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Allen Windross recalls: "Around 1961, Frank Schneider told me to grab a camera and go to the hangar to take photos of a recent modification to the DC-3. I was to be certain to show all aspects inside and out. Once taken, I had to process them immediately and deliver them to a DCA officer, Jack Miller, who had his office in the TAA maintenance complex opposite Adastra on Vickers Avenue. I saw fit, for some reason, to do myself a copy of the prints. That's all that I remember."

Thanks to Ted McKenzie, a former Chief Pilot and Operations Manager for Adastra, we now know what this device is. It's a Janitrol Heater. (The Janitrol maker's plate can be seen in Photo 4). These devices are standard equipment on many aircraft including DC-3s and Hudsons. The Janitrol Heater is a combustion device which draws fuel from the aircraft fuel system to heat fresh air ducted to the cabin. The hinged flap which was previously thought to be an exhaust is in fact the air intake. (What appeared to be sooting around the flap is just shadow). This means that the installation would have been on the starboard side at the front of the cabin and not aft on the port side as previously imagined. Close examination of the photos will confirm the forward starboard location and this is consistent with Ted McKenzie's recollections.

It is known that around the time of the heater modification in 1961, VH-AGU had just entered service having been fitted with cropped Mosquito propellers to improve high altitude performance.

Engineer Nev Williams recalls that the engines were fitted with carburettors from the Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engine which powered the DC-4 because they provided a higher flow rate. The resultant improved altitude performance brought a surprised reaction from ATC when VH-AGU reported at 32,000 feet.

At this time it was also fitted with an oxygen system. This suggests that the aeroplane was used initially for high altitude photography. Ted McKenzie recalls that at these altitudes the standard heating installation could not cope with the low temperatures in a cabin of the volume of a Hudson let alone a DC-3. There can be little doubt that this is what prompted the installation of another heater. A Fixed Equipment List from March 1966 shows that VH-AGU was configured for electro-magnetic survey at this time which probably dates the removal of the heater system.

History of DC-3 VH-AGU



Issue Date Remarks
2 30JUN21
Added details of engine modifications from Nev Williams.
1 -
Original issue.