dare force one
For every hour her iconic monoplane figure spends airborne, Breitling’s Douglas DC-3 has to endure roughly 100 hours of maintenance and repair. That’s a figure that may sound unreasonable without context. Not so when considering that she is merely three years away from being an octogenarian.
And as you do, you take the old girl around the world before allowing her to rest. If successful, Breitling’s attempt will make the 77-year old DC-3 the oldest aircraft to circumnavigate the globe. First departure was from the manufacture’s home country of Switzerland, as is fitting, on March 9, 2017; exactly 77 years to the day from its maiden flight. There are currently fewer that 150 flightworthy DC-3 planes worldwide, making this record attempt all the more enthralling.
When she arrived at the Subang SkyPark for a short media loop around the Petronas Twin Towers, 12 stops had already been crossed off including those in the Balkans, the Middle East, the Gulf states, Pakistan, India and Thailand. Left on the list are 43 cities for a total of 28 countries over six months. In the cockpit are pilots Francisco Agullo and Paul Bazeley, capable and well-informed experts on the DC-3, assuring characteristics to have on your curriculum vitae when autopilot and automatic stabilizers are but pipe dreams.
The experience is indescribable, especially when juxtaposed against modern aviation. Resplendent in Breitling colours, we cruised at an altitude of just over 600 metres, where the spires of the Twin Towers seemed within reach. Every gust of wind was felt, rocking her gently to the nostalgic drone of the twin engines. Cruising speed is a mere 241km/h, resulting in a leisurely yet gripping flight in the rawness of the experience.
In its heyday, the Douglas DC-3 was the poster plane for versatility. Twin-engine propeller in configuration, over 16,000 were built for both civilian and military purposes — mostly for the latter when it earned the honour of being referred to as the Normandy landings plane for its role in D-Day.
Commemorating the world tour, and flying along in the cargo hold, are all 500 pieces of the limited edition Navitimer 01 (RM39,950). The 46mm aviation chronograph, in steel, features the Breitling DC-3 World Tour logo engraved on the caseback and will be accompanied by a certificate signed by Captain Agullo. Collectors and Breitling aficionados will have to be patient however, they will stay with Breitling’s beauty until she touches down at the finish of her voyage.