My opinions, my thoughts, my tribute and my memories of PAM and our DC-3 N763A  

By: Trev Morson  


"The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3"


The Prairie Aviation Museum 's DC-3 Program existed to serve as:

A resource for students and educators across the Midwest .

Share the experience of flight, by offering rides in one of the most famous airliners of all time.

To gain the interest of youths and aid in their quest of aeronautical study.

To pass along the knowledge and experience of those who have spent years flying and maintaining the DC-3.


Picture of me below taken during 763A flight in 1998.




The following is a 'complete' history about this particular DC-3.

(I wrote the below history article in 1996).

This Aircraft was one of 219 military C-53's (equivalent to the DC-3A) built by Douglas Aircraft at the Santa Monica plant. Completed on March 11, 1942, a week later MSN (Manufacturer's Serial Number) 4894 (41-20124) was transferred from the USAAF to the Navy as an R4D-3 (BuA:05078) with squadron VR-1. The Navy assigned the plane to the naval pilot and navigator school at Meacham Field near Fort Worth, Texas, where it was used for training pilots and transporting personnel until September 1945. It was subsequently reassigned to naval air stations at Jacksonville ( Florida ), New York , and Norfolk before concluding it's military service with U.S. Marine Corps Air Wing-2 at Hedron Field in Cherry Point , North Carolina . In August 1946 the R4D-3 was decommissioned and turned over to the War Assets Administration at Bush Field in Augusta , Georgia , where it was sold to Continental Airlines in the spring of 1947 for $25,000. Continental Airlines flew it's new acquisition (reg: NC73727) to Stapleton Field in Denver , Colorado , where the main cabin was converted ( Douglas provided modification plans for conversion of many of these ex-military planes) for use as a commercial airliner. The airplane received passenger certification, was dubbed a DC-3A and was off the ground once again.

Southern Airways purchased the aircraft in 1949 for it's southeastern United States and Central American routes. The aging DC-3A now reg: (NC73726) and later in 1957 to (N70SA) flew passengers until 1966 when it was sold as reg: (N763) to National Aircraft Sales of Dallas , Texas . Coffield, a Texas businessman, used the aircraft primarily for transportation of personnel and equipment to oil fields and other business locations. While in Coffields possession, the plane was used in Preston Smith's successful campaign for Governor of Texas and also to transport Princess Grace of Monaco to a social event at Coffield's ranch.

After Coffield's death in 1983, the plane was transferred to Tradewinds Aircraft Sales, who sold the aircraft to the Prairie Aviation Museum for $28,000 in February 1984.The 1942 Douglas C-53 airplane was found in Rockdale , Texas . It had not flown for 15 years. After considerable restoration work and expense, the aircraft was flown as reg: (N763A) from Texas to Illinois in November 1984. In August 1985, a suggestion was made to Ozark that it consider restoring the museum's DC-3 to original 1950's Ozark colors for the Airlines 35th anniversary. Ozark entered into the agreement with P.A.M. that brought the plane to the Ozark facility in St. Louis for exterior restoration and it's appearance at the Ozark's 35th anniversary open house in October 1985. Ozark employees immediately fell in love with her. Painting was completed, and on the day of the open house, it literally 'stole the show'. Genuine interest and support was offered from many sources in Ozark's original service area, particularly St. Louis . We believe Ozark and it's dedicated employees left commercial aviation a great heritage. What better way to present and celebrate this heritage than with a legendary DC-3 in Ozark colors. Our DC-3 originally had two R1830-90D engines but in 1996 the left engine developed a problem, in fact, it cut out 15 minutes before landing at Bloomington on the way back from an Air-show at Morris , Illinois . A single engine landing was made. It took approximately $22,000 to repair the engine and we replaced it with one acquired from Basler Aviation, it is an R1830-94 type. So, we had a DC-3 with different #1 and #2 engines in flying condition.

Below- Final approach in 763A - 1997




Let’s talk about why I am writing this article please. Obviously I am frustrated and upset to see our DC-3 leave PAM. Why you may ask?


