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An Aviation Memory

Retirement of the Dakota took place 30 years ago
this month

Photos and report by Gord McNulty, CAHS Vice President

On a frigid day in March, much like the cold and icy weather in Ontario this year, a Canadian Forces Dakota arrived at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum to commemorate the retirement of the legendary multi-purpose transport from service.

Dakota 12963 was repainted in “Canucks Unlimited” Burma colours for the special occasion on March 19, 1989. A throng of aviation fans, news media, politicians and others attended the historic event at the original CWHM hangar. The last operational flight of a Dakota to Hamilton left an indelible memory with those of us, including a number of CAHS colleagues, who were on hand.

Originally RAF FZ658, the aircraft entered service in 1943. On the night of June 5, 1944, it was one of 32 Dakotas from 512 Squadron to drop paratroopers of the 6th Airborne Division behind enemy lines in Normandy for Operation Tonga (part of the larger Operation Overload and D-Day landings).

In September, 1945, it was tasked for service in India, with the RCAF’s 435 and 436 Squadrons. Like many other Dakotas, it transported supplies and troops to the British Army in Burma during the war in the Pacific. When the war ended, it was the last Canadian aircraft to leave Burma.

The Dakota returned to England with 435 Squadron and in 1946 was officially transferred to 436 Squadron, RCAF. After the war, it served in various squadrons until its retirement in 1989. The aircraft then became part of the National Air Force Museum of Canada at 8 Wing/CFB Trenton and remains proudly on display at the RCAF Memorial Airpark.

A crowd of spectators watch Dakota 12963 taxi into the Canadian Warplane Heritage 19 March 1989

A crowd of spectators watch Dakota 12963 taxi into the Canadian Warplane Heritage 19 March 1989.

Dakota 12963 in Canucks Unlimited colours arrives on farewell Dakota retirement tour at CWHM 19 March 1989

Dakota 12963 in 'Canucks Unlimited' colours arrives on farewell Dakota retirement tour at CWHM, 19 March, 1989.

Dakota 12963 in Canucks Unlimited colours visits CWHM 19 March 1989 for the retirement of the Dakota from the Canadian Forces G McNulty

Dakota 12963 in 'Canucks Unlimited' colours visits CWHM 19 March 1989 for the retirement of the Dakota from the Canadian Forces.

Aviation fans and news media surround Dakota 12963 on its farewell visit to the CWHM in March 1989 Gord McNulty

Aviation fans and news media surround Dakota 12963 on its farewell visit to the CWHM in March, 1989.

Dakota 12963 repainted in Canucks Unlimited colours visits CWHM during Dakota retirement tour March 19 1989 Gord McNulty

Dakota 12963 repainted in 'Canucks Unlimited' colours visits CWHM during Dakota retirement tour, March 19, 1989.