The history of DDA Classic Airlines
In March 1982 two pilots of the Dutch charter airline Transavia shared the idea to bring an airworthy DC-3 Dakota to the Netherlands. Their idea materialized when the Dutch Dakota Association (DDA) was founded. The legal status of DDA was and still is a foundation according to the Dutch law.
After a worldwide search for a suitable DC-3 – there were more than 30 aircraft inspected – a Dakota was purchased in Finland. In April 1983 the aircraft made its first test flight under the future registration PH-DDA.
In April 1984 the PH-DDA landed at Schiphol. In the year before, pilots and cabin crew received intensive training according to international rules and regulations. A technical service unit with knowledge and skills to maintain the DC-3 was set up. That summer the PH-DDA received the Dutch certificate of airworthiness from the Secretary of Transport Mrs. Neelie Smit-Kroes. The PH-DDA made a lot of round- and destination trips during those first years.
In 1985 the PH-DDA won the first prize at the 'Concour d’Elegance' during the airshow in Fairford UK. During the same year the DDA organization released the first on board magazine called 'Dakota'. This magazine is now called 'Logboek Magazine'. Bimonthly it gives readers not only the news about DDA but also stories about historic flying in general from all over the world.
Expansion of the fleet
From the early start the DDA Foundation wanted to expand by adding a second airplane. In 1987, after a search of two years, a suitable airframe was found in Malta. In May ’87 the PH-DDZ landed at Schiphol airport. DDA technicians started a complete overhaul after her arrival. This overhaul would take 12 years.
On October 13, 1989 DDA opened their own hangar at Schiphol 'Hangar 3'. The same day the DDA Foundation presented the PH-PBB, the 1944 built Stinson L5 Sentinel, which until 1956 was owned by HRH Prince Bernhard.
After many successful years of flying the DC-3 Dakota, two of the DC-3′s larger sister’s were purchased, the DC-4 Skymaster with registration ZS-NUR later to become PH-DDS and her sister ship PH-DDY. ZS-NUR had flown since 1946 with South African Airlines and the South African Air Force. The DDY was purchased for spare parts to maintain the PH-DDS.
After a ten-day ferry flight from South Africa the first of the two DC-4′s arrived at Schiphol in 1996. Equipped with 50 first class seats this machine was again put to good use for the enjoyment of DDA’s members and sponsors.
September 25,1996 will be remembered with great sorrow. That day we lost our DC-3 PH-DDA with all passengers and crew in an accident near the Frisian island of Texel. This event marked a turning point in the history of the Foundation and well beyond. Severe measures were taken to prevent the possibility of a repeat. In the garden of the Provincial State building a modest monument is raised in commemoration of the victims.
PH-PBA and PH-DDZ
A long time wish of HRH Prince Bernhard became reality in 1998, the Foundation added the former government aircraft PH-PBA, Prince Bernhard Alpha to the operational fleet.
May 7, 1999 was a historic day; after a 12-year renovation project PH-DDZ made her first test flight. An official of Boeing, the license successor of McDonnell Douglas, praised this Grand Old Lady as being the last DC-3 manufactured. This was a big compliment to our engineers.
Due to limitations in regulations for operating an airplane like the DC-4, the operation became unviable. For that reason in 2000, the DDA board decided to seize the DC-4 operation. In Springbok Classic Air, South Africa, the association found a partner who wanted to operate this aircraft on a long-term lease contract.
During spring 2001 DDA reorganized further and moved all her activities to the larger Hangar 2 at Schiphol East.
DDA had long aspired to operate as a full-fledged airline, meeting the highest safety and training requirements set by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency ( EASA) . In 2003 this became a reality in close cooperation with partner Jet Netherlands by signing the DC-3 operation onto their JAR-OPS AOC license. In acknowledgement of this achievement DDA was rebranded to ‘DDA Classic Airlines’. A few years later this license was transferred to a supporting company called AllPlanes. In 2014 DDA was awarded the AOC (EASA-OPS) certificate by the Dutch Aviation Authority and was no longer depending on the support of suppliers in the field of operations.
As from 2016 flights were carried out under the Historic Aviation Regulation. This Regulation is specifically designed for flight operations with historical aircraft. Under this Regulation operational and technical conditions remain the same as under the AOC rules. Under these Regulations DDA was only allowed to fly with members and sponsors, which turned out to be an impediment to make flights available to the general public.
That is the reason why DDA again in 2018 successfully applied for an AOC.
This made it also possible to fly and make roundtrips with passengers in other European countries.
