My First Date With a DC-4 (and a Girl)

I’m what’s known as an aviation freak. I love my job as an Embraer 190 captain at KLM Cityhopper. There’s hardly anything else I like more than flying. Well…. girls. Yes, of course. They rank high alongside my love for classic aircraft. Let me tell you some more about the latter.

I’m one of those people you’ll ask: “So, flying? A boy’s dream come true, right?”. It didn’t matter how cold, rainy or snowy it was. At the weekend, I’d cycle from Amsterdam to Schiphol Airport – a good hour and a half each way. It’s a beautiful bike ride through the ‘Amsterdamse Bos’ – the wooded area you can see from the plane before landing at Schiphol in a westerly direction. The woods are right between Amsterdam, Amstelveen and Schiphol Airport. The big maintenance hangars are just a few minutes away.


In search of a hobby

One Saturday, on my regular tour, one of the hangars was open. Most of them are behind a big fence. This hangar was open; there was no one around so I decided to walk inside. I found out it was the home base of a group of similarly crazy aviation enthusiasts who maintained a fleet of vintage Dakotas and DC-4 Skymasters. The foundation was open to new members. There I was, a 14-year-old, crazy about aviation and looking for a hobby. That’s how I stumbled into the door.

DC4-DakotaLars (far left) working on a DC-3 in the 90’s.

The Dutch Dakota Association

DDA Classic Airlines maintained a fleet of two DC-3 Dakotas, beautiful tail-draggers with a tail wheel instead of a nose wheel, along with two DC-4s nicknamed Skymasters. The Skymaster is twice the size of a Dakota, has twice as many engines, seats 50 passengers and was one of the first commercial aircraft with a nose wheel.
I became a volunteer at the maintenance department. Don’t worry, being just a boy, that meant washing the planes, handing tools to the mechanics during maintenance inspections and going to ‘maintenance class’ every Tuesday night.

Jump-seat flying

One of the perks of being a volunteer was flying along on the jump seat, right behind the two pilots operating the aircraft! Needless to say, I was hooked for life. The sightseeing flights were operated at 1,200 feet, only 300 to 400 metres above the ground. That was low enough to see if my Mom had taken the washing outside to dry and whether my clothes were hanging too.


My first date

During the summer break, I met this girl at Summer Sailing Camp in Friesland – the northern province of the Netherlands, with lakes just made for sailing. Her name was Stephanie and she lived in the southern part of the country. After the camp, we kept in touch as pen pals. Yes, back then we still wrote letters.
She was the first girl I ever asked out on an ‘official’ date and in ‘Lars-style’. The DDA was to organise a special sight-seeing flight. The DC-4 would do a one-hour flight above the Netherlands departing at sunset and flying under a star-filled sky. Is that romantic or what?

DC-4 for sale

Fifteen years after this romantic flight, the foundation put the self-same DC-4 up for sale. This got me worried; the aircraft obviously had enormous emotional value for me. While there isn’t a big market for vintage aircraft, there is a big market for scrap metal. I didn’t want this one to be scrapped and turned into tin cans.

Pioneering spirit

Fortunately, I’m surrounded by aviation enthusiasts like me. The DC-4 was held in similar esteem by my group of friends. The DC-4 is not just any old plane. It’s the type KLM used in 1946 to launch the Amsterdam-New York route. KLM was the first European airline to operate a flight to the United States of America. To us, the DC-4 Skymaster embodies our pioneering spirit; it’s serves as a symbol of how the Dutch have always been at the forefront of forging new alliances in the world, establishing new connections.


We bought the aircraft

In 2013, that same group of friends and I founded the Flying Dutchman Foundation. The foundation succeeded in saving the aircraft by buying it. We plan to have her airborne by 2016 – just in time to celebrate that first flight to NYC 70 years ago.

I’ll be blogging about the adventures we take the DC-4 on. I hope you’ll enjoy my stories!

If you’d like to help get this beautiful lady flying again, the Flying Dutchman Foundation started a crowd funding campaign.

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

Anke MacCardle

,loved the story! En, ben je met Stephanie getrouwd?
Groetjes van Anke,
KLM stewardess, early seventies.

Lars den Hartigh

hoi Anke! Dank je wel – tussen haar en mij is het uiteindelijk over gegaan. Dus ik ben nog single..

Angela Bukenya

Fabulous story. Come use some of your skills to help our only Aviation students in Uganda. Can share more.

