News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 27, 2013

Detroit Drops In: Historic DC-3 visits Terre Haute International Airport

American Airlines classic on display today at airport

Dustyn Fatheree
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Flagship Detroit, a DC-3 airplane, touched down at the Terre Haute International Airport — Hulman Field on Wednesday as the rain poured down.

The Flagship Detroit foundation will be showing off the plane from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. It will then leave and travel to Tulsa, Okla., before heading to Galesburg and Carbondale, Ill.

Flagship Detroit, a direct upgrade of the DC-2 model, was built in March of 1937, said David Gorrell, pilot and director on the board for the Flagship Detroit Foundation. Its primary use was to transport mail and passengers around the country.

During the mid- and late-1930s, just more than 450 DC-3 models were produced, he said. Today, there are around 350 still in operation world wide with the Flagship Detroit being the oldest.

Flagship Detroit was found in a field in Virginia after it had been used for a number of years as a means to spread insecticide on crops.

“We originally found it in 2004 and after restoring it, we entered our first air-show in 2006,” Gorrell said. “Flagship Detroit looks just like it did when it was first manufactured in 1937. The person who previously owned it had it parked and we bought it for around $180,000 plus parts. After restoring it, it is worth around $600,000 in its current state.”

According to the Flagship Detroit foundation website, the foundation is “dedicated to preserving the legacy of one of the most popular aircraft in American Airlines history.”

The foundation is doing just that by traveling from airport to airport to give people tours and history of Flagship Detroit. Membership is $150 annually, Gorrell said, and the foundation is trying to expand its membership by visiting airports. The money gained is used to maintain Flagship Detroit. Members are exclusively given the chance to take to the air and ride inside the plane.

“Everyone who rides Flagship Detroit always exits with a smile on their face,” he said.

The first DC-3 prototype was developed in December 1935 and it first hit the skies Dec. 17. Planes before hand were primarily used to carry mail and pushed passenger transportation to second. After the development of the DC-3 model, revenue gained by the transportation of people surpassed the mail agenda. The DC-3 also served a military role. It acted as a means of transportation.

“There was a need for a larger capacity and longer airtime that the DC-2 couldn’t provide,” Gorrell added.

The DC-3 model carries twice as much cargo as the DC-2 and can go twice as far at a faster speed.

To donate or join the Flagship Detroit Foundation call Gorrell at 435-513-3214 or visit the website

Reporter Dustyn Fatheree can be reached at 812-231-4255 and