The Junkers were the Prussian German-speaking aristocracy who controlled vast estates in what is now Eastern Europe. The story of that unhappy chapter of European history and how it got that way, is best to left to other writers on Medium.

Junkers J 1. Photo by Peter Grosz

In this case, we are talking about a long line of innovative aircraft produced by an engineer named Hugo Junkers, whose original aircraft the J 1 was the world’s first flyable all-metal aircraft, and one of the fastest machines of its day in 1915. The firm went on to produce a limited number of other types during the Great…


The state of Kansas is located in the geographic centre of mainland USA. In the heart of the ‘Great Plains’ and bordered on the northeast by the Missouri River, Kansas is known for many things: as the ‘breadbasket’ of the USA, growing more wheat than any other state; location of the infamous ‘Dodge City’ (the railhead where cattle from Texas were loaded on trains heading east); and for destructive tornados. Indeed, the area is known as ‘Tornado Alley’, where moist air from the Gulf of Mexico meets prevailing westerlies and creates ‘supercell’ thunderstorms, which often lead to destructive tornados.

The Great State of Kansas


Flying the DC-3/C47 with the SAAF by John Cawood

My good friend and former colleague John Cawood, who was born in South Africa, enlisted in the South African Air Force (SAAF) in 1982. John flew the Douglas DC-3 Dakota for the SAAF’s 35 Squadron during the last year of his service. The Dakotas, mainly military surplus C-47s, were the SAAF’s workhorses until the late 1990s, with 47 examples of the type in service at one stage. The timeless classic remains in active service with the SAAF, mostly the so-called ‘Turbo Daks’ fitted with the PT6 turboprop conversion.

John later flew with South African Airways on the Airbus A300-B2K, A320…

The immortal DC-3

Donald Douglas’s immortal creation changed the world of aviation, as readers of Propliners are aware. This journal is an enthusiast of the DC-3 Dakota (see here), which was the first aircraft to prove that flying passengers could be a commercially viable business rather than the indulgence of enthusiasts or the wealthy. The monoplane two-engine layout and design were, as we know, pioneered by Boeing with the Model 247. But the key design feature that made the Dakota a success, rather than the Boeing 247 or Douglas’s early DC-2 design, was C.R. Smith (the CEO of American Airlines) insisting that the…

Electric power holds promise of a new era

Propeller-driven aircraft, the focus of this blog, have been roaring their way across the skies for more than a hundred years. Elegant, useful and amazing pieces of engineering they might be, but it has to be admitted that they are also noisy and spew pollutants wherever they fly.

But help may be at hand, as a pioneering experiment starts to bear fruit.

Those flying pickup trucks

As featured in a previous column, De Havilland Canada built a tough, dependable and versatile series of floatplanes that still dominate airborne commerce in many parts of the world, especially Canada’s remote northern reaches. …

Propliners guest column continues…

It was the summer of 1971and a war was brewing in South Asia. Pakistan had been created as a Muslim majority country when British India gained independence in 1947, but it was a bifurcated state. East and West Pakistan, though one country, was geographically divided with a large swath of Indian territory between the two halves.That summer, our guest correspondent Ejaz ul Haq had been flying Fokker F27 Friendship twin-turboprop airliners for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), in the Karakoram mountains of West Pakistan. …

Propliner Guest column

The ‘Great Game’ popularized by Rudyard Kipling in his 1901 novel Kim, was the complicated tussle for control played out on the ‘roof of the world’, where the Karakoram, Hindu Kush and Himalayan mountain ranges meet in northern India, and the British Empire’s border with Afghanistan and Tibet was demarcated. The area is still disputed, with Pakistan, India and China all laying claim to parts of the territory.

The Roof of the World. Courtesy

Flying in this forbidding region calls for courage, skill and good planning; unforgiving conditions of high terrain and fickle weather lie in wait for the unwary. …

The airline industry as we know it today began in 1925 when a piece of legislation known as the US Air Mail Act was approved by the United States Congress, permitting private contractors to carry airmail for the US Postal Service. The primitive, frail aircraft of the time could barely transport a handful of passengers but, with a guaranteed source of revenue, a landmark period of innovation began.

de Havilland DH-4 used by early US Air Mail flight. Courtesy Smithsonian.

In less than ten years’ time, US designers had built efficient passenger aircraft such as the Boeing Model 247 and the immortal Douglas DC-3, thus creating an entirely new business: the passenger…

BRICS and aviation

Jim O’Neill, chief economist of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank that is the epitome of capitalism (and some would say corruption), coined the phrase ‘BRIC’ in 2001 to denote the four emerging economies that would reshape the world’s economy. Brazil, Russia, India and China were poised to dominate the world, with Europe and the USA, the latter in a recession after the ‘dot-com bubble’ burst, about to lose their places at the top of the ladder.

BRICS countries

For a decade or so the premise held, with South Africa added to make the grouping ‘BRICS’, now growing from less than 20% share…

Propeller-driven aircraft changed the world

The Douglas DC-3 is the aircraft that changed the world. Known by a variety of sub-types and nicknames, most popularly ‘Dakota’ in Britain and her colonies, and ‘Gooney Bird’ in the US, Donald Douglas’s peerless creation is still the most-produced airliner in the world. The vast numbers of surplus military C-47s available after the Second World War, meant that practically every start-up airline (including Air Ceylon in 1947) began life with Dakotas providing the lift.

KLM DC-2. Courtesy KLM.

The US Army’s transport command (the independent US Air Force wasn’t formed until 1947) selected the C-47 as the backbone of its inventory because of…

Suren Ratwatte

I love airplanes. As an airline captain I flew many including the A380 and Boeing 777. But wish I’d had the opportunity to fly some of these old propliners.

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