Louis Bronsveld

Hallo Lars, Ik lees zojuist jouw bericht over de DC4 en will graag kontact houden ivm mijn vlucht lang geleden in een DC4 die ons gezin in 1952 naar Sydney bracht. Graag will ik julie toestel bezichtigen en zo mogelijk een keer mee vliegen. Graag per email kontakt, want ik woon in Manila, maar ben vijf a zes keer per jaar in Nederland. Ook heb ik nog een beschrijving van de reis destijds welke getijpt is door mijn vader. En enkele fotos. Het toestel, de “OVERLOON”, vertrok vanaf Schiphol op 19 Juni, 1952 en zijn in Sydney op 25 Juni geland. Bestaat dat toestel nog? Vriendelijke groet, Louis Bronsveld.

Walter Steenvoorden

Geachte heer Bronsveld, ik heb even gezocht op de DC-4 Overloon, deze had de registratie PH-TLW en serienummer 7455. Helaas is dit toestel na een mooie carriere bij Dutch Carribean Airlines als PJ-ALW en bij diverse Zuid-Amerikaanse maatschappijen uit eindelijk door Aerolineas Medellin ergens in de jaren’70 of ’80 uit elkaar gehaald voor onderdelen. Mocht u het leuk vinden, hier nog een foto uit het archief

Lars den Hartigh

Beste Louis,
Walter heeft hieronder al uitgezocht wat er met de Overloon gebeurd is.
Ik ga je zeker mailen, want ik ben erg benieuwd naar je foto’s en verhalen!
Vanaf volgend jaar willen we weer met de DC-4 vliegen. Overigens, hoop ik ook een keer met de Skymaster naar Azië te komen.

Louis Bronsveld

Hallo Lars, Heel veel dank voor jullie (Jij en Walter) info over de “Overloon” DC-4 met C/N 7455. Uit een foto haalde ik TIX, maar dat was dus TLW. Als je ooit naar Manila met die Skymaster vliegt, dan wil PAL hem zeer mogelijk kopen. Een van de toestellen die zij hadden is het toestel nu op Aviodrome (C/N 7488). Jonathan P.Gesmundo is de persoon die serieuse interesse heeft voor het museum welke PAL hoopt te openen binnen kort.!! Ik heb inderdaad nog een foto, genomen destijds op Schiphol van de familie op de trap van het vliegtuig PH-TLW

Meenakshi Sen

I am retired KLMER from CCU mainly and briefly In Delhi .
Loved your story ….my father owned a small aircraft a Tiger Moth .. Many Years ago so was exposed to soaring the air at an early age .. Love it and love KLM .. The best ever . Live in CCU .


Would be great to see the process of getting her airborn !

From an Airplane nerd who is afraid to fly! :=)

Lars den Hartigh

Nancy, you should get over that fear of flying dan join us on a trip!
follow the Flying Dutchman on Facebook, or wait for my next blog :)

Thomas GF

Well done Lars!

Harry Haas

I so hope you’ll get this iconic lady airborne. I’ll lend a hand where I can. You know where to find me! Is a crowd funding site available?

Lars den Hartigh

Hi Harry! I am right there with you, ladies like the Skymaster are supposed to be in the air.
As a matter of fact we launched our crowd funding initiative recently!
You can find the link on top of our page.

Ricky Payne

Thanks for sharing your “growing experience” with us….what a story!
Hope you will keep us informed with the progress….and what about Stephanie?
Take care and Happy Flying!

Lars den Hartigh

hi Ricky,. Stephanie and I didn’t make it.. I’m very happy with my intimate relationship with vintage airplanes though ;-)

Niru Pandeya

How could I find out the aircraft I flew from DEL to Amsterdam-New York?
It was noon December 23,1958 I flew from DEL with stops in Karachi,Cairo,Beirut,Rome,Amsterdam. It was a four engine plane. It was my first flight in life!

Lars den Hartigh

Hi Niru, 1958 was a bit too late for it to be a DC-4 I think,. I’ll see if I can find out.. It might have been a Constellation

Eric van Hoof

Niru, you could check at, collectors of historic timetables worldwide. Some of them are complete on this site, including the KLM one of 1958. I use them to reconstruct flight s in my flightsimulator. You can at least see the type KLM used on those routes.

Peter Braun

Ha die Lars,
Pracht verhaal en wàt een mooi initiatief!
Als luchtvaartfanaat en organisator van “Daks over Normandy” 2014 en 2019 draag ik de historische
luchtvaart in het algemeen en alles wat Douglas heet en props heeft een zéér warm hart toe.
Veel succes met jullie fantastische uitdaging!
Mochten jullie in Juni 2019 in de buurt van Cherbourg zijn (of willen zijn..) geef dan een gil!

Lars den Hartigh

lijkt me een niet te missen event, Peter!
houd ons in de gaten op FB, help me tegen die tijd even herinneren.

Peter Braun

Gaat goedkomen Lars..
We hebben grote plannen!
Ik wil proberen zéker een en stuk of 18-20 DC-3’s (C-47 / C-53 / LI-2)
naar Cherbourg te krijgen.
Voeg Daks over Normandy even toe aan je FB, dan krijg je alle info:

Groet, Peter

Wim Verkerk

Lars, i have an complete CCM DC 4 .
Greets Wim

Philippe Colsoul

Hello, my dream: à fly with à classic aircraftt. How it is possible and the futur dates please.
Thank you
Philippe from Belgium

Philippe Colsoul

Hello I want tu fly with à classic aircraftt. How it is possible?
Thank you

Lars den Hartigh

Hi Philippe,
From 2016 and onwards I hope you can fly with our lovely DC-4, you can already help us with our crowd funding; the link is just below the blog post!
Other options in the Netherlands are;

Andrew Spring

Ik heb ‘haar’ op FAGM enkele weken geleden gezien. Ik denk dat Skyclass een van haar motoren geleend heeft voor hun eigen Dc-4. Het zal goed zijn om deze ex-SAAF kist (later ZS-NUR en PH-DDS) weer in de lucht te zien.

Lars den Hartigh

hi Andrew,
Skyclass en wij zijn goede vrienden; we spreken hen aankomende maandag weer.
1 van de propellors mist inderdaad; deze is er af gehaald voor onderhoud.


Mooi verhaal. Ik ben een ouder bouwjaar, vlieg regelmatig voor de zaak en ook privé. Bij alle ellende die de media graag posten over vliegtuigongelukken is het heel fijn om te weten dat piloten bij KLM met liefde vliegen. Mijn zus is stewardess bij de KLM, de piloten van de KLM brengen haar altijd weer veilig naar huis. Fijn dat te weten.

Lars den Hartigh

Hai Frans,

je zus verzorgt ons goed, dus wij passen goed op haar – en de passagiers!
dank voor je woorden.


Hi, great story, gues if its flying time you will be surrounded by a lotnof people trying to fly it, KLM has a great story and the dutch people have really a heart for aviation, flown the dc3 doornroosje and the catalina and the an2 already so keep us up to date when we can book flights in 2016! Great to see another classic becoming airborne again !
Congratz! and have fun ;) Lex Belgie

Vitor Dos Santos Monteiro

Dear Frans;
I read your love for the DC 4 (Skymaster) and I love it. I was a boy when that Lady came on Sky. I always love that aircraft and also the DC 3. I was in FAP [Forca Aerea Portuguesa](Portuguese Air Force) 1967 to 1971. I didn’t fly the Babies but I was and still in love of aircrafts. I always read the KLM Blogs. Now I have my Grandson (Ricardo) taking flight lessons to became a pilot and that makes me very proud of him and of course the family to.
Thank you.
Please I will be waiting for the Airborne of the Lady [DC4] on 2016. What name she’s going to have?
Good luck to all of you envolved to restore the DC4
Regards, Vitor

Lars den Hartigh

hi Vitor!
keep an eye on the blog, because we’ll keep her name a secret until she is safe and sound back home ;-).
I can understand you are very proud of Ricardo! It is an amazing job.
very best,

Vitor Dos Santos Monteiro

Please see above message


What a great project you have! Hopefully you succeed in bringing the DC-4 back to Amsterdam and making her airborne! There is a similar project here in Finland going on: trying to acquire an old Finnair DC-9 from Kenya back to Finland for a permanent display. Exciting times! :) Brgds, Elina

Lars den Hartigh

Hi Elina! Hope you succeed – although I am more a propeller guy instead of those jets :).
We’re planning to fly the DC-4 to Amsterdam through Kenya,. maybe we could meet!


Well, the older the classier! Though I consider all Douglas aircrafts as classics. :)
The DC-9 project is led by the Finnish Aviation Museum. As an aviation history fan I am quite excited to see how it will go. If it does happen, there is a possibility to buy tickets for the final flight (or just one leg) from Kenya to Helsinki.

Jagath Rupasiri

Very interesting blog.

G. Michels

Waar blijft de DC4? Hoe gaat het er mee?

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