As part of the Daks over Normandy event, the 12 plus aircraft coming from the States arrived in the UK via Prestwick airport and the Scottish International Airshow arranged a unique Daks over Prestwick event to enable to public to view these beautiful vintage aircraft up close. With the main public event on the Saturday, a special enthusiast evening was held to allow photographers unobstructed views of the aircraft on the Friday night.
The D-Day Squadron which made up of the entire American fleet of C-47s participating the in Daks Over Normandy event travelled in two groups on what’s known as a Blue Spruce Route. This flight plan traverses the North Atlantic, allowing for fuel stops and guidance from ground-based navigational aids on the landmasses located along the route. Each site was selected because of its history as an active airfield during World War II that would have been a stopping point for these historic aircraft.
The Squadron departed from Oxford, Connecticut (KOXC); stopping to refuel in Goose Bay Airport (CYYR) in Newfoundland, Canada, at Narsarsuaq Airport (BGBW) in southern Greenland, Reykjavik Airport (BIRK) in Iceland before a final refueling and rest at Prestwick Airport. The plan is then for the fleet to make the final leg of this historic trip to Duxford Airfield where they will position themselves with the entire international C-47 fleet for the final leg to Caen-Carpiquet Airport (LFRK) in Normandy, France as part of the Daks Over Normandy event on June 6, 2019.
With the aircraft travelling such long distances it was always going to be a concern as to how many would actually make the trip in time. The first group of 5 aircraft arrived on the Wednesday but with the second group weathered in Greenland for three days due to icing and two aircraft leaving Prestwick for maintenance the attendee list for looking very light. Thankfully the weather delay turned into a blessing as it meant the final 5 aircraft would arrive during the Friday of the nightshoot. With N7489 Placid Lassie, N25641 Liberty and N-47E Miss Virginia arriving earlier in the week N877MG Pan American Airways Systems, N45366 D-Day Doll and N103NA Flabob Express arrived during the early afternoon.
With N47SJ Betsy’s Biscuit Bomber and N62CC Virginia Ann due after the event start time, the organisers rightly made the decision to delay the start to get the aircraft inside the viewing area so they could be part of the event. This also meant we got to shoot their arrival from outside the airport in very soft evening light. Once all the aircraft were on the ground it was round to the old HMS Gannet site at Prestwick airport for the event.
Once inside the aircraft were parked in two rows, the first facing East with the fire station behind and the second facing West with the industrial units behind. The biggest challenge facing the photographers was the 6ft temporary fencing that had been erected round the site for the public open day on the Saturday which meant any shots before dark (which was around 30 mins before the end of the event) needed a lot of editing to remove the not very period authentic backdrop. Despite the backdrop the weather was excellent with nice evening light to capture these old aircraft travelling on the original Blue Spruce route from the US to the UK as the original aircraft did 75 years before.
Several of the aircraft were opened to participants with the crews more than happy to chat and share stories of the aircraft and their journey across and this really made it as an enthusiast event rather than a pure evening photo shoot.
As the light levels fell, several light towers were driven into the centre of the aircraft row to provide ambient lighting with higher powered LED lights placed in front of pairs of aircraft in turn.
As with any night shoot in the middle of summer (and this is why they don’t normally have them) the best light was in the last 30 mins around 10:30pm so it was a bit of a rush to capture the final aircraft before the end of the shoot at 11pm.
Whilst not as photogenic as the night shoot at Duxford which didn’t have fencing and also featured reenactors, the Daks over Prestwick enthusiasts event was a great success which gave an early shot of the D-day squadron’s significant contribution to the Daks over Normandy event.