outer wing panels had to be swapped
out. The original green- and cream-colored seats had to be replaced, so the
interior of the aircraft was gutted and
redone in a gray and blue color scheme.
The more modern seats were refurbished and donated by Quality Aircraft
Interior, creating seating for 60, as well
as leaving room for the spacious semicircular lounge at the rear of the aircraft.
The original lavatories were also beyond
repair, so Carlos found two DC- 9 lavatories that fit perfectly. He was able to
salvage the original fixtures and put
them in the new bathrooms, to keep the
feel of the aircraft as close to authentic
as possible. The Eastern Air Lines route
map adorns the starboard bulkhead
facing the rear cabin, and the famed
falcon logo to port.
THE PAPERWORK PART
The work to get the DC-7B back in the
air was more than just mechanical.
Carlos assumed that he could operate
under an exemption in FAR Part 91 as
part of the “flight-experience flights”
provision that airplanes like EAA’s
B- 17 use. It allows owners to charge
for rides to help pay maintenance and
operating expenses. The FAA, however, had different thoughts.
“I was told the exemptions were
provide added safety), and a traffic alert
never meant to be issued for certi-
fied aircraft. Only non-certified
aircraft like warbirds,” Carlos said.
“So, I reminded them that the first
paragraph in the guidelines for the
exemption states ‘any aircraft in any
category’ so we should qualify.”
The FAA suggested Carlos operate
the DC- 7 under Part 125, which is
designed for operators of heavier air-
craft seating 20 people or more. “I said
sure and that was that,” said Carlos.
“Of course, that carried with it some
increased operating requirements for
passenger operations, but we got all
that worked out.”
Some of the modifications include
emergency floor lighting, which was
donated by STG Aerospace, two 727
emergency slides (which weren’t
required, but they felt they would
and collision avoidance system (TCAS).
It turns out that if the plane was
going to be operated by a foundation, it
would qualify for a Part 91 exemption.
“This had a lot of other advantages as
well,” Carlos said. When he and Marc
initially talked about airline barnstorming, they thought about putting together
a flying museum composed entirely of
restored, passenger-carrying airliners.
“Intuitively, we both knew this was
something we had to do because no one
else was doing it and the airplanes were
on the very edge of disappearing altogether.” With the restoration underway,
they scrapped the company they initially
created and formed the Historical
Carlos knew he needed help on that
end of the project so he reached out to
an old friend, Roger Jarman, to head the
501(c) 3 nonprofit foundation. “He’s the
guy the public sees because I’m usually
somewhere elbow deep in an engine
nacelle,” said Carlos.
Although the project received
some corporate support, Carlos was
disappointed it wasn’t drawing more
attention. That would soon change.
Once N836D was repainted to its
original Eastern Air Lines’ livery,
people took notice.
“After we painted the airplane in
Eastern colors, everything changed
almost overnight: People and companies
started coming out of the woodwork
wanting to help,” said Carlos. “In retrospect, I realize why interest had been
slow building: While the airplane was
still bare metal, it just looked like any
other South Florida, ‘Corrosion Corner’
freighter. Dress it up in its Sunday best,
however, and we are instantly something else. Now people see us as the
highly motivated museum artifact we
always thought we were, and we’re getting a huge amount of attention.”
LET THE BARNSTORMING BEGIN
With the foundation up and running,
and the restoration complete, N836D
flew again on July 4, 2010. Three
weeks later, the barnstorming began
—James Wynbrandt EAA Young Eagles Co-Chair Jeff Skiles (left) and Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (right) with FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and HFF President Roger Jarman (back) before flying in N836D.
BACK IN THE AIR, BACK IN TIME
It’s not simply the world’s sole surviving passenger-configured
DC-7B, or the only U.S.-based four-engine passenger prop-liner
flying. N836D is also a time machine, transporting all onboard—
like on its flight at AirVenture—back to the golden era of air travel.
Painted in the livery of its original operator, Eastern Air
Lines, and refurbished in the style of Eastern’s vaunted
DC- 7 Golden Falcon Fleet, N836D made Oshkosh its first
stop after a meticulous six-year restoration in Opa-locka,
Florida. The windows are big, the four-across seats roomy.
The 18-cylinder Wright R-3350 engines belch smoke and
flames when they start, and N836D rumbles and shakes.
After thundering down Runway 36 it simply separates from
the ground in a three-point stance, providing no sensation
of becoming airborne. Now we’re cruising at 3,000 feet
over Wisconsin, free to move about the cabin and revel
in our time warp.
An elaborate partition between forward and rear cabins
displays an Eastern Air Lines route map on the right side
and the falcon logo on the left. An inviting lounge at the
rear of the aircraft features a semicircular arrangement of
built-in seats, each with a cigar-sized ashtray.
The golden era lives on aboard N836D. Passengers mingle
convivially. Young Eagles Co-Chairmen Chesley “Sully”
Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles recall their stick time in big radial
recips, Sully while catching rides aboard DC-4s, DC-6s, and
Lockheed Constellations in the Air Force, and Skiles on Convair
340s and 440s for a freight hauler early in his career.
The cockpit door is open. Passengers peer over the flight
crew’s shoulders—Captain Frank Moss, flight engineer Carlos
Gomez, and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. Babbitt, who
was a second-generation Eastern pilot, has pulled rank on
First Officer Glen Moss to take right seat in an airplane in
which his father logged time.
Back on the ground, passengers seem reluctant to depart
the aircraft. “I’m going to need at least a quart of smile
remover,” Babbitt says, before descending the airstairs.