By Charles Ely, KTUL
JENKS, Okla. (KTUL) - Former and current American Airlines employees have joined forces to restore and preserve a vintage 1937 DC-3 airliner, the Flagship Detroit.
The Flagship Detroit lifts off with a deep-throated roar as its polished-aluminum skin reflects the sunlight like a mirror.
It's what flying was all about in the 1930s and 40s when it took 15 hours to get from New York to Los Angeles.
Number 45 off the assembly line, the Detroit is the oldest flying aircraft of that type.
The DC-3 was built at the request of American because it was big enough to make passenger traffic profitable.
American would eventually order 84 aircraft and operated them until 1947.
Retired American Pilot Dave Buffington said flying the Detroit is an honor.
"It's very forgiving and it’s nice to fly low and slow," Buffington said. "It is heavy on the controls because there's no electronic boost to any of the flight controls. So, it's all cables out to the flight controls and is a little bit heavy, but you get used to it very quickly."
Keeping a piece of history airworthy isn't easy for cheap, but volunteers with Flagship Detroit Foundation get it done.
Jim Gentry works at the American Maintenance Base, but he does his share of work on the Detroit.
"Everybody is just happy to do anything. One minute we may be changing a tire the next minute we're maybe washing windows whatever it takes to get it done," Gentry said.
For the passengers, it's exciting and nostalgic all at once.
Pia McBride said it far exceeded her expectations
She said, "Fabulous! That was the best experience. The takeoff, the landing, was the smoother than the stuff now. It was incredible!"
Those who want to fly can join the Flagship Detroit Foundation, and rides are made available throughout the year at no charge.