When I first flew into Whitehorse in 1985, the young fellow who fueled
up my plane pointed up to an old DC-3 on a stand in front of the airport and told
me that it was "The World's Largest Weather Vane." I didn't
take it seriously until the next day. I was looking the plane over when the wind shifted
direction. Slowly and silently, the graceful old lady shifted position until she was again
pointing into the wind, as if hoping for just one more takeoff, one more flight over the
incredible wilderness that surrounds the capital of the Yukon.
Built in August of 1942, Douglas serial No. 4665 spent the first three
years of her life in the camouflage colours of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF),
flying transport missions in India and China.
In April 1946, she was among the C-47s bought by Grant McConachie's
newly-formed Canadian Pacific Airlines, to replace the Lockheed Lodestars then on
mainline service. Converted to civilian DC-3 configuration with seating for 28 passengers,
she was issued the Canadian registration CF-CPY and began a
fifteen-year career with CPA. She flew the company's scheduled routes throughout Canada during the
mid-1950s, but as CPA upgraded their mainline fleet to Convairs and DC-6Bs, CF-CPY found herself on
less glamorous domestic routes such as the run between Whitehorse, the silver-mining town of
Mayo and the legendary gold-mining centre, Dawson City.
In April 1960, CF-CPY was sold to Connelly-Dawson Airways of Dawson City. For the
next six years she worked as a bush plane, operating on wheels or skis, hauling supplies into
remote places such as Old Crow and the oil exploration camps in the Eagle Plains area.
From 1966 until her last flight in November 1970, CF-CPY was again based in
Whitehorse, serving the scheduled and charter routes of Great Northern Airways. When GNA declared
bankruptcy, she passed into the hands of Northward Airlines, but never flew again. Used for parts
for a while, she was finally donated to the Yukon Flying Club in 1977.
Although her total flying time of 31,851 hours is not unusually high for a DC-3,
most of that time has been logged either in the Yukon or on connecting routes to the Outside.
Starting in 1977, the Yukon Flying Club restored this northern veteran to
its Canadian Pacific Airlines colours for permanent display at the Whitehorse airport.
The restoration took four years, but in 1981, she was raised onto the pedestal built by master
welder Al Jacobs. Pivoting on its mount, CF-CPY always points into the wind, just as she would
have while lined up on the runway for takeoff. Due to the fine balance point, it only takes a 5
knot wind to turn her.
In July 1998, she was brought down from the pedestal for another restoration
by the Yukon Transportation Museum (click
here for some photos). Following about 1,500 hours of volunteer labour and $20,000
in materials, a pair of cranes lifted her back into position in September 2001.
In July 2009, "Charlie Papa Yankee" once again was brought down from her pedestal, this time to be moved a few hundred meters to a new location at the constantly-expanding Yukon Transportation Museum. There, she remains one of the most popular attractions in Whitehorse.
There's a short video of the plane in her new location, swinging beautifully on a sunny, gusty day, at Youtube.
Arctic & Northern Aviation