Dakota DC3 -- ZK-BBJ
Mombasa Go-Kart's landmark is an old DC3 plane. Inside there is a chilling area with sofas and TVs. You can rent the area inside and under the plane for your party. Click Here to see parties
Here is the long adventure and history of the plane:
World War 2
Like a lot of stories about aviation this one starts with war.
Built in 1945 in Oklahoma for the US Air Force end then sold and flown to New Zealand in July 1945, in the end days of WWII, for the Royal New Zealand Air Force to help set up a transport network in the South Pacific.
The plane, then known as NZ3552, served supply routes from Auckland up to Norfolk Island, New Caledonia and Fiji and even went as far as Japan.
It was taking up supplies, taking up mail, replacement crews, air crews and ground crews. Basically maintaining communication around the various New Zealand military bases of the Pacific.
Four crew were assigned on each flight, including a navigator and flight engineer, and it had a basic outfit of canvas seats facing inwards and the ‘legal’ loads would be about 25 people, but there were occasions when rather more people got onboard.
One of the things people used to do was to smuggle things like nylon stockings or alcohol from the various bases. If you wanted to acquire something, a souvenir like a Japanese sword, you’d take a few crates of beer on the way up and do a swap.
It served in the Air Force until 1952.
Flying for the ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE as NZ3552 in 1950
New Zealand National Airways Corporation
After the war, the New Zealand government was keen to set up a domestic air service, so the National Airways Corporation (NAC) was born. The new enterprise needed aircraft to fly around the country, so it turned to the DC-3, the most economical aircraft to use at the time.
The plane got a refit, a shiny livery, and a new name, “ZK-BBJ Piripiri”, and in 1953 began flying around New Zealand as one of the first domestic passenger planes and did so or for nearly two decades.
The comfort factor would be nothing to write home about during the flights. It could accommodate up to 28 passengers and while ear plugs weren’t needed, it certainly wasn’t the quietest way to travel.
There were some hiccups along the way too. Images taken from October 1954 at Paraparaumu shows the aircraft experiencing a “wheels-up” landing with the plane lying on its belly.
In 1964 NAC decided to give some of its DC-3s a spring-clean and refit, ZK-BBJ reemerged as “Skyliner Gisborne”. It had better soundproofing, new interiors, and larger windows which stills gives her a unique look today.
But despite the new look, its days of flying politicians and entertainers around New Zealand were numbered. Newer, more economical aircraft had overtaken the DC-3 and on August 20, 1970, ZK-BBJ operated its final flights for NAC.
ZK-BBJ – wheels up landing in 1954
Topdressing for Fieldair
ZK-BBJ, or “BuggerBuggerJig” as it was now affectionately called was then sold to aerial topdressing company Fieldair.
BBJ was converted into single-pilot operation with further changes on the undercarriage and was now able to carry 5 tons of fertilizer for topdressing. Aerial topdressing is the application of fertilizers over farmland using aircrafts. The fertilizer is very corrosive and the fuselage of BBJ took his toll during this time. BBJ got a yellow paint as it is common for crop dusters.
Flying close to the ground at 140 knots with tons of fertilizer on board is not the safest thing to be doing, and it needs a special breed of pilots to do so. They sometimes fly so low that after landing the loadmaster has to pullout branches from the undercarriage.
In the 1980s, a big hike in fuel costs meant the aircraft became too expensive to run and it was stored away for five years before it was brought into service again.
In 1987, the plane became a “pure freight aircraft”. Fieldair Freight agreed a contract with New Zealand Post to deliver urgent mail and overnight deliveries.
But in 1993, Fieldair Freight closed after losing the mail contract. That could have been the end for ZK-BBJ, but there was one last chapter, one that would take it far from New Zealand to Asia and finally Africa.
ZK-BBJ – Topdresser for Fieldair – 1970’s
From owning a buffet restaurant in to feeding thousands of UN peacekeepers in war zones, the life of adventurer David Morris sounds like a film waiting to happen.
In fact, his life is already the subject of a book, Blood money: The incredible true story of David Morris and the tragedy of Somalia by Trisha Stratford.
Described as “a diminutive, work-obsessed and hard-drinking" figure, Morris began a company in the late 1970s to provide catering to remote mines in Australia.
In the early 90s he agreed to a contract with the UN to feed troops in war-ravaged Cambodia, so needing to transport food and people around the Southeast Asian country, Morris bought ZK-BBJ and another DC-3, ZK-AMR. And on April 21, 1993, ZK-BBJ took her flight from New Zealand to Cambodia. In her days in Cambodia the old girl collected two bullets, one in the oil cooler and one in the wing tip, just missing the fuel tank.
After the Cambodia deal proved a success, Morris won a second UN contract to feed 29,000 UNISOM peacekeepers in Somalia and Kenya. BBJ flew up and down between Nairobi, Mombasa and Mogadishu, often along the coastline, transporting tea and food, live stock, weapons and occasionally a tribal warlord. Morris took things in his own hands, setup fishing factories in Somalia to provide food for his business, had direct phone lines with the two major warlords and saw himself as the power behind the throne of any future Somali administration.
Morris developed a strong emotional attachment to Somalia and tried to help the Somalis to survive in a situation of constant violence and economical uncertainty. David Morris with his unbelievable character, achieved a lot in Somalia on just a few hundred thousand dollars and put to shame the UN who spent over 1 billion dollars.
Morris always scoffed the dangers and drove about Mogadishu in an armored troop carrier guarded by Khmer gunmen he took with him out of Cambodia as body guards.
The story took tragic turn. He had a son, Tyson, a young chap of 21 years. He was shot dead in Mogadishu what was officially a fight with bandits but looked more like an execution. While the dad was deeply attached to Somalia his two sons were more known to be cruel to the local people. They got away with that in Cambodia but not in Africa.
Then later Morris himself was kidnapped and held for ransom. He was released then captured again but this time he was killed, allegedly by Islamic militants in April 1995.
At this point the aircraft was parked up at Mombasa Airport and never flew again. Ever since then BBJ “Blue Berry Jelly” has been left to slowly decay, forgotten and unloved. It remained at Mombasa Airport, behind the Kenya Air Force hangar in the grass for almost 30years, got over the years stripped from all valuable parts until it was auctioned as scrap in an airport cleanup action in 2021.
Morris’s sister DC3 the ZK-AMR faced a similar destiny. It was at the time of Morris dead for repairs in Harare, Zimbabwe where it went lost.
Mombasa Go-Kart bought ZK-BBJ for as small as 300US$, dismantled and transported her on low-loaders to the Go-Kart track where the old lady found new friends who will restore her for display and soon she can be rented for parties with a restaurant set-up inside and underneath.
ZK-BBJ - for auction as scrap after 30 years decaying – 2021