1996, I first joined PAM on my wedding anniversary at the time and first got to fly on 763A in 1997. I was able to get my family members to join PAM and become members. The whole story of that wonderful day is HERE – please read.


Later again in 1997, I flew on 763A for the second time, this was my chance to invite a lot of friends to become PAM members. The story of that day is HERE – please read.


Below, two pictures, 1997, members I got signed up for PAM, and a flight on our DC-3, that’s me on the far right in pic number 1 and second from right in pic number 2.






Fran Romine & Norm Wingler in 1997 below





Below three pictures - Oh my, 1997, I looked so much younger then!







Below is a picture I took in 1998 on the airshow circuit with 763A, Clyde Zellers was flying in formation with us on the way back to BMI from a Wisconsin Airshow in his US Navy SNJ.




Rare picture below, 1998 our 763A with an unpainted rudder.




I was initially approached in Oshkosh by PAM board director at the time Dave Kiem at the 1996 airshow who knew of my DC-3 internet site (it was the largest DC-3 site on the net way back then too). He told me to my surprise that there was a DC-3 close to where I live (yes, even a 3 hour drive to a DC-3 is close to me). PAM was not too well advertised back then, it was 1996 after all. This came about because I was designing and later, finally released a DC-3 flight simulation program that was an add-on for Microsoft Flight Simulator 95. PAM had an interest of being the first aviation museum to have a ‘hands on DC-3 flight simulator housed in the museum for all to learn from. It took me 9 solid months to create and release this DC-3 Flight Simulator and I included 763A DC-3 as part of the package, in fact, the entire software was dedicated to PAM and 763A, with 2% of overall sales going direct to PAM for to keep the DC-3 in flying condition as well as about 80 or so boxes of the software for free that PAM could sell at the museum and on the airshow circuit.


 I managed to sell 150, 000 copies of the DC-3 Flight Simulation package world wide. PAM finally had a global presence. The software worldwide came in many formats as well as many different languages. Pictures below..



PAM DC-3 pilots helped me on some difficult aspects to get the exact flight dynamics for the software, fuel burn related to mixture settings was an issue at first, then I had issues with manifold pressure versus prop rpm’s on the left engine that eventually got fixed before release (it was actually a Microsoft bug I had to fix).



Taken in 1996, here I am below, Oshkosh , I had helped write some articles for Henry Holden’s new DC-3 book, once again, I was sure to advertise PAM and 763A.



My next venture with PAM was to get donations of PC hardware and flight PC peripherals to install at the museum. It was a success for the most part, only a few times I had to drive 3 hours every now again to do tech support. The internet and PC hardware in 1998 was growing very fast and would often be outdated within months however. PAM got a good run out of the DC-3 simulation program. The Pantagraph advertised it as the first DC-3 flight simulator ever and, it was available at the PAM museum!, we made history here, because years later, many other museum's followed suit around the world. I also got an interview on the local Bloomington TV News station about it. I took this chance yet again to advertise PAM and our DC-3 763A


Below is one the first cockpits I did for DC-3 Flight simulation.



I was involved with 763A and designing and releasing flight simulation software right through to 2004. And the subsequent versions just kept on getting better. Pictures of the various DC-3 763A software simulation programs are below..







The DC-3 Cockpit in the 2004 version was so very accurate and very realistic.




Interesting shot below I created of the real 763A and the simulated 763A in the 2000 version for Flight Simulator.



1998 was quite an expensive year for PAM and 763A, because of DC-3 maintenance. Our number 1 engine was troublesome to start, almost like we had to over prime it to keep it running, hence the flames out of the exhaust (picture below).



 If the prop and throttles are not just at the right position, it becomes very stubborn to start at all. Our Number 2 engine needed a new cylinder. We found when performing a run up of the engines one day, vibrating at 2,000 rpm’s. We usually run it up to 2,300 rpm’s during our tests. It was found we had a sticking valve in the cylinder. $850 later, we got a new cylinder before flying off to St Louis . We were in dire need of a third engine as a spare, we needed an 1830-90 or 1830-92 Pratt & Whitney engine and finally was able to rent one from Basler in Oshkosh, thanks to my old friend Pat Keesler over there. We purchased that third engine in the end.



