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Dakota and 3 Squadron Memories

By Roger Shepherd


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The Dakota, Circa 1970.

The DAK cannot be kept in the air without a great bunch of techs and pilots.

I did 10 yrs in the Air Force, four and a half to five yrs on Three Sqdn. During that time I met the likes of Shumba Taylor, John (pokey) Potts, Garth Apple, my good mate Chris Richards, Ian Officer, Jim Duff, Jimmy Jameson and the rest, and some first class pilots Punchy Alexander, Bob D'Hotmann, Dave Thorn and Bruce Smith to name but a few.

Shortly after coming back onto 3 Sqdn (after leaving 7 when I got shot) the first job I had to do was to replace the shear pin in the tail wheel lock, not the easiest job when you have two eyes, try doing it when you have one eye, getting past all those control cables in the tail. ( thanks Chris). But I did get my own back with Chris and others, I was on the line one day and Mike Graydon told me there was a Dak coming in in five mins, keep an eye out, so I did just that, took my eye out put it on top of a coke bottle and went inside, only to hear some choice words from Mike, I think that was the last time he asked me to keep an eye out.

What I want to know is, why is it that pilots used to have such a hard time getting a Dak fired up, a tech can go and start the engines with no problem at all!

On one occasion on the Sqdn towards the end it was decided to do a final jump for all the army, so all the Daks were positioned around the areas between HQ and Para hanger, Para hanger and 3 Sqdn, 3 Sqdn and Air Movements and around the hard standings, all the A/C had a flight eng. and a helper, Garth Apple was the boss, we all tuned into a particular radio setting, on a given word from Garth all port engines were started, all necessary checks carried out, again another given word the Starboard engines were started, when there are about 11 aircraft ground running at the same time one hell of a noise, shortly after I think Speedy Mac came running out of the office indicating cut engines, there was a big meeting going on in HQ and I mean a big meeting, all high ranking Air Force and Army.

One flight I was on my pilot showed me his log book, the A/C we were flying in that day he had flown in the Berlin Air Lift, another Dak was 25 years older than me to the day. The good old Goony Bird is still flying to this day, except in the UK where they are grounding the last three because of health and safety, ( they don't have escape chutes in the door.) the way I see it if a Dak does do a wheels up you don't need a chute, the door is so close to the ground you can just step out. Long live the Goony Bird, vomit comet what ever you call it, it is the best aircraft I have ever worked on or flown in, and still get that sense of pride when ever I see or even hear one, knowing I have done time on them.

When you spend time on a Sqdn that aircraft becomes part of you, I did a while on 7 and a year on 5 but there is something about the Dakota, the steep angle of the floor when she is on the ground and the grace while in the air, to the roar of the Pratt and Whittney engines they are still the best.

To all the guys I worked with, pilots I flew with on Three Squadron ( and the two ladies) thanks for the greatest time I had in my working life.

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