19 May, 2017
First stop in Zagreb
Watchmaker house Malalan, one of the Breitling watch dealer in Slovenia and Croatia, organised an event of an unique round-the-world trip of their DC-3 aeroplane
Connecting top-quality watchmaker’s trade with aviation is a trend which lasts for decades, and the cooperation between big watchmaker houses with the representatives of the ‘bird’s-eye view perspective’ is being pioneered by Breitling. The origins of the Breitling and aviation common roots, stems from the 1930’s when Breitling was equipping aeroplane cockpits with their own instruments. In 1952, they released their first watch dedicated to aviation – the famed Navitimer. Breitling was also the first watchmaker in space with the model Cosmonaut. Today Breitling even sponsors their own civilian aerobatic display team, but our topic for today is completely different and a much more interesting topic that was presented at the beginning of March in our very own Zagreb. Breitling bought one example of the historic DC-3 aircraft (designation HB-IRJ) in 2008, and with her they participate in numerous air meetings, but this year the plane will fly around the world at the ‘Roadshow’.
The flight began on the 7th of March, on the 77th birthday of the aged, but rather vital aircraft, and the first airport visited after departure from Geneva was Zagreb. There we had the chance to familiarise ourselves with the details of the entire project and have a word with the pilots who will make the endeavour through which the Breitling DC-3 will become the oldest plane to fly around the world. The chief pilot and ‘spiritus movens’ of the entire project, Francisco Agullo, also a private jet captain, told us first-hand the many intricacies regarding this four-year-long trip. The DC-3 is an exceptional aeroplane by herself, but the ‘catch’ is that she was the truly first commercial airliner that had her maiden flight in 1935, which, from an economic point of view, dealt a bitter blow to the then incontestable east-to-west-coast means of transportation in the United States – the railway. The combination of comfort and profit made the DC-3 universally acclaimed, and the Second World War bestowed her the title of the most built aeroplane in the world, as she was used to transport Allied troops. An incredible 16,079 DC-3s were built between 1935 and 1940, and at the peak of production one brand new DC-3 left the assembly line every two hours!
Most of the aeroplanes found their place in many aeroplane companies around the world, including this Breitling aircraft which was retired, but not until 1988. At this moment, she has 74,500 hours of flight and the average ratio of hours of flight and hours of maintenance today stands at 1:100 (yes, that’s a hundred hours of work for an hour of flight)! The aircraft usually flies at an altitude of 3,000 metres because it lacks a pressurised cabin, and a six-month-long trip around the world will require between 210 and 230 hours of flight, a visit to 28 countries and 55 airports. This endeavour necessitated special modifications, including the increased fuel tank capacity, and in addition it carries a precious cargo of 500 examples of Navitimer which will be, at the end of the trip, handed over to the proud owners (priced at 8,600 Swiss francs). During visits to cities, the aeroplane will carry even more precious cargo; in cooperation with UNICEF, it will carry a select group of children, which adds a distinct humanitarian dimension to this unique project. We wish Captain Francisco and his team a safe flight, the best of success and fun, in the air and on the ground.