The bad cyclinder is pictured below



In 1998 & 1999 I became part of the 763A flight crew on the airshow circuit, for the most part I was the flight attendant, it was so much fun, but hard work selling souvenirs or being the ‘clicker’ to keep tabs on “walk through’s”. The hard work all went to PAM and to keep our DC-3 in flying condition, and we did very well. The best part was locking up the DC-3 for the night and going to the bar wherever we were staying, sitting with other pilots and telling each other great aviation stories. One time, Norm Wingler, myself, Bob Davis, Ryan and Patti Wagstaff all sat together at the bar late at night, sharing stories. Bob Davis was an old friend and mentor to Patti Wagstaff.


Year 2000 was quite a huge year for me, PAM and 763A. October 21st 2000, My son Alex was 4 months old. (he will be 9 years old this year). I made it a point that his first flight ever, would be on a DC-3, I chose 763A.

 My son Alex's first flight of his young life and forever, he'll be able to say that his first flight was on a DC-3 – N763A. He slept through most of the flight and was given a certificate that celebrated the occasion. I still have the certificate framed in my family room today. Two pictures below of that day, of me, my wife and young son at the time.





Sorry, I could not resist, the picture below taken in 2000 in an airplane I made out of spare wood I had hangin’ around. The prop rotated and I installed an actual bi-plane engine noise that was looped so it would play continuously. I guess I could have had another career here?




In 2001 I continued my PAM volunteer duties, was still part of the 763A flight crew for airshow work (and I mean, many airshows) and began advertising heavily for PAM using my own funds via the internet and magazine articles to share with folks around the world, and mostly all over the US. One such article can be accessed and I STRONGLY recommend you read it, you will find it very interesting.  HERE 

 It is a comparison of flying the real DC-3 N763A to that of using the DC-3 flight simulator, it shows my own DC-3 flight simulator set up at home at the time.  

By now and with the internet becoming a powerful tool, PAM & 763A was very well known world-wide, especially in the US . It was during this time I began attending and recruiting folks for the DC-3 Ground school each year, I of course passed and got my certification via PAM and Bob Davis. at the same time we we negotiating very good prices for airshow appearances. I was a part of those negotiations too. Oshkosh appearances were always a 'no-no' It was not financially profitable for us to take our DC-3 there.

I own a DC-3 throttle quadrant that I refurbished myself (the refurbishment cost me $200), and I would often offer it to PAM DC-3 Ground school to use as an aid/prop for training. Picture below..   It was donated to me by Basler up in Oshkosh because I designed and installed a DC-3 turbo prop simulator over there for them



Below is an older picture I took of 763A before the cockpit was upgraded.





In 2001 & 2002, many good things were happening, my DC-3 site was growing and growing with a vast mailing list of thousands world wide, and with many folks participating on the site. I never forgot PAM and 763A though, they were always featured on my main page and every year, I always offered free sponsorship to PAM as advertising and links to the PAM web site as well as 763A.

My DC-3 site was expensive to run at this time and I was able to get sponsorship money from other aviation organizations and museums (PAM I always did for free). By now my DC-3 site was so large and packed with DC-3 information, you could literally learn to fly a DC-3 just using my site alone. I was getting near 2,000 hits on my site every day from all of the countries and continents of the world. PAM and 763A was a global presence though my DC-3 site alone. I was also getting into aviation photography and I had many photographs published, including those of 763A.

By now I was invited to fly on other DC-3’s, one in Alaska with ERA and another in Oshkosh Wisconsin. I did some Bush flying in Alaska with a De-Havilland Beaver on floats and later in a tandem seat aircraft called a Citabria.  I was consequently asked to write articles about my experiences. Great as they were, PAM and 763A were always my favorite and priority.