From Schiphol to Lelystad and back
DDA moves to Lelystad by the end of 2009. The main goal is to merge with Aviodrome, the National Aviation Museum. Maintenance of the aircraft is performed in the Catalina Hangar also at Lelystad Airport. The offices are situated in the building of Aviodrome. Two years later, Aviodrome ran into financial difficulties. KLM offered hangar space and office facilities at Schiphol East. DDA returned to Schiphol in November 2013.
The first decades the management of the foundation was in the hands of a committee with a director and a supervisory board. Since 2013 the board consists of five members, all with a long-time KLM career.
An Advisory Board assists the board.
Due to the financial situation during the recession the DDA board decided to focus on exploitation of the DC-3's and sell the other aircraft. The DC-4 leased to Springbok Classic Air was sold to the Flying Dutchman Foundation. When sufficient funds are available this Foundation has the intention to give the aircraft a complete overhaul and start operations in the Netherlands. The second DC-4, located at the premises of Aviodrome, was sold to the museum.
Farewell to PH-DDZ and KLM
During the summer of 2012, one of the engines of the PH-DDZ failed. Forced by the modest financial situation this aircraft was grounded. After almost four years of inactivity the DDZ was sold to Aviodrome.
In 2016 DDA’s main sponsor KLM terminated the cooperation. During the many years KLM cooperated with DDA many trips were made for KLM celebrations in Europe to support KLM’s promotion in these countries.
Due to this development in October 2016 DDA moved again back to Lelystad Airport to be accommodated in the Catalina Hanger where she met with the only airworthy Catalina in the Netherlands.
The foreseen cooperation and synergy with the Catalina organization worked in the field of maintenance, in other areas the two organizations unfortunately could not find ways to benefit from each other.
The year 2016 and after
One of the big Dutch supermarket chains became the main sponsor and by severe cost cutting measures in DDA’s overhead it could continue the flights during the season. Also the airport of Schiphol became a welcome sponsor.
DDA has over 1250 Friends ( donors) and thanks to their contribution activities can be continued.
On an annual basis DDA flies 150 hrs with an average of 2000 passengers. All sightseeing and promotional flights are operated by the PH-PBA.
There are no flights during the wintertime. The PH-PBA is a regular guest in Germany, Belgium and France as well as in the UK. But the main activities are roundtrips in Holland from the five main airports: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Groningen, Maastricht and Eindhoven.
Since the year 2012 DDA has ran a tight ship and a break -even situation for 8 years in a row was the result of the dedicated effort of 100 volunteers who perform their duties in a professional way on an AOC level.
The public interest
The organization is earmarked as cultural heritage organization, with the ANBI qualification, which implies that she is a Public Interest Foundation. Annual contribution to DDA is tax-deductible.
The PH-PBA is registered in the National Cultural Register of Mobile Heritage.
This implies that for certain modifications necessary to keep the aircraft in an airworthy status grants can be applied for.
The DDA Foundation is a non-profit organization run by 100 volunteers.
Most volunteers have been employed or still are employed by KLM, Transavia or other airlines. There is over a 1000 years of aviation experience in DDA.
All disciplines in a regular airline organization can be found in the DDA organization. In fact DDA is an airline in itself.
This is inevitable in an organization that wants to operate under the rules and regulations of an AOC.
It requires regular training and refreshers for all staff and strict technical and operational adherence to the rules.
Therefore DDA has its own ATO. (Airline Training Organization). Pilots are trained in the only DC-3 simulator in the world DDA has at its disposal.
Also DDA runs its own CAMO. (Continuous Aircraft Maintenance Organization) The 40 DDA technical staff work under the supervision of an independent part 145 provider by order of the CAMO.
Next to the maintenance department the operational department takes care of all aspects regarding the flight operations. Planning, flight preparations and OCC (Operation Control Centre) function falls under the Operational manager.
Safety management is linked directly to all activities.
For flying operations an SMS (Safety Management System) is maintained.
In case of a calamity an Emergency Response Unit is in place with well trained staff members.
Support departments are Accounting, Marketing, Reservations, Secretariat, PR, Legal, Sponsoring, Sales and IT.
All activities related to flying the DC-3 are concentrated in a separate Foundation for tax and liability purposes called DDA Flight Support.
All other activities are organized under the DDA Classic Airlines Foundation.
The board of both Foundations, DDA Classic Airlines and DDA Flight Support, consists of the same members.
An Advice Board supports the board on issues of strategy and policy.