A mystery DC-3 in Vernon,B.C.


John Olafson sent me a photo in May 2007 and wrote me this:
This photo was taken probably late 1940s at Vernon, B.C. and it was making an ambulance flight. It is most likely an ex-RCAF Dakota still bearing what looks like "WWII Invasion markings" and there is a bit of a Canadian registration visible at least the last two letters on the wing (CG) and a military serial on the tail...
We are wondering if there is anything you see that would help in identifying this aircraft. The City wants to find out more about it. Any suggestions?

Unidentified DC-3<--Click on the image for a larger photo.

One does see people boarding and on the wing the letters CG, quite large, can be read.
What does the -X- next to the door signify: that is not a Red Cross, is it?
The tailsection in close up: KK143... I think.
Close up of tail
I checked KK143 with www.aerotransport.org (ATDB) and this provided the following information:
KK143 Dakota C.3 c/n 26726, RAF, to Superior Airways; status destroyed
After this I checked Air-Britain's Douglas DC-1/DC-2/DC-3 - the First Seventy Years (2006):
C/n 26726 (renumbered due duplication after initial assigned c/n 15281) , delivered to USAAF as 43-49465 on 25Nov44, transferred to RAF 31Dec44 as KK143, assigned to 1 HGSU 12Jan45, to 436 Sqdn 07Oct45, to 435 Sqdn 17Mar46, to Canada 17Apr46, RCAF Mossbank (Dak 4MF) 20Jul46, NWAC Ft.Nelson 01Feb50, ADC 121 CR Ft.Sea Island on 10Jul51, continued with MAC 103 RO Greenwood 02Apr59, 101 KU Dartmouth 17Sep59, ADC North Bay 17Jul62, CFS Gimli 22Feb63, CFS Winnipeg 20Jul64, 1005 TSD Saskatoon 28Nov67, was bought by Severn Enterprises Ltd, of Thunder Bay,ONT on 31Jan70 and was reregistered CF-AUQ for Superior Airways Ltd but crashed on 06Dec72, 12 miles from Randall Lake,PQ.

From the plentiful above I still cannot explain the -CG- and -X- markings on the photo.... But then:

Terry Murphy offered help through the Classic-Propliners forum on Yahoo:

  • This is an actual RCAF Dakota, not a civil aircraft.
  • Those are not invasion stripes, but could very well be SAR markings.
  • The aircraft appears to be coded "CG-X", and the -G- can be seen ahead of the rearmost door, which is covering the roundel. This coding system was only used briefly post-war, but I cannot trace a unit allocation. I wonder if the callsign (VCCGX ?) was painted underwing...
  • I agree that it is KK143, and the date ties-up with the aircraft service record. That means either whilst at RCAF Mossbank or when with Northwest Air Command at Fort Nelson.
  • While looking for unit info on the web, came across this unusual RCAF Dakota task in British Columbia: http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic3-1-14.pdf (studies of the biology and control of biting flies).
  • Jeff Rankin-Lowe added the following:
    "CG was the squadron identification code for 121 Search & Rescue Flight and the X would have been the individual aircraft's code letter.
    KK143 served with 121 S&R Flight as a Dakota 4FP."

    And Ian Macdonald offered:
    "-CG- were the code letters of 121 Composite Flight at RCAF Sea Island (Vancouver) and 'X' was the individual aircraft letter.
    The stripes were standard RCAF target tug stripes of the period and were applied to several Dakotas."

