowledge and have offered me to use you for my ATP check-ride. I would not be there without them. My job here has set the bar so high. I feel like I owe them so much. I can’t disappoint.

My first flight in this company was with you, N44587, and today we are going to complete the journey.

We just finished our run up. Every gauge is in the green. My DPE, Doug Rozendaal, has come all the way from Iowa to help me reach this milestone. He is going to be both my examiner and copilot today. Doug seems very intimidating to me at first. He is known to be a fount of knowledge, but I notice he has a deadpan sense of humor as well. “I want this day to be memorable”, I say. Doug answers, “oh no, you don’t want me to remember your check-ride…” I think this is really funny. “Let’s try not to!”

Time to taxi! “Take a leap of faith and believe in yourself!” you’re telling me. “I’m halfway there. I can do this.”

We takeoff runway 33 from Anchorage, and climb to the practice area to perform slow flight, steep turns, departure and landing configuration stalls. You are running placidly 587. How delightful it is to take you for a local flight! One maneuver after the other. No time to think for me! You can tell Doug has a lot of experience conducting check-rides. He has a plan and is super efficient developing the scenario. Checklists and commands are flowing with discipline. I do not think he has ever flown in the area, but we manage to complete each task of the ACS to the letter.

I find myself having a better grasp of you than I thought I had. The words of my instructor are blinking in my mind like a red warning light: “Make it do what you want it to do…” and it works! I can reuse the parameters I have learned in N272R. You fly the same as her, maybe even more gracefully!

I feel like both of us are on a mission, with a real crew member. Doug acts as a helpful copilot, but sometimes he also makes intentional small mistakes, that I catch. I was caught making those mistakes by my captains before. I guess I have developed a sense for noticing when pieces of equipment are not where they are supposed to be. This gives me an extra boost of confidence. I am determined for a successful outcome.

I also feel pretty sweaty! My landing left some room for improvement. That single engine approach to LPV minimums in gusty winds at Wasilla is being very sporty. So is back-taxiing on the runway with the tailwind. The turn at the end is tight. The “before take off check” is complete. We are ready to go again. I apply power and hear “smoke in the cockpit.” I immediately chop the throttles. Doug got me. I really thought it was true for a second!

We take off and the winds flow beneath your wings. We reach pattern altitude in a matter of seconds and we keep on going with simulated emergencies. Having watched Doug’s videos about the drill a couple of times and taught it to my own students the way he explains in his videos really helps accomplishing the steps in harmony. On the way back to Anchorage, the controllers have us hold over the mouth of the Little Su. We set up for a localizer approach runway 7R and one of your engine “fails” again. After taking you back safely to the ground I feel a little sad that the flight is already all over.

But I am so thrilled to hear those words…

-“Congratulations, this is a pass.”

- “I hope you won’t remember this ride Doug!”

I take the big smile showing on his face as a “I won’t”.

I sure hope I will get to fly with him again someday. I had a blast taking this check-ride with him.

Seeing my instructor marshaling us back on the ramp, and then the pride in his eyes like I have never seen before, is very special!

I do not realize it yet, but emotion is growing in me. Flying DC-3s has been the most blissful thing in my life. It feels like I have been climbing this mountain for all this time through the clouds and I just reached the summit embraced by the sun. For you, this is another day coming back to the yard, Lady. Another successful mission to add to your tally. You will never cease to amaze me. You are 77 years old and still such a dependable airplane. For me, this is such a huge accomplishment 587 and I feel so grateful for all the training, flying experience and friendships developed at Desert Air.

Getting my type is only a step towards becoming a captain for the company. Learning decision making over the mountains or how to land you on short strips, heavy and in confined environments will be next! Do not change a winning team!

Are you ready? Let’s lavish you some love first.

Photos by Cat Leoni

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