My face was in serious pain. I had been smiling non-stop for at least two hours and at this point I was really testing the amount of teeth to face ratio I could physically accomplish. My hands clenched the armrests, nervously, unsure of what would happen next as the tiny plane bobbed up and down along the runway. Looking out the window, sitting right at the wing, I excitedly watched as the KLM Jet Center got smaller and further away as we increased our speed. The propeller began spinning round and round, faster and faster, and in a split second we were in the air. Somehow, the seventy year old aircraft has made it into the sky despite my doubt, and as I looked down at the green fields of the Dutch landscape below- I smiled even bigger.

 

dakotadc3

 

Flying on the DC-3 Dakota from Amsterdam to Newcastle

Last month, I was invited by KLM to celebrate their 95th anniversary in Amsterdam- the headquarters of the oldest airline in the world. Always happy to return to one of my favorite cities, and quickly becoming a KLM fan-girl,  I happily accepted. The highlight of the festivities would be a flight from Amsterdam Schiphol to Newcastle on a DC-3 Dakota, a historic aircraft that would give us the rare opportunity to experience flying much like people did in the 1950’s. Fabulousness all the way people.

I made my way over to Amsterdam on a short- haul KLM flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam Schiphol, an easy flight that takes just over an hour and always includes stroopwafels. (These things are extremely important.)  Upon arrival, myself and three fellow travel bloggers, were given a behind-the-scenes tour of Schiphol Airport- Europe’s 4th busiest. It was really fascinating to see the airport not as just a place I go through a couple times a year (and used to visit frequently when it had the only Starbucks in The Netherlands) but as a working, breathing city- where some 60,000 people work each day and over 50 million passengers pass through each year.

In the evening we checked into the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, a five-star hotel right on Amsterdam’s Dam Square and possibly one of the best located hotels in the city. The rooms, unfortunately, did not live up to the five star rating in my opinion and were a bit dated. Apparently many of the wings have been recently renovated, so maybe it is just luck of the draw. I will say, the breakfast is absolutely fantastic- great coffee and great champagne. (Yes, they go interchangeably at breakfast time.) The best meal of the day is served in the elegant Winter Tuin, a gorgeous room that also happens to be a national monument. {NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, Dam 91012 JS Amsterdam, Prices from €199 a night.}

 

wintertuin

 

The next morning we went for an early cruise along Amsterdam’s iconic canals. It was my fourth or fifth time doing this, but I will tell you- it never, ever gets old.

 

amsterdam canals

amsterdam canals

canals

 

Finally, it was time for the moment we had all been waiting for and we made our way to the KLM Jet Center to prepare for our flight in the DC-3 Dakota. Visiting the Jet Center was a treat in itself, a rare look into the lives of the rich and affluent- if you were flying your private jet into Amsterdam this is probably where you would park.

The DC- 3 Dakota  Princess Amalia

 

The Dutch Dakota is owned by DDA Classic Airlines, a charity that restored and maintains the aircraft through the support of volunteers such as engineers, pilots, and cabin crew. The DC-3 aircraft was designed in 1935, and this particular plane, registered as the PH-PBA, was built in 1944 and is a legend in the world of aviation.

 

ph-pba

 

The DC- 3 “Princess Amalia” began its life under the U.S. Air Force where it participated in many operations throughout World War II. In 1946, the plane was bought by Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands from his good friend General Eisenhower, making it the first ever aircraft owned by the Dutch government. The plane flew until 1975, many of the flights piloted by the Prince himself, before it was retired and became a part of the Aviodome Museum collection. Prince Bernhard desperately wanted to get his plane back up an running again and in 1994 restorations began. In 1998, the place was presented to the Prince, back to her former glory. KLM became a sponsor of the legendary airplane and in 2006 it was painted in the retro KLM colors. In 2011, the DC-3 was named “Princess Amalia” after the oldest daughter of King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands.

Flying in the DC-3 Dakota was amazing not just because I got to re-live the golden age of travel, but I had the extremely special opportunity to fly on an aircraft that had such an important history behind it. I felt very grateful, to say the least.

Check out my video of the DC-3 Dakota taking off from Amsterdam Schiphol.

 

On-board we had one member of the cabin crew, a captain and co-pilot, and one person for tech support – making the total passengers only ten people. Our lovely stewardess brought champagne and sandwiches throughout the flight as we walked around taking in the view from every window.

 

dakota dc-3 interior

klm champagne

view klm

 

My favorite part was visiting the cockpit, which we were free to do as much as we liked. I loved watching the pilots navigate with a good old-fashioned map and looking out the plane’s front window with the endless miles of the North Sea before us. As the plane flew at a much lower altitude than a typical modern commercial aircraft, we were able to see the sheep on the coastline, seagulls flying over the land, and the boats sailing underneath the wings. It was truly spectacular.

pilots klm

klm map

klm controls

pilot view

 

As we flew into Newcastle, taking in the aerial view of the bridges over the River Tyne, I wished my time on the DC-3 Dakota would never end. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and an experience I will never forget.

A big happy birthday to KLM- 95 years and counting. Thanks for letting me join in on the retro celebrations. See you at the big 100.

me

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