The Dakota and its military version the C-47, is one of the most iconic aeroplanes of all time. Some of the 70-year-old aircraft are still in active service today! But most of the thousands produced have faded away in history.
Such was almost the fate of PK-GDC until craftsman extraordinaire Pleun Hitzert rescued the carcass from total demise by converting it to a unique accommodation for two persons.
And, he added another exclusive feature: a Dakota flight simulator that works with the aircraft's own controls!
Come and check this out...
Even though other aircraft, notably some big airliners, have been converted to places to stay in, this is the only known Dakota rental accommodation.
What's more, the location is absolutely stunning with the Stirling Ranges as the dramatic backdrop of the otherwise fairly flat wheat fields of the Great Southern in Western Australia. It looks like the Dakota had just landed at The Lily airstrip, some 300 km south of Perth. The only thing that gives it an air of permanency is the canopied deck just outside the door. A perfect place for a beer and that's where I caught up with this fellow aviator again last week after he had just finished this latest project.
Pleun had been restoring the Dak over the past few years after it had been transported to his property in pieces. Last time I saw the craft about a year ago the interior work had started but the various empennages were still lying scattered around.
The Dakota is a huge tail dragger, which also means a huge incline in the floor. A major challenge if you're going to use it for accommodation, unless you balance the aircraft in the flying position. Not only does it look weird when it is on the ground, it's also a bit precarious...
Pleun's solution? Have a series of level floors with small steps in between them.
When you enter the aircraft from the large deck outside, you see the kitchen right in front of you and the pantry to the right in the tail section.
Turning left, your eyes sweep upwards through the lounge, the bedroom section and the ensuite all the way up to the cockpit.
It all looks very cozy and a bit quirky and that's exactly the style of this Dutchman whose age is probably close to the Dakota's vintage. Solid gold just like the golden wheat fields that surround this aircraft.
This particular Dakota, or C-47, also has a Dutch connection having served in the Dutch East Indies in 1944 and also in Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia. She last flew here 40 years ago when she came to grief in Broome during a belly landing after engine trouble.
It was restored to become Broome's Tourist Bureau and after they outgrew its limited capacity the aircraft changed hands several more times until it was transported to Pleun's property.
The Coolest Flight Simulator
In Pleun's dreams this Dakota would not only be transformed to some pretty funky accommodation for aviation aficionados but he decided they should also experience flying this now permanently grounded aircraft!
Let's see how he implemented this.
We are walking up through the lounge of this aircraft, past the two single beds on either side of the aisle and through the fully equipped wet section (shower, toilet and basin) and are now entering into the front office or cockpit.
We expect to see the dozens of round gauges but this Dakota also sports the latest Mac with the finest flight sim around: X-Plane 10 with – of course -the C-47 model.
Rudder, roll and pitch are controlled by the original Dakota controls, so you use the yoke and the pedals just like as if you were flying the real plane!
Throttle and other functions are controlled by modified CH Products flight simulator hardware with another one of Pleun's quirky modifications: is that a metal door knob functioning as a throttle?!
I haven't had a play yet with the flight simulator as on this visit I wanted to take some aerial footage of the aircraft and also of that other object with a humongous "propeller": an authentic looking Dutch windmill. It was completed in 1997 but has a rich local history embedded in its bricks and beams.
This one was the first of many recycling/restoration/renovation projects that would follow...
The five story working windmill took seven years to build single-handedly from scratch but the Dakota only took about two years, where Pleun was ably assisted by Roel Verhoeven in the later phases of the reno.
Have a look at both projects in the video below, taken with my Phantom 2 Vision and notice the very windy and gusty conditions when you see the flag flying on the windmill and the windsock next to the aeroplane!