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Iliff Pre School, Denver, CO, USA - DC-7

Walking along the roads that border Iliff Pre School and you'd never realize what's hidden behind the fence and surrounding trees.

If I told you that there was a 1950's era airliner, most people would look at you in disbelief, but this aircraft has been at this location since 1971, athough I can find no references in any aviation books.

DC-7 N6321C (c/n 44285) was originally delivered to United Airlines in 1954 and was promptly named Mainliner Detroit. This DC-7 flew with United Airlines until 1960, when she was sold back to Douglas and then server with various companies. (see table at bottom)

She was later re-named City of Oakland and both these names can still be seen, overlapping each other, on the port side of the unpainted aluminium.

On Sunday 24th January 1965 she was involved in a taxiing accident at Stapleton Airport, Denver, CO where she collided with a parked aircraft. This flight is listed as a non-commercial corporate/executive flight because earlier she had been refitted by Dooley Aviation, AZ as was apparently being used on charter flights with Temple Airlines.

The flight is listed as carrying 47 passengers and 4 crew and the damage listed as substantial, however, as she was sighted in Oakland after this, she was obviously repaired..

NTSB report

The NTSB report on this aircrafts only incident is not accurate - they clipped a wingtip on a Lockheed Vega and the leading edge tip was damaged. The Vega was parked in a spot that encroached on the taxiway and the incident was at 11PM on a dark icy night. The wing was taped and they flew out the next day.

The Dooley Era

We gained a real insight into this aircrafts role when it operated with Dooleys out of Oakland, CA.

We were put in touch with Captain Frank Lang and Flight Engineer Bob Jackson, who flew this aircraft when it was owned by Dooleys - both are still active in the aviation scene and are in their early 80's.

Frank, who is based in Florida, still flies the heavy propliners, having ferried most of the airworthy Constellations around the world in the last 20 years and flying the MATS Connie for 13 years on the airshow circuit until last year.

Bob still holds a current instructors rating and still performs check rides and bi-annual reviews in California.

The following is extracted from a telephone conference we had with the above gentlemen on 29th October 2006.

Dooleys were using a Martin 2-O-2 but they required a larger and faster aircraft so Frank, who was also Director of Operations, was tasked to find a suitable replacement. Frank heard that United Airliners were getting rid of this DC-7, so N6321C was bought and a contract was signed with United to do the heavy maintenance and provide some support.

The aircraft was kept in the standard United Airlines seating configuration, and was operated under FAR91 - in fact it was the first 4 engined aircraft ever to operate under FAR91.

The Dooley brothers were involved in the land sales business, and the DC-7 was involved in a weekly run from Oakland, where the passengers were picked up on Friday morning, and flown to Seattle where they picked up more passengers - then on Saturday they would fly from Seattle to Denver to pick up more passengers and then fly onto Palm Springs. On Sunday they would bus the people to various properties.

The aircraft was of course used all over the USA for various flights for Dooleys, and sometimes leased out, with a few examples below:

They were also contracted by the US Forestry Service and the Bureau of Land Management to transport fire fighters around the country from their various bases. They would pull into the airport and they would load 98 Indian fire fighters and 2 crew chiefs straight up via the onboard aircraft ladders - they would turn this around in 20 minutes, as they needed the fire fighters at the scene as soon as possible.

The End of The Line

Near the end of her career she sold to Denver Ports of Call Travel Club as a spares source for their small fleet of DC-7's.

A New Lease of Life

The aircraft was then bought by Garwood C. Andresen for $1000 to use in his pre-school, saving the aircarft from the scrapman.

At midnight on September 21st 1971, N6321C was lifted over the Stapleton Airport fence after her wings and tail were removed to clear the traffic signals, and then pulled much like a trailer on her own wheels for about 8 miles through the Denver city streets, before being craned to her final resting place.

The streets are about 37 feet wide and this DC-7 took up 32 feet wheel to wheel - due to the complexities of transporting such a large object the journey took over 2 hours.

This 85 foot long, 10 foot wide Kindergarten classroom was, and still is, an instant hit with the kids who attend the school. The aircraft did sit on its undercarriage, but long ago, in an attempt to appease some of the outraged neighbours, they were taken off to lower the aircraft down - the nose wheel stayed attached and is locked at half-mast.

Air-conditioning and a furnace were added where the tail used to live and two ramps into the fuselage were built at the front starboard and middle port passenger doors.

Much or the original interior still exists and still works. The interior reading lighting is still functional via each individual switch and the forward restroom is still in use with the original signs still intact.

On a side note there is an F86 drop tank in the yard made into a rocket for the kids to sit in.

Other great things in the grounds include full size fuel pumps (to fuel the rocket silly), a speedboat and a huge fort type structure that includes a wide bumpy slide for tobogganing down in the winter.

The current owner is Chas Andresen (Garwood's son), and the condition of this aircraft is testament to Chas' continued dedication to keeping her in the superb state she is still in considering she is permanently outside. (Chas is seen in the photos)

I wish we'd had this kind of stuff around when I was a kid!

REG: N6321C, CN: 44285, TYPE: DC-7, LINE: 528
OPERATOR REMARKS: DATE ACTIVITY
DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT COMPANY   1954-11-22 MFD.
UNITED AIR LINES 'MAINLINER DETROIT' 1954-11-22 DELIVERED
DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT COMPANY   1960-06-30 SOLD
AIRCRAFT INVESTMENT CORPORATION   1964-02-14 SOLD
DOOLEY SALES CORPORATION 'CITY OF OAKLAND'. AT BFI 64-06-10 1964-04- SOLD
OSCAR HINDS, DENVER, CO   1966 SOLD
DOOLEY SALES CORPORATION 'CITY OF OAKLAND'. AT BFI 64-06-10 1967-04- SOLD
TEMPLE AIRLINES INTERNATIONAL SEEN AT OAK 68-05-08, 68-09-17 1968-04- LEASED
CIT LEASING CORPORATION   1968-11- SOLD
PORTS OF CALL AIRLINES   1968-11- LEASED
PORTS OF CALL AIRLINES CLD. 70-06-29 1970-05- RETIRED

(Operator history provided by Nige Howarth and Aad van der Voet)



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Comments:
9th June 2016 Steve Ellis
My dad, Robert W. Ellis, was maintenance manager at SeaTac in the 1960s and serviced the Dooley DC-7. While inventorying his and his brother's superb aviation photo collections, I came across a couple slides of the DC-7 on one of the Palm Springs trips. Eventually, I'll publish a coffee-table book featuring their photos. I'll be sure to cite your website as it provides exactly the kind of detail, which, as a docent and researcher at the Museum of Flight, I find fascinating.