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Scenic Flying - How It Used to Be in the 1940's

Updated on May 24, 2011

The plane on this scenic flight cruised slowly over the sprawling city of Auckland, its magnificent sparkling harbor in all its beauty laid out below us. In the distance multiple white sandy beaches glistened in the late afternoon sun. On the opposing compass point the bush clad Waitakere ranges; its numerous walking tracks hidden by our altitude.

We were not cruising at a high altitude as this immaculately restored old Dakota (DC3) cruises at just 1000 feet - an altitude planes used to favor before they went “high tech”. The city and harbor seemed so close you almost felt as though you could reach through the window and touch the landmarks below us. We cruised over the sparse ancient volcanic cone strewn with scoria spewed out centuries ago.

A glimpse into the cockpit (a rare treat in this age of terror attacks) showed us a simple instrument panel reminiscent of aircraft in the 1940’s. This is flying as it used to be. The experienced cock-pit crew is clearly enjoying the hands-on controls.

Auckland City and Harbour from the top of Rangitoto Island
Auckland City and Harbour from the top of Rangitoto Island
DC3 on the ground. Thanks and Copyright to Craig Dealey.
DC3 on the ground. Thanks and Copyright to Craig Dealey.
DC3 over Auckland.  Thanks and copyright to Craig Dealey.
DC3 over Auckland. Thanks and copyright to Craig Dealey.

We are passengers in an old Dakota (DC3) aeroplane which has been given a new life and after a colorful history is now gracefully cruising the skies offering scenic flights. The occasion is our company Christmas party and we chartered this aircraft for the scenic flight.

She is authentic; a Dakota registered ZK-DAK in the 1940’s. She has had multiple lives, each time being reinvented for the purpose. She was once an army aircraft in the Pacific Islands used by the US Army Air Force and General McArthur once flew in her.

She has also done time in the commercial sector; first in the Philippines and then in New Guinea and Australia. But, her latest reincarnation began in 1987 when a group of New Zealand enthusiasts purchased her and bought her to Auckland.

The owners of ZK-DAK are a group of fifty passionate people. They are keen to see this classic aircraft remain in service offering scenic flights to pay her way. She has had to pass and maintain rigorous commercial Air Transport Standards.

She was restored by the enthusiasts and then began this new life of service to locals, tourists, and corporate jaunts and for anyone interested in experiencing flying like it used to be. Her cabin crew is current or ex-airline staff who wants to carry on the tradition of life in the air from a bygone era.

It’s a nostalgic experience and a chance to see a different side of Auckland. Walking into the cabin I am amazed to observe, that with her nose in the air, it is a steep climb to our allocated seats. No airbridges here! 1940’s music playing creates an ambience of a previous era.

Her cabin feels spacious. Sitting in one of the plush roomy seats, I am delighted to see how much room there is to stretch out my long legs. Sigh. I wish today’s commercial flights offered this level of comfort and space.


During the time the ZK-DAK flew commercially, it was such a new form of transportation that people dressed up for the experience. Many ladies wore suits and hats for the occasion. It was a rare treat. Many New Zealander’s were introduced to flying via the DC3. The national airline (NAC) used Dakota aircraft for many of its routes, partly, because of its reliability.

Although we chartered the restored aircraft for our scenic flight, the old aircraft is available for individual passengers to book a seat. Every Sunday, weather permitting she will take 30 passengers on an experience of a lifetime; a flight over the city of Auckland, just like it was 50 or 60 years ago. Certainly the aircraft will give people a taste of what it was like to fly then, but in the intervening years the city has mushroomed, a harbor bridge and sky tower added to the skyline.

During the flight, not only do we look down on the raw beauty of the old Rangitoto volcano, we peer down onto the many beaches snaking up Auckland’s North Shore suburbs. I tick some of them off -Takapuna, Milford, Castor Bay, Mairangi Bay and more up the coast. We are flying so low that we excitedly locate our individual homes.

It is a thrill to share the enthusiasm of the owners and operators of ZK-ZAK who all volunteer their time to restore, maintain and offer scenic flights. All too soon it is time to land and you see that experience via the video below. You can’t help but get caught up in their enthusiasm as they speak, lyrically of how flying used to be. I am a convert.

For more information see www.flydakota.co.nz.

Credits: Photos of DC3 and video of ZK-DAK landing thanks and copyright to Craig Dealey.

