Dakota still flies special missions

Pilot Charl Yssel stands beneath the nose of his specially adapted Dakota.
Pilot Charl Yssel stands beneath the nose of his specially adapted Dakota. Allan Reinikka

DON'T be fooled by its age or its unusual appearance.

Charl Yssel's Dakota dates back to 1944 and saw active service in the Second World War, but it is still going strong.

And although it is 78 years old, it is loaded with so much advanced technology it flies rings around much younger aircraft when it comes to searching for precious minerals.

The unique plane touched down in Rocky yesterday en route to a geological survey mission for Anglo Coal near Middlemount.

Charl, a pilot for South African technical survey company Spectrem, said he would be flying at just 90 metres over the bush to create an accurate picture of coal reserves beneath the surface.

"There are other planes used for surveys, but nothing in Australia packs this many systems," he said.

The Dakota will take a day to do what geologists would take weeks to do on the ground and uses sophisticated magnetic fields to "see underground".

But Charl knows that it's the Dakota's special place in aviation history that makes it such a draw for plane spotters.

"Wherever we go there is always interest, particularly among the older generation," he said.

The plane bears little resemblance to how it looked during the war against Nazi Germany.

After hostilities it flew domestically in Britain before it was taken to Botswana and then South Africa.

In the 1980s, the original piston engines were replaced by modern turbines, but substantially it is the same Douglas DC-3 that emerged from the hangar back in 1944.

Rockhampton Airport operations manager Iain Lobegeier said it was a privilege to welcome it to the city.

"The DC-3 established air travel as a normal means of transport in 1941 and is often referred to as the greatest aircraft of all time," he said.

Topics:  plane world war ii

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