Bill, the DC-3 is listed to Champlain Air of Plattsburgh NY and is called "Mary Lou". Details from an airline company listing:
Champlain Air, Inc.
518 Rugar Street, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
(518) 562-2700; Fax: (518) 562-8030
Antony von Elbe, C.E.O.; John A. Sullivan, Jr., President; E. James Drollette, Executive Vice President/Director-Flight Operati
Equipment: 2 Douglas DC3's
Note: Carrier does not provide scheduled service.
Below is a newspaper story published about Mr. Drollette, the company, and this aircraft
ADDICTED TO FLIGHT
Published on: 8/12/2002 Last Visited: 8/12/2002
The pilots, Jim Drollette and Bill Dahler, had already gone through an extensive safety checklist and were ready to take flight.
"Okay, we'll be cruising at 2,000 feet with an air speed of 150 miles per hour," Drollette said through the PA system, his words clear and sharp above the steady hum of the plane in flight.
The aircraft banked to the left and moved toward Lake Champlain. Valcour Island, its distinct bays dotted with dozens of sailboats, was in clear view. Gray-white fluffy clouds hung in the sky, and an intensive thunderstorm moved slowly across the horizon to the west.
"We'll stay out of its path," Drollette said of the storm, choosing rather to circle above Plattsburgh and the surrounding countryside.
Drollette, co-owner of Champlain Air, takes special pride in this plane, a refurbished C-47 that served as a transport for the British Royal Air Force during World War II. It was the first of several similar planes he has given a new life to over the past decade.
"We've spent countless hours refurbishing these planes," he said. "This plane's been completely rebuilt."
The plane, named "Mary Lou" by Drollette's crew when refurbished in 1992 but soon to be renamed Mary Ann in honor of his girlfriend, was manufactured in Oklahoma and delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force on Feb. 4, 1944. The C-47 was then leased to the Royal Air Force and assigned to the 233rd Squadron out of Prestwick, Scotland.
After the war, the plane was transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force, where it spent the next 26 years before being sold as surplus in 1972 to the Canadian Fish and Game Department.
Drollette, who grew up in Saranac but now lives in Florida, purchased the aircraft because of both a passion for the past and a dream for the future.
"I've always been interested in historic airplanes," he said. "The history of aviation is fascinating, and all these planes played an important role in history. I thought it'd be a fun thing to buy and refurbish them, have a little fun with history."
But the purchase of Mary Lou had a practical side as well.
"My partner (Tony von Elbe) and I planned to retire to the Bahamas and fly charter excursions," he said.
Besides running occasional charter flights over the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain, Drollette uses the big planes (the C-47 has a 95-foot wingspan, the same as a 727 jetliner) for specialized instruction for experienced pilots. The practice gives pilots an extra rating on their license.
C-47s were heavy transport aircraft. They had large cargo spaces for transporting military equipment. The DC-3 was a cousin of the C-47 but was designed more to carry troops than equipment.
Drollette currently has three in his hangar on the former Air Force Base. Mary-Lou and its cousin, Priscilla, are both silver metal with blue trim, giving them a distinctive historic airliner appearance. A third plane is painted military green, just as the planes looked flying over Normandy so many decades ago during World War II.
Champlain Air also has enough extra parts in storage to build another complete aircraft, though the parts are used to replace parts on the existing planes with ease.
As a kid growing up in Saranac, Drollette lived directly under the flightline of Colonial Airlines. He remembers going out and watching the planes fly overhead, dreaming of one day doing it himself.
That has definitely come true. He has logged more than 22,000 flight miles as a pilot and flight instructor.
"I've been flying since I was 16 years old," he said. "I loved it back then, and I love it just as much today. I still get a thrill out of it every time I lift off."
He continued circling the Plattsburgh vicinity for about a half hour before taking the plane back down to the runway. But as if he couldn't get enough of the experience, he lifted off again and took one more cruise above the North Country.
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