“Mum, I’ve Bought a Vintage Plane”

Let me rephrase that. The Flying Dutchman Foundation bought the Skymaster. “Buy your own plane by the time you’re 30” may not feature on everyone’s bucket list, but let me tell you how we did it and what my mum said when I told her the big news…

In the autumn of 2013 I got word that a vintage Douglas DC-4 was up for sale. The DC-4 is an amazing aircraft. Nicknamed the “Skymaster” it was deployed by KLM immediately after WW II to restart and expand its network. The “4” is famous for the shot of her flying over Manhattan at the launch of the first European scheduled service to the United States.

DC-4 flying above Manhatten

Being a pilot is part of who we are

When people ask me what I do for a living, I catch myself answering that I am a pilot. Being a pilot is something people feel so passionately about that for many of us it is a big part of who we are.

Aircraft are not just things to us, we give them names. That’s why, when I found out the Skymaster was up for sale, I knew she had to be saved from the scrapyard. So I began to wonder how I could set about buying an aircraft. I certainly couldn’t buy the Skymaster on my own. Not only did I not have the money, I didn’t have a clue how.

I found friends who shared my vision

I remembered when I bought my first car. I went to a dealer and had a chat with a salesperson. I took the car for a test drive, after which the salesperson and I discussed options and a price. Buying a plane may possibly be just as straight forward, I thought.

First I had to find people willing to club together to buy the aircraft. Fortunately, I have three friends who are as emotionally tied to aviation as I am. Anne Cor, Martin and Ton were all happy to join me. Pilots Anne Cor and Martin (retired and active respectively) and Ton, with his own maintenance company, shared my conviction and we became equal partners in the venture.

IMG_3926 (1)

What does an aircraft cost?

How much would we need to pay? The Skymaster was by no means a new aircraft; she rolled out of the Douglas Aircraft factory in 1946. Although more than 1000 DC-4s were built, only about 10 are still airworthy. This made the aircraft we had set our sights on a rare commodity. And rare things are usually pretty pricey.

Then I found out that the value of used aircraft is hugely dependent on where they are in their maintenance cycle. An aircraft undergoes regular maintenance checks. A frequent inspection, called an A Check, is performed every few weeks and takes one to two days. A more in-depth inspection is called a C Check. On the DC-4 this has to be performed every 400 flight hours and can take a few weeks. The most thorough check is the D Check. This is an almost complete overhaul of the aircraft. It can take several months and has to be carried out every 10 years.

manuals of DC-4 airplaneJust a small sample of the manuals required to maintain an aircraft like the DC-4.

Maintenance determines the price

We asked Jurriaan, a colleague of Ton’s and a maintenance programme engineer, to look into the aircraft’s history. Jurriaan went over to Johannesburg, where the aircraft was waiting to be rescued, to start his investigations. He had to go through a LOT of manuals.

We were lucky. The Skymaster was almost due for her D Check. The D Check is very expensive, because it requires a great many man-hours, but every cloud has a silver lining. She would cost more than all the cars we owned, but we knew we could afford to buy her, even though it would mean spending a lot on maintenance. But this didn’t make us change our minds. We decided to worry about the D Check later…

The biggest thing I have ever bought

With the cost of future maintenance in mind, we were able to negotiate a reasonable price. However, the end of the sale negotiations merely marked the start of the legal work. We set up the Flying Dutchman Foundation – it isn’t a great idea for four individuals to own an airliner. The final title transfer was not completed until we had signed a Bill of Sale, similar to buying a house, I suppose.

Members of Flying Dutchman Foundation Martin and I, the three sellers and Anne Cor shaking hands while symbolically transferring the Bill of Sale.

Looking back on the day we bought a plane, I still can’t fully grasp what happened. Just days before my 30th birthday we owned an aircraft – still the biggest thing I have ever bought. When I told my mum she kept on saying: “It’s a miniature right?”

This was also just the start of an incredible story. We are currently working with a group of people to get her back up in the air. And we have launched a crowd-funding campaign. Our mission is to revive the Amsterdam-New York route in the DC-4 Skymaster as a tribute to aviation history.

But first, we have to get her flying again…

Posted by:   Lars den Hartigh  | 
Join the conversation Show comments


My father came to the US in 1947 or 48 from England. He flew on American Airlines I remember him telling me on a DC 3, a 12 hour flight I think he told me. But as a child I remember seeing DC 4s landing in New York . Would love a ride one day.


hi Michael, that must have been a real trip..
Not questioning your father, but it sounds like he flew on a DC-4,. the DC-3 normally didn’t have the range for a 12 hour flight.
Hope we can offer flights next year!

Eric Hagerstrom

It was, indeed, a DC-4 operated by American Export Airlines between Hurn (present-day Bournmouth Airport)to New York via Shannon and Gander. (Davies, “A History of the World’s Airlines”, p. 457)

Tom Timans

Great initiative!! Would love to see her landing at schiphol someday (hope soon). Really a great achivement!!


