Sunday, April 9, 2017

My Nagpur trip - 77 years old DC3 spotting

On March 09th, we got the news from Geneva, Switzerland about the Breitling DC3 Around-The-World Tour from March-Sept 2017. As a aviation enthusiast & plane spotter, this was the golden opportunity to witness this legendary Douglas DC3 aircraft as it makes historical landing in India. 

The aircraft is celebrating its 77th birthday - taking this opportunity & in support with Breitling (well known Swiss watch maker & precision-made chronometers useful for aviators) it is on its way to circle the earth to promote aviation heritage & restoration of vintage aircrafts.


As of March 2017, there are about 160 airworthy Douglas DC3 aircrafts in worldwide. The aircraft which was coming to India was quiet special. It was manufactured in 1940, served with American Airlines & several airlines while it also served to transport US Army troops during World War II.

As the news about this event got spread & I got to know about this rare spotting opportunity, I started my planning for Nagpur. Nagpur is chosen by the DC3 team as it’s in the centre of India where they can get the special aviation fuel required for this vintage aircraft. 

The planning started by asking all those plane spotter friends if they are interested in spotting this aircraft. I had started a special whatsapp group on 12th March regarding this event - within hours I got my 2 friends Parth Shah & Manas Marathe from Pune ready to join me on this journey. The DC3 is scheduled to land in Nagpur on 26th March from Karachi. We had received an email from Nagpur about 1.5 years ago from local spotter, Dr. Ankur Sancheti - I got in touch with him regarding best possible spotting location around in Nagpur. 

25th March: D-1 to landing 

On the night of 25th March - I got to know about someone who is plane spotter & aviation enthusiast from Nagpur,  Harshada Shende (Jessi). It was 12:10AM on 25th March when I sent her message on Facebook regarding this event in hope to get any possible help. 

I was lucky enough that as soon as she saw my message next morning, she replied with very warm welcome & good news that she can arrange something for me. 

On that day we had confirm team of 7 spotters who are going to be part of this activity - I've been joined by my spotter friends - Prashob Chandran & Akshay Uchil from Mumbai.


We boarded "Garibrath Express" from Pune to Nagpur in the evening at 5:40pm - we were on our way to Nagpur. We've been constantly in touch with Mumbai team as their train got delayed by 4 hours. 
For me; I was in the train after almost 5 years, so it was quiet slow journey for me. 

While in the train, I made a new friend (train friend) who was travelling in our train - Ishika Saoji, she is a student from Pune who have just given 9th standard exams was going to Akola for holiday. It was great time meeting new people and having conversation with them about plane spotting and sharing our experiences. 



26th March: The Day!

We arrived at Nagpur Junction at 10:30AM and went straight to the flat which was arranged for our stay by my friend Manas's uncle. At the time Mumbai team was still running behind the schedule. 



While on our way to the place where we will be staying at; we made stop in middle for breakfast - this was something different, we had Chana-Poha there next to Radisson blue hotel. As we were having our breakfast, my new Facebook friend Harshada, whom I've messaged about 12hours ago came there to meet us. I found her very friendly and enthusiastic. I've discussed spotting plans with her. By the time DC3 was in Indian airspace somewhere near Bhuj.

After dropping our bags but, we had a problem that we had no car to go to airport in that Nagpur's heat. Thanks to my friend Snehal Chourase whom I've met about 2 years ago. Thanks to her dad Mr. Deepak Chourase; who gave his car to us. It was 12:30PM by the time my team was on standby as plane was supposed to land in at 3:30PM which was planned arrival time. I made contact with Mumbai team & Ankur whom we are going to meet near runway.

As we went near the runway, we (Manas, Parth & Me) was asked to go To Indian Air Force officer's mess & take some rest by the officer (whom we are in touch) of 44th squadron, Nagpur as they were aware of our activity. As we went there, we received very warm welcome by Indian Air Force there with refreshment. But due to the time limit we have to rush back to spotting location as plane was about to land at 1:40PM instead
 of 3:30PM. We did spot landing of this aircraft from Runway 32.



We had one shot to take the pics of this aircraft as it comes in to land for the first time in India. Parth, Manas, Akshay, Prashob, Ankur & I witness this historic landing.
At 1:43PM IST - DC3 touched down at Nagpur.

After its landing, as a plane spotter next challenge was to locate the aircraft's parking spot at the airport. 



Nagpur spotter Harshada with Cheif  Pilot Francisco Agullo

Thanks to this crazy girl - Harshada who managed to get the parking location before we reach the airport. Ones we reach the airport we decided to wait there at the airport & meet the crew. After about 1.5 hours at 3:51PM the crew comes out – Francisco Agullo (Chief Pilot), Paul Bazeley (CEO - Aerometal International) & Daniel Meyer. 



The Group at Nagpur Airport

They immediately recognized me as I've messaged them before their arrival in India to get landing time & other details (That's the power of social media & how you use it for good). 


from left : Paul Bazeley, Francisco Agullo, me & Daniel Meyer

They were tired after travelling all the way from Karachi to Nagpur in the summer where temperatures goes up to 45-47°C. Despite that; as soon as they saw us there wearing specially made t-shirts; they waved at us and we went to greet them. We had conversation with them.

 We 7 was the only one there to welcome them to India by giving them Remove Before Flight keychains & of course a group photo which later got posted by official Facebook page of Breitling DC3 World Tour. At that time there we were no other flight arriving or departing out of Nagpur hence we were only people out there at terminal.


Facebook Post by DC3 World Tour page
Selfi with the team - Super 7

As the crew left for their hotel. I & Harshada, went to ATC tower to see the aircraft parking location. We had conversations with controllers there about plane spotting. It was great experience.



Old man resting on the remote parking bay
Selfi from ATC tower

In the evening I got chance to click the DC3 parking from several kilometres from a terrace of an apartment building. Thanks to Aman Chourase Mr. Swapnil Deshmukh for accompany taking night shots.
Thanks to Mrs. Sapna Chourase for the dinner (chicken).

DC3 seen in night



27th March: The Flight 


On the 27th morning we had breakfast at Snehal's place and we left for airport at 10AM. By the time DC3 crew were at the airport and preparing for their sortie flight of 20mins as told by Paul. Thanks to Group Captain R. Mittal, 44th Wing, Indian Air Force - who gave me opportunity to click this bird as it takes off for its sortie flight for media and Breitling business partners for a 20mins ride over Nagpur.  







After spotting this plane's landing we went back to airport and met my Mumbai friends. At 6:40PM we were on-board our train "Nagpur-Pune Superfast Express", a way back home to Pune. 
I really had great time there in Nagpur in those 24 hours spent there. I never felt that I am in new city or meeting them all for first time. It really touched me. I remember my last calls made to Harshada & Snehal.  It was emotional moment.

Locomotive at Nagpur Jn.

I really miss you all & this event which brought us all together. I hope we will meet again someday in future. Best wishes to DC3 team for their around-the-world tour.

Thanks to Yash Patil, Mr. Jitendra Nikhate, Mr. Yogesh Naik, 
Jwalant Swadia & all those who have helped me to make this possible.


We've been also mentioned here in this blog post regarding "Stories of a DC-3 who wants to see the World" - Click Here in Leg 9.

Thanks for Warm Wishes !

Photos : 






About Devendra Kulkarni

Plane Spotter & Aviation Photographer from India. Crazy about planes & flying machines, exploring new things over different domains such as Tech. Space. Aviation. Travel. Adventure. and many more.

Founder of Plane Spotters India - India's largest aviation enthusiasts community


www.PlaneSpotters.in | www.Devendra.one

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