Flight Plan

Where can you spot Betsy, Lisa Marie and ‘Gooney bird’ ?

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on September 18, 2019 Published on September 18, 2019

Intrigued? Well, these are aircraft that were sophisticated in their time but have become, or will become, history on display

What is common between Pilani in Rajasthan and Toulouse in France? Or between Hong Kong and London Heathrow that should be of interest to aircraft enthusiasts?

These four cities are among many around the globe where one can see some of the most advanced aircraft of their time which are not operational now or which will soon become history on display.

Pilani has a Douglas Dakota C-47, an aircraft used by Birla Industries. Ravi Menon, Executive Director, Air Works, recalls dismantling and loading the aircraft on a flatbed trailer and moving the Dakota from Mumbai to Pilani and reassembling it there. The Dakota aircraft was the mainstay of Air India’s fleet, with pilots calling it an ‘amiable cow.’

Many oldtimers do not recall why the aircraft was called an ‘amiable cow’ or ‘Gooney bird’ though they venture a guess that it could be because the aircraft lumbered along at a sedate pace. The Dakota was the mainstay of various airlines during the period after the World War. The DC 3 was the mainstay of Air India’s fleet in the immediate post-War period.

You can also see a Dakota DC 3 in Hong Kong near the Cathay Pacific City at the airport which is supposed to represent Nikki — the second aircraft the Hong Kong-headquartered airline had. “This aircraft was built in 1943 but is not the original Nikki — just the same type of aircraft (and similar age!),” an aviation enthusiast told BusinessLine from Hong Kong. The aircraft was found in the Philippines and got to CX City in 2006 as part of Cathay Pacific Airlines’ 60th anniversary celebrations (CX is the code for Cathay Pacific).

Incidentally, this is not the only Dakota that one can spot in Hong Kong. Betsy — the original DC3 that the airline had back in 1946 — was purchased by the company in the late 1980s after it tracked it down in Australia. “Betsy was flown to Hong Kong and is now in the Museum of Science and Technology,” the enthusiast added.

Big birds in the sky

In Toulouse, the headquarters of the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, one can spot not one but two Concorde aircraft at the Aeroscopia Museum located at one end of the airport. On display is the Concorde aircraft designated MSN1, which made its last flight in April 1985, returning to Toulouse after a career that included a full range of test and development activities.


The Concorde was a British and French designed turbo-powered supersonic passenger aircraft that flew till 2003. It had a maximum speed that was over twice the speed of sound. Air France and British Airways were the two global airlines that flew this aircraft.

In London, one can spot a model of an Airbus A-380, which was unveiled on July 23, 2008. This aircraft has been viewed by around 75 million international travellers and their families and friends. “Built on a scale of 1:3, the model is exactly one-third of an actual A-380 — the same size as a Boeing 737 and weighs more than 45 tonnes,” an airline spokesperson said. The model was built in California and was transported to Ontario airport from where an Antonov cargo plane, one of the largest cargo planes in the world, flew it to London.

The Airbus A-380 is the largest passenger aircraft, which can carry up to 550 passengers in a single configuration. Earlier this year Airbus announced that it will deliver the last of these aircraft in 2021.


On the other side of the Atlantic, aircraft enthusiasts have many options, including boarding the customised jet owned by rock star Elvis Presley which was earlier flown by an American airline. Named after his daughter Lisa Marie, it features a living room, a conference room and a private bathroom apart from gold-plated seat belts, suede chairs, leather-covered tables, 24-karat gold-flecked sinks, and more.

Published on September 18, 2019
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