World’s Oldest Flying DC 3 Coming To Cleveland’s Regional Jetport

Sunday, September 15, 2019
Flagship Detroit, a Douglas DC 3 built in 1937
Flagship Detroit, a Douglas DC 3 built in 1937

Flagship Detroit, a Douglas DC 3 built in 1937, will be in Cleveland Saturday and Sunday, on display for rides and tours at Cleveland’s Regional Jetport.

Mark Fidler, director of operations and airport manager, said the DC 3 is the world’s oldest flying DC 3 and is in fact a flying museum that tells the story of a great era in aviation.

The event is open to the public and several student groups, including Cleveland High School Air Force ROTC and the Civil Air Patrol, will be taking part in the weekend events.

The plane will be available for tours and rides on Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The Civil Air Patrol will be preparing and selling breakfast on Saturday, a fundraising effort they do each month at the JetPort.

The DC 3 was purchased and preserved by a non profit organization called the Flagship Detroit Foundation.

Mr. Fidler said, "The plane had been owned and operated initially by American Airlines. When old planes retire from commercial service, many of them are scrapped, some are parked and forgotten, and a special few end up in a museum. But few fly on.” 

Part of the history of this aircraft is it was used to fly First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt before the military began providing  air transportation for the first family.

It was Zane Lemon, a former chief pilot at American Airlines, who was looking for a legacy aircraft to showcase the early days of commercial aviation when he discovered the DC 3 in 2004. Built in 1937 by Douglas, NC17334 flew for American Airlines as the Flagship Detroit from 1937 to 1947. Covering routes throughout the Ohio Valley, it carried 21 passengers during the height of style and comfort.

Mr. Lemon, now president of Flagship Detroit Foundation, purchased the plane and began restoring one of the lost greats of aviation to its original 1937 condition. Over two years the foundation repaired and replaced much of the plane. A new interior was installed replacing the 21 seats, galley, and lavatory of the original aircraft. Workers at American Airlines maintenance base in Tulsa, Ok,, hand built exact replicas of the seats to supplement the seats they were able to find. 

Mr. Fidler said the plane paid a visit to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and attracted great crowds.  “It’s an honor to be able to have the world’s longest flying DC 3 here, and it gives us an opportunity to showcase our Regional JetPort as well. This is the community’s airport and we take great pride in showing it off to visitors at any time. This is a great educational opportunity for students to learn about our country’s aviation history, plus it’s a great piece of history for aviation buffs of all ages."

Opened in January of 2013, Cleveland’s Regional Jetport is a state of the art facility and in 2014 was named Airport of the Year by the Tennessee Aeronautic Commission. The runway accommodates a variety of general aviation aircraft and the facility has an 8,000 square foot terminal that features three conference rooms, catering kitchen, pilot lounges and waiting areas, all designed with the aesthetics of East Tennessee charm.

Mr. Fidler said the conference rooms, training rooms and kitchens are designed for local organizations to use for special occasions, training or meetings. They are often used by visitors to the airport for brief conferences, training and meetings. 

More details of the Flagship Detroit visit will be announced in the next few days. More information is available by calling Cleveland Regional Jetport at 472-4343.


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