Hi Tom! If everything works out, summer of 2016 we should have her at Schiphol! keep an eye on us for updates


I bought my first plane (or better 1/4) in my mid 30s. I had to sell it (a Fuji Aerosubaru) a couple of years afterwards but miss it so much. It is just an amazing experience. I think I know how you felt.


I hope we’ll never have to sell it like you did Patrick!

Rob Vergeer

In the early sixties, as an 11 year old I flew a Trek Airways DC4 Skymaster from Johannesburg to Luxemburg. IATA regulations prevented airlines like Trek to land at Schiphol. We made stops at Lusaka, Entebbe, Wadi Halfa and finaly touching down in dense fog at Luxemburg. The total travel time somwhere around 40 hours. Looking forward reading about your flight from J’burg to Europe. What is the origin of your DC4, would be great if it once belonged to Trek Airways.


Hi Rob,
great trip indeed! Our DC-4 was once owned by South African Airways, unfortunately it is not a Trek-DC-4..
follow us (or help us ;-)) via http://www.facebook.com/FlyingDutchmanFoundation and the trip report will follow mid ’15

Maureen Julia Nelwan

Congratulation is take a will and courages to a life time to remember on your going to 30 yrs have and bought a plane.. I wish both of you success and willingly see that DC4 of the sky master in schiphol


Thank you Maureen! It was quit scary at first, but I’m getting used to the feeling!

Silke Schnabel

Love the idea!!! And once ready to fly will serve coffee & tea if you like! Keep the spirit and dont let anybody stop this! Lot of success…! And btw, if my son turns up that he bought a plane you know what i will answer..:)



dave milllion

Hey great news,congrats!
I have a suggestion of a contact here that could help you out. Mike @ Buffalo Air. They fly a dozen or more C-53’s.on sched runs out of Hay River. He’d be a great asset on locating parts ,manuals, etc….look up the company website and drop him an email. Good luck fellas.


hi Dave! Thanks for the suggestion, big fan of their show!
We are working with Skyclass in Johannesburg, they also operate two DC-4’s

Richard Carey

Fantastic ! It is so good to hear that someone wants to revive a classic airplane that isn’t a warbird or a biplane.Wish you luck.


Thanks Richard! As a friend of mine once said; no future without history.

Martin van Wering

Looking forward to see this girl back in the Netherlands. I’ve had the pleasure to fly with her twice when she was with the DDA, must have been in 1997 or 1998. Great plane to fly with.

Rob de Jager

I published some photo’s of ZS-NUR after arrival at Schiphol East in 1996 on https://www.facebook.com/rob.dejager1



If you guys need a mechanic, contact me @KLM
would be a great experience for me..


Brilliant story! I just can’t wait to see her in the air and landing at Schiphol :-)


Friso, I am with you!


I was in that plane several times, long time ago. SAM and Avianca had these planes in the ’60th.
I still remember the sound of this plane


Remember when airplanes produced sound instead of noise ;-)

Tim Moore

My father, Capt. Jeff ‘Dinty’ Moore flew with KLM, 1948 – 1977, DC-3, Convair 240, 340, DC-6, Electra, DC-8 (PH-DCA – Super 63s) and 747s.
I have been the custodian of C-47 G-BGCG since 1981, (pre PH-DDA)
It still lives at my home and there is now a new initiative to restore the ‘Dak’ to airworthiness, after over 35 years out of the air.
Good luck and best wishes with your enterprise!
There is an overhauled R2000 cylinder here, if it is of interest, also a main wheel and tyre, maybe some other spares.


hi Tim, we are looking for engines!
Can you get in touch with us via our website http://www.FlyingDutchmanFoundation.nl or Facebook.com/FlyingDutchmanFoundation?

thank you much!

Will Pascall

Like Tim Moore, my Farther also flue for KLM from 1946 to around 1963, flying the DC3, Convair, DC4, L1049’s. I remember well going to Schiphol to meet dad on his return from a trips and on one occasion he had brought back a load of monkeys, which we went to look at in the cargo shed. I also flew commercialy from 1970 to 1976 flying amongst others types the DC3 & DC4, in fact my last trip was ferrying the Aer Turas (Ireland) DC4 to Bombay. I am sure you know about them but there is a DC4 operator up in Alaska and I am sure they could point you in the right direction for engines etc.

Niels Henrik Jessen


This website is great, and I like old aircraft. I would really love to fly with a DC 4, Would it be possible to book a flight with this DC 4 in 2018?
Do you have an org. of “Friends” and “Supporters”.

All the best,

Niels Henrik Jessen


Is it possible to book a flight with this DC 4 in 2018?

Suzanne Marlowe Minarcine

Best wishes to you in this endeavor! I flew night freight in a DC-4 for a year and had the time of my life. I love that you are doing this!

Brian Phillips

Hi Lars – or is it Dave – I was with KLM at Croydon Airport as a junior in 1947 with all ops flown by C47s or DC3. on Amsterdam and Eindhoven routes. But did hear they once used a DC4 but didnt repeat. This was probably because Croydon was grass only and surrounded by housing. Just wondered if there is any record of a KLM DC4 arriving at Croydon in 47 ? Best Wishes – Brian Phillips 30/1/18

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