**This article and photos (except where noted) are copyright Travelespresso.  Respect my work and if you wish to use it, please ask me.**

.

This is Cool - the DC3 landing in Auckland


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    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      WOW Bill I think it's amazing that you read my hub about a plane you flew in 1954.

      Thank you so much for stopping by. If you come back to read this comment, please add some of your memories. I'd love to hear about them and I'm sure other readers would too.

    • profile image

      BILL BROOMHALL 6 years ago

      I CREWED THIS C-47,AF #349219,AT CLARK FIELD PH.IS IN 1954, GLAD TO SEE SHE IS STILL FLYING.

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Nice of you to stop by and leave a comment beautifullife.

    • beautifullife profile image

      beautifullife 6 years ago

      Nice hub and great share

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Flying certainly has changed and not always for the better. I loved being able to stretch out on this plane whereas traveling "cattle class" you are lucky if you have enough space to wriggle your toes.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting GGC.

    • profile image

      getgoingcanada 6 years ago

      Good history lesson! Things have changed so much now.

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      I'm happy you enjoyed my writing. Your comments are flattering...thank you.

    • Juliette Morgan profile image

      Juliette Morgan 7 years ago

      Very nostalgic - love to fly anywhere to get a bird's eye view, great writing!

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      I hope you do get to New Zealand and take a flight on the DC3. It is a wonderful experience. Thank you so much for stopping by fishtiger58.

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 7 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      I would love to take a flight in this aircraft, sounds lovely.

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Hello Dale - I am so happy you are enjoying my travel adventures. I've written about several here on hubpages and I've many more to come. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Dale Mazurek profile image

      Dale Mazurek 7 years ago from Canada

      What a great hub. Adventures like this one should be on any travellers list of things to do.

      I know I was overly intrigued and excited just reading the hub.

      For this your hub now has a place on my blog.

      Cheers

      Dale

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Hello penfriend. I do enjoy my travels and there is more to come! Thanks for your lovely message.

    • profile image

      penfriend 7 years ago

      Wow. You have travelled well and observed and enjoyed well. Thanks for recreating your experiences for us.

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Yes 99 is an impressive score - I'm an over achiever though and want the magic perfect score!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      99 is impressive!

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Hello James

      Yes, you are right - you do see more detail when you are flying slower and lower. I imagine that you have flown in a few helicopters too - now that's an adrenalin rush! I am glad you enjoyed the hub and thanks for your comments. I see it has a hubscore of 99 again - don't think its reached the magic 100 yet - at least not while I've been watching!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      Great article! Though I have been in the aviation business (charter, fuel, maintenance, etc) for 14 years and therefore have flown mostly in small jets, you cannot beat flying low and slow for the incredible scenery. I like to go up in 172 at maybe 140 mph because at that speed you can really see the lay of the land. I enjoyed your Hub very much. Thanks!

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Thanks Dr Marie. Glad you liked the pics too.

    • Dr. Marie profile image

      Dr. Marie 7 years ago

      Great Hub with some awesome pics! Thanks for sharing.

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Yes, it was interesting, especially flying at that low altitude. Thanks for stopping by Truth From Truth.

    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 7 years ago from Michigan

      great post, nice pictures. it sounds like a wonderful experience not like just jumping from point a to point b. I should try it some time

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Thanks Barry. I like to get to the destination and then relax and take time to enjoy the ambience and vibe of a place. Thanks for stopping by and for being a fan!

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 7 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I was thinking this the other day about how everyone is in a rush to get to any destination. Shouldn't the journey be pleasurable and not so hasty...

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Hello Leop - thank you so much for your comments. Alaskan scenic flights sound awesome. I would enjoy that too.

    • Leop profile image

      Leop 7 years ago

      Hello again, I couldn't miss this for the world. Glad you had great experience. I love scenic flights. Everytime I go somewhere like when I went to Alaska, I took one of the shorts ones. They are very pricey, but lots of fun. Looking forward to doing another one soon.

    • travelespresso profile image
      Author

      travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Hello Dohn - it was a memorable experience and a wonderful reminder of times gone by. Modern is great but the links to our past must never be forgotten. Travelling via ZK-DAK gives passengers just that experience. I loved it but I guess you can see that. Thanks again for your comments.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      This sounds awesome, travelespresso. You really are living life to the fullest. I'm envious of you! Thanks!