The Douglas C-47 aircraft  in 1944, serving with the 36th Troop Carrier Squadron in Europe

WW2 aircraft overhauled for Normandy celebrations

The last operational Douglas C-47 used in the D-Day landing was fitted with new engines and modern avionics to fly from the USA to France to join the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion.

Officials of the US National Warplane Museum in New York that houses the transport plane, used during the Normandy operations to drop paratroopers, said crossing the Atlantic in the more than 70-year old aircraft would be as challenging as driving a 70 year old car for thousands of miles.

"The avionics in the airplane are modern. We're not going to go with what they had in 1943,” said Austin Wadsworth, president of the National Warplane Museum. “They would have had probably a radio beacon receiver and a lot of dead reckoning,"

Despite the overhaul, there is still no autopilot on the aircraft, meaning five pilots will be taking turns to bring it to Europe for the celebrations in June.

The plane will make the journey over a series of shorter flights landing in Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland and Germany before flying over Sainte-Mere-Eglise near Normandy.

"It's going to be a huge challenge,” said Erin Vitale, chairwoman of the Return to Normandy Project.

"There are very few of these planes still flying, and this plane was very significant on D-Day. It dropped people that were some of the first into Sainte-Mere-Eglise and liberated that town."

Once in France, the crew will meet up with 89-year-old Leslie Palmer Cruise, one of the original paratroopers to be dropped from the aircraft.

The refurbishment of the Dougles C-47, known as Whiskey 7, is estimated to cost about $250,000 (£151,600), with most of the money going towards rebuilding the two engines and installing a modern GPS system.

According to Wadswoth, the museum needs to raise further $70,000 dollars (£42,400) to finish the restoration.

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