The Aircraft

6832 – The ‘coelacanth Dak’

Douglas Aircraft Corporation C-47 Mk IIIa DAKOTA, a military version of the world-famous DC-3.


By Major General Duncan Ralston, SAAF (retired)

Dakota 6832, the Flying Fish Cart, first flew in 1944 at the Douglas Aircraft Corporation factory in Oklahoma City, USA.

Purchased by Britain under the lease lend scheme she was flown to South Africa in February 1944 and was retired from service in 1992. Initially employed as a no frills transport/freighter aircraft she was later used as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Her one brief moment of glory came with the flight to Dzaoudzi airfield on the island of Pamanzi in the Comoros to fetch the second coelacanth ever identified. If only for this reason it is important that she should be preserved for posterity.

In addition, as she is only one of two Dakotas remaining on the SA Air Force’s inventory, and in view of the special role that this type of aircraft played in the history of the Air Force, every effort should be made to keep her in a fit state to be viewed by the public.

It is important to note that in the 1970s and 1980s the SA Air Force was the largest operator of Dakota aircraft in the world.

Dakota 6832 was spared being converted to a Turbo Propeller version at the special request of some of her 1952 aircrew. They felt that her historical significance warranted her being restored to her 1952 colour scheme and preserved and displayed in the SA Air Force Museum to commemorate that historic 1952 flight. It was at this stage that plans for her eventual restoration were made and a start was made to restore her to her 1952 condition.

As it turned out 6832 did not get the restoration she deserved. She became a victim of a lack of funds and more important operational priorities. She was tucked away in a hangar at Cape Town International Airport and, whilst not completely forgotten, no active restoration work was done on her. It is an unfortunate fact that an aircraft not flown or regularly serviced deteriorates rapidly. And so it was with 6832.

She now needs major restoration. She was eventually relocated to AFB Ysterplaat when the Air Force Base at the airport was closed down. A plan was made to get her restored to flying condition to fly to Grahamstown in 2002 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the flight to the Comoros. However, once again a lack of finances put paid to any significant work being done on her.

Now the “Grubby Rubbies”, a team of highly dedicated volunteers, led by Warrant Officer Kevin Furness (retd), a veteran Dakota expert, is working hard on Saturdays to restore 6832 to a condition that would enable her to be part of a display commemorating the 1952 flight at the SA Air Force Museum at AFB Ysterplaat.

Some considerable progress has already been made, but the project still lacks adequate financial resources and is under resourced. The Air Force is able to give some support, but this is limited by financial constraints and a shortage of skilled technicians. The project has the support of the SAAF Museum Aviation Heritage Foundation.

Eventually it is hoped to restore 6832 to a flying condition of serviceability, but this is going to be very expensive. Available funds are likely to run out in May 2006 which would mean that further restoration work on 6832 will have to be stopped. An effort is being made to get a major sponsor involved in the project, but to date not one has been forthcoming. However, at this stage, any financial help or help in kind would be most welcome. Duncan Ralston 2006

Update by Kirk Kinnear – 2011

The Initial Project Goals were established early on in 2000:

Phase One: restore the Aircraft to the colour scheme worn on the historic flight

Phase Two: Restore the aircraft to a gorund taxing display condition.

Phase Three: Restore the aircraft to flight status.

In 2002, The South African Aviation Foundation, a non-profit Section 21 company formed as the formal public face of the Friends of the Cape Town SAAF Museum, banded together with other interested parties with the aim of accomplishing these goals.

With the passion and effort of volunteers, the support and resources of the South African Air Force and various units at AFB Ysterplaat, funding from the South African Aviation Foundation and sponsorship from coporations such as Goodyear Aviation, and the unstinting oversight and technical wizardry of Warrant Officer Kevin Furness (retired) we have accomlished Phases One and Two.

We are about to embark on the most daunting aspect: The Return to Flight. Everything we require is in place. Everyhting, that is, except the full funding to restore 6832 to flight, and to ensure her maintenance and upkeep.

6832 in Grahamstown in 1993, on the 40th Anniversary Flight (Image by Robin Stobbs)

Image by Irene McCullagh

Dakota MkII (C47A-10-K) was built in Oklahoma City (manufacturer’s serial number 12478, fuselage number 700)

She was allocated Serial Number 42-108863 by the U.S.A.A.F.

She was purchased by the RAF under the Lend-lease Scheme and delivered to the RAF on the 9th February 1944 as KG-443.

She was flown to South Africa on 26th February 1944 and received the serial number 6832. She served with 28 Squadron in 1945, 27 and 44 Squadrons in 1946 and 25 Squadron from 1975 to 1979.

Finally she served with 35 Squadron at Ysterplaat Air Force Base, Cape Town, on maritime and transport duties.

6832 is now under restoration at Ysterplaat Air Force Base in Cape Town.

Image by Irene McCullagh

She received the codes K-OD when she was transferred to 28 Squadron.

At the time of the 1952 coelacanth flight 6832 bore the Squadron markings KOD (ODK on her starboard side) – ‘king, oboe, dog’ in the phonetic alphabet of that era – and was a polished natural aluminium colour with upper half engine nacelles and fuselage nose a matte anti-glare blue. The South African national insignia of that period was an orange, white & blue roundel with superimposed springbok. (The five-cornered castle emblem was only introduced in 1958).

C-47 Statistics

Wingspan:                                       28,96m (95’0″)

Length:                                            19,66m (64’6″)

Height:                                            5,16m (16’11½”)

Power plant: 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90B “Wasp” fourteen cylinder radial piston engines of 882kW (1200hp) each driving a three-blade propeller.

Max. takeoff mass:                          14 060kg (31 000lb)

Mass empty:                                    7 700kg (16 970lb)

Mass loaded (normal):                     11 432kg (25 200lb)

Overload Limit:                              14 969kg (33 000lb)

Max. speed:                                     190 knots (346km/h)

Max. range:                                      1 510 nautical miles (2 760km)

Climb:                                             400ft/min @ 105 knots

Initial climb:                                    1200ft/min (366m/min )

Service ceiling:                                       23 000ft (7 000m)

Fuel consumption (cruising):          300lbs/hour/engine @ 7500ft

Crew:                                              Usually 3