Dutch airline KLM celebrated its 95th Anniversary by taking some very lucky people on a flight in their vintage DC3 aircraft, Princess Amalia. So when I got offered the chance to experience the golden age of flying, I couldn’t say no.
Built in 1944, the Princess Amalia was originally used by the 8th Air Force based in the UK. She was involved in the Second World War she was all set to take part in D-Day but just before the invasion, she was hit by German bullet. The repairs are still visible on her today.
In 1946, H.R.H. Prince Bernhard bought the aircraft from the military and converted her for passenger use. The aircraft was then donated to the Dutch government who kept her in use until her retirement in 1975. It was not until 1998 that the aircraft was restored to flying status again and given her current name of Princess Amalia.
Now she is operated by the Dutch Dakota Association and sponsored by KLM.
Flying from Amsterdam to Newcastle – the vintage way
Our flight took us from Schiphol Airport to Newcastle where we were treated to two and a half hours of fantastic sights. We flew at an average of 145mph and, at a maximum height of only 5000ft, we could see the waves of the ocean, birds flying and some amazing scenery when we hit the coast.
We started off by gathering at the Schiphol Jet Centre. This private aircraft section of the airport is where all the rich and wealthy land when they come to Amsterdam. We secretly hoped to see someone famous, but alas, it was just the DC3 and us. I have to admit, flying privately is definitely a more civilised experience!
While we were waiting at the Jet Centre we even saw a 1919 Junkers JU52 going out on a flight.
Check in was a breeze. The cabin crew came to speak with us while we waited for security to come to us (a refreshing change from the usual queues!) and gave us a rundown of what our flight will be like. Tickets where given and we all could select which window seat we wanted. I took the emergency exit, as we all love the extra legroom. Little did I know, that meant I had about six feet of legroom!
When we got to the plane, we had the opportunity for a quick look around before we boarded and prepared to take off. The floor of the plane is quite steep so getting to my seat. Sitting in the most luxurious of seats, which felt more like an armchair, we were then given our safety briefing from the stewardess.
The DC3 then started to taxi to the runway. It’s surprisingly quiet – we had no problems talking to each other. The engines did a quick run up to 100% to warm them up and you could feel the power!
Taking off was a different experience than a normal flight. As I was near the back, I took off before the guys at the front as the tail raises first. We got permission from the air traffic controllers to do a low fly over Amsterdam on the way out. DDA is the only airline who have permission this over the city.
Feeling the aircraft bank and turn and yaw was amazing. Modern aircraft that use computers to control them remove most of these feelings but in the DC3, the pilots do all this manually. The pilots have no computers to help them navigate, so they still use maps and use roads or railways to help.
When we got to the sea, I could sit back and relax. The crew left the cockpit door open to allow us to go up front and check out the views from there. As the aircraft is non-pressurised, the air was lovely and fresh.
A quick nap for an hour, and we eventually got to the UK coast. After a nice fly around the coast to Newcastle, we got to circle the city where we could see Newcastle highlights like the Tyne bridge and Gateshead Millennium Bridge as well as their football stadium.
Landing was a breeze and very soft. A quick bump as the front main gear hit the ground, then the rear sank until it landed too. A quick taxi to our parking spot, then another look around the outside of the plane before we boarded the airport bus which came to take us to the arrivals building – but unlike a normal flight, this bus waited until we were ready! After that, all we had to do was get through passport control where they asked “if we came from that cute little plane”!
This is definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I was very happy to have taken. KLM most certainly looked after us, and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality.