N1944H - Spirit of Alaska
Model Year: 1944
Construction Number: 34378
The “Spirit of Alaska” has not always been called by that name. Throughout her long life, this DC-3 has performed many different duties and served many people. Originally owned by the United States Army, the DC-3 started its life in 1945 as 45-1108, a C-47B. The next year, it was delivered to the United States Air Force. In March of 1946, it was put in the care of the RFC, Reconstruction Finance Corporation. This corporation was formed to dispose of government surplus materials. With only 35.5 hours, it was flown to Mineola, NY where all military equipment was removed and then repainted in civilian colors. This was the end of her military career. It was immediately sold to a gentleman who wanted to start an airline, but unfortunately, it never took off.
In early 1946, Jack Losse, the Chief Pilot for Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) found the DC-3. He jumped at the opportunity to buy this military aircraft. After it was purchased, he had it converted to a company DC-3 by Aero Trades, Inc. located in Long Island. The DC-3 entered into civilian registration as NC54542 and became the corporate aircraft for CBS.
CBS sold the aircraft in 1948 with only 550 hours. The DC-3 was re-registered as N280M and flew for Outboard and Marine Manufacturing Company (OMC) of Milwaukee, WI from December of 1966 to March 1977.
In 1977, OMC donated the DC-3 to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) of Franklin, WI. During this time, it was re-registered again as N54542. The DC-3 flew Headquarters personnel, EAA merchandise and later gave scenic rides in Oshkosh, WI.
EAA later sold her to Mike Suzuki of California Air Tours in Burbank, CA. During this time, this aircraft carried thousands of tourists on trips to the Grand Canyon from Burbank, CA piloted by Walter Brubaker and copilot Captain Dan Ried. This operation ran from 1989 to 1991.
In April of 1995, a Part 121 Airline, Era Classic Airlines purchased the aircraft and renamed her “Spirit of Alaska.” With approximately 16,500 hours she began to fly sightseeing tours in South-central Alaska. “Spirit of Alaska’s” hostesses were outfitted in 1940’s attire all the way down to seamed stockings and white gloves. Big Band and swing music played while champagne was served. Even 1940’s news headlines were read over the PA system. After many Alaskan adventures, in 2003 “Spirit of Alaska” was sold and currently resides in Rockford, IL. Currently, the “Spirit of Alaska” has approximately 17,700 hours, and continues to be regularly flown.