    Jerry Vernon wrote me the following in May 2007:
    "As noted, Dakota KK143 was with 121 KU at Sea Island, and the markings are target tug markings. I recall that 121 KU(or 123 SAR Flight) also had at least one Ventura with more of an overall "Oxydol Box" scheme. There is a photo in the 442 Squadron History Book of a Sea Island Dakota target tug in a complete nose-to-tail "Oxydol Box" scheme.... s/n not readable though.
    Stan Goddard, who lives in the Calgary area, recently sent me a couple of versions of a much better shot of KK143, which he took in 1952 when he was a Radio Officer with 121, flying in this aircraft. Depending on the date, he may have even been a crewman on this particular flight that you have the photos of!! KK143 by Stan Goddard
    Stan's information is that his photo of KK143 was taken on 28 Feb 52, when he was a recently-graduated RO and had just arrived on the unit. The pilot of his crew was F/L Tom Glaister, AFC, who died this past March.
    The SAR markings of the era are illustrated in Stan's photo of Dakota 971(??) at Sea Island in the same time frame. I have another of Stan's shots of 971, which is a closeup of the cargo door and interior, whilst loading or unloading a patient. 971
    There was a similarly-marked Lancaster, or perhaps two, which as lost in the Sea Island hangar fire in 1954.
    You have noted the location of the KK143 photo as Vernon B.C. but someone has suggested Penticton. While I was looking up the history of the Vernon Airport, I discovered that there is a much better copy of this print of KK143 at Vernon in Chris Weicht's book "North by Northwest". The photo is credited to the City of Vernon Archives and the caption says it was an RCAF Medivac Flight and this was one of the last aircraft to use the old Mission Hill Field, which was located at the Vernon Military Camp, which continues in use as a Summer Camp for Army Cadets.
    The new Vernon Airport has been in use since 1946, but Chris does not give a finite date for when operations ceased at the old Mission Hill field. It must have been quite early in KK143's tenure at Sea Island, which appears to have started 10 Jul 51 or perhaps some time in 1950.
    KK143 was around Sea Island when I served there as a young RCAF(Auxiliary) airmen, starting in the Spring of 1952, and was still there in the early part of my Engineering Officer years with 442(Aux) Sqn. from 1956 - 1964.
    By the way, I don't find the use of Dakotas for mosquito spraying to be all that unusual. RCAF Stations were regularly sprayed for pesky mosquitoes and, as I recall, it was always done with a Dakota.
    Presumably, since the photo originated in Vernon, somebody in the City of Vernon may have some idea of when the last flights used their old airfield.
    J. E. (Jerry) Vernon,
    Squadron Leader(Ret'd), RCAF(Aux)
    President, Vancouver Chapter, Canadian Aviation Historical Society

    Stan Goddard wrote in response:
    "In reference to KK143 most of your queries has been covered by others, who have emailed in.
    The coding on the side of the aircraft was also its call sign for long range radio communication via morse code. If I remember correctly the starbord wing underside would have RCAF painted on it.
    Markings changed very quickly and even the target tow stripes disappeared shortly after this photo was taken.
    The mercy trip to Vernon was before my time and notice the lack of top paint on the fuselage. We never had any other markings other than RCAF, no Red Cross.loading a stretcher
    Our aircraft were not specially equiped as medical evac aircraft, we just added stretchers and other medical support items as directed by the medics who accompanied us.
    Most of the evacs I took part in were in the Cansos.
    To the best of my knowledge I never flew in Daks with 'RESCUE' painted on them but we had RESCUE on the Cansos for a bit, on the hull bottom , but water landings wore them off and they were discontinued at Sea Island.
    I only flew in KK143 at Sea Island and Dakota 971 was with 111CU Winnipeg.
    Yes, go ahead and use my photos. I spent a lot of time in my last flying years on the Albatross, out of Winnipeg, and there is a series of photos I took with descriptions on the net under my name."

    "Yes, we did a lot of mosquito spraying at bases. Only pilots were required, no Nav or RO. I could be wrong, but I think the spray jets were located under the wings.
    The spraying was well publicized and usually took place in early morning when everything was calm. So it was with great glee when Dave Dugan (105 CU at Namao) spotted the AOC's yard sporting clothing and bedding on the clothes line . He proceeded to really give that area a solid spraying..."

    In June 2007 John relayed the following message:
    "Our information tells us this was a mercy flight, transporting a polio victim to Vancouver in 1952 from the Okanagan Landing airport. The patient was a Mrs. Ronald (Warneboldt?).
    Hope this helps you."
    Barbara Bell
    Greater Vernon Museum & Archives