OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A historic aircraft listed on the National Register of Historic Places relocated Thursday from Oklahoma to a museum in Texas so more people will have the chance to see it up close.
Several dozen employees with the Federal Aviation Administration turned out Thursday morning to watch the DC-3 N34 take off from FAA facilities in Oklahoma City for its new home at the Texas Air & Space Museum in Amarillo.
"I'm happy to see it get to someplace where somebody — kids can come back on board and we can do what it's meant to be. People can learn about flight inspection," said Thomas Solinski, a reliability engineer with the FAA who has been responsible for taking care of the aircraft for the past decade.
The aircraft was built in 1945 at Tinker Air Force Base for the U.S. Navy. In 1956, the Civil Aeronautics Administration took it over and refurbished it for its flight inspection program. The Navy officially gave ownership to the FAA in 1966, Solinski said. It was one of 50 such aircrafts the FAA used to certify navigation equipment.
"For a while it was a schoolhouse here in Oklahoma City. You learned to be a flight inspection technician, you came here to Oklahoma City, you flew this airplane," Solinski said.
All the other DC-3s have been retired, and the N34 became the last one in the FAA's fleet.
In the 1980s, the plane was refurbished again and used for airshow work before it was retired in 1995. But retirement didn't last. In 2003, the plane was used to commemorate the 100th anniversary of flight and a few years later, Oklahoma centennial celebrations. "For a lot of those little towns, we were the only thing they did," Solinski said.
The events allowed thousands of people to see the plane as it traveled all over the United States, said Michael Ahern, who has flown the aircraft since 1988.
The last major flight the plane took was in 2010, during the 75th anniversary of the first DC-3 flight. Since then, it's been off limits for flight enthusiasts.
The aircraft was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, and one of the criteria for that listing is that it's available for the public to view, Solinski said. "And we can't do that out here at the airport," he added.
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