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12: Ducks and Drakes

To illustrate his point he played ducks and drakes with a routine flight from the East. In one day's flying, Rangoon to Baghdad, he logged 5818 kilometres, to the pride and satisfaction of his passengers. The plane was a luxury Douglas DC3 (322 km/h) airliner and usually took two days for the hop. He was fully loaded and all passengers were bound for Amsterdam, anxious to get there as quickly as they could.


PH-ALW, the 'Wielewaal' (Golden Oriole)
The first Douglas DC3 on a test flight in the US.


At Baghdad there was an incoming telegram for Ivan - a rocket from Plesman for having departed from the timetable. So when the passengers re-embarked, fully expecting the record flight to continue. Ivan shook his head.

"No," he said, gravely, "if I do that I will be in trouble."
"I am like the train driver, I must arrive absolutely on time, not sooner, not later."

The passengers were disappointed but Plesman was pleased. Dare-devil flights were things of the past, he said, patting Ivan's shoulder.

Ivan was disgusted. Those damn' timetables, they took all the thrill out of flying. And those damn' great machines needing as big a crew as would staff a hotel! And what the hell fun was left for a pilot when a man sitting in an office on the ground was giving all the orders?

.... Ivan was now flying the newest of the world's machines. Lockheed had developed a new aircraft, the Lockheed-14 Super Electra to challenge the Douglas DC2 and DC3. KLM, first of any non-American airline to order the Super Electras, had 6 planes delivered in 1938.

They were piling up a fleet to service the West Indies and Caribbean network. Port of Spain and Paramariba had also been added to the schedule. The backbone on the Far East until now had been the DC2's, and the DC3's which had been introduced the year before.


PH-ALW, the 'Wielewaal' (Golden Oriole)


Above photo shows the proud KLM engineers in front of the famous DC3, PH-ALW (Wielewaal or Golden Oriole). In May 1937 they had just re-assembled the machine after it was shipped to Europe. Third from the right is John Gyzemyter (1915-1999) who later lived in Brisbane, Australia. The year before he died he had the opportunity to re-unite with 'his old machine' at the Queensland Air Museum (QAM). Afterwards the aircraft has been refurbished for display in the new hangar. See the photos of VH-ANR alias PH-ALW.


Credits to National Library, Australia

This Lockheed-14 Super Electra was owned by the KNILM
(Koninklijke Nederlandsch Indische Luchtvaart Maatschappij),
a daughter of KLM, and operating from Batavia.


The company was equally enterprising at home. Even with threat of war hanging over all Europe, KLM stuck to its programme of expansion and in June 1939 opened a luxury service to Kristiansand and Oslo. Ivan was chosen as pilot on the inaugural run, flying a Douglas DC2 called Haan (The Cock). Over Jutland in Denmark a special magnum was broken in a hilarious naming ceremony - by general acclamation "Norway Express" was declared the nicest name.



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