2001/2002/2003, I was still part of the flight crew for PAM and 763A, but this time, I often got to fly 763A on the airshow circuit in both left and right seat. My DC-3 knowledge by now was vast, I was often asked to track down DC-3’s by ex pilots or by the various military forces, or was asked to offer assistance in keeping other DC-3’s in flying condition, it was quite a strain because my allegiance was to PAM and 763A first and foremost, but always enjoyable. My DC-3 photography was getting better too. Many other museums were asking for my help, and I did to a point, once again though, PAM & 763A were my priority.


The three pictures I took below were taken at a Wisconsin airshow, I think in 2001





I started dabbling with DC-3 graphics on the internet, using PAM and 763A I created this great graphic when I used to fund design and run the very first PAM DC-3 web site, you can see some excellent graphics of 763A  HERE


And then one of my best DC-3 photographs of all time that was published in a DC-3 book world wide below. In the summer of 2002 during an airshow visit at Wausau, Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to take this photograph. 

It is a reflection of our DC-3, N763A of the Prairie Aviation Museum in the terminal building. Aviation photography is another hobby of mine and to get this picture, we had to push the DC-3 about 100 yards nose-in toward the small terminal. It just so happened we needed to gas up (that is Ryan on the wing) and the gas tanks were nearby. You can see the reflection and, some folks sitting inside the terminal. Being a reflection, notice the yellow sign with back-to-front lettering.


2001/2002/2003/2004 – Here I am below flying 763A during airshow duty..



Below.. I am flying our DC-3 on the way back from Whiteman AFB airshow in the summer of 2003, this time with the upgraded cockpit installed. Cruising at 7600 feet VFR. The airshow circuit with 763A was indeed a busy one, I always made the time to help out, often being away from family many weekends.


When 2005 onward arrived, things changed somewhat for me. I continued as always to support PAM and 763A but remotely and, via my web site. I have been a musician since I was young and I found I could not continue to perform as a musician and at the same time, spend a lot of time with PAM and 763A. Things were starting to change a little at PAM, though I was still making large contributions for PAM and 763A,a lot of focus was on the future of PAM, a new home, a DC-3Hangar, the Challenger Learning Center etc.. and, besides, I just bought my first boat and still have it today, it resides on the Illinois River at Starved Rock, IL. The boat became much more of a full family affair than 763A and the airshow circuit was in the past, my son was getting older and demanded more of my time.

 Plus, my rock band was becoming extremely busy with gigs. So as much as I loved PAM and 763A, I didn’t have as much 'hands-on' with 763A as I did in years past, but still, I always supported PAM & 763A via my site and through other channels. I also made my DC-3 web site much more interactive for the folks that visit each day. I average 2 to 3,000 hits a day. My rock bands web site today is, we are a classic rock band playing anything from Hendrix to Van Halen. It is quite a nice site I put together rather quickly. And yes, we often do 'charity' gigs raising money.

PAM  had the capacity now to entice pilots from all over the US to support flight training in 763A and become DC-3 certified. This was something I advertised very heavily on for PAM and it was a success, I believe Bob Moss from CAF came in to be involved. We raised the prices for DC-3 flights and joy rides, we had to,but it was still well worth the money. Bob Davis wanted me to shoot & publish a Video of the DC-3 Flight School sitting in the DC-3, we somehow could not just get our arms around this however. The timing (weather), and consequent maintenance of DC-3 always seem to get in the way, not to mention I had a full time job as a network engineer.



April, 2009, our DC-3 based at ( Bloomington , IL ) KBMI was sold by PAM ( Prairie Aviation Museum ) via a broker for $80,000 to an outfit in Marathon, Florida . I have been in touch with the new owners already and will continue to support 763A.

April 23rd, 2009, DC-3 N763A made its final flight out of Bloomington for a new life in Florida, albeit a lonely send off for the grand ole lady. (Not many were informed of it being sold ).  This began my frustration.

I have received many e-mails about the selling and departure of our DC-3 from the Mid West and the subsequent decisions made by PAM. Most are supportive, some though, are from insider folks within Bloomington or PAM, who seemingly feel that anyone living outside Bloomington are ‘outsiders’ with no right to know what really happened, participate in any decision making or even have an opinion about 763A. I don't know what happened at PAM at all? I almost now, do not want to know, our DC-3 has gone, so why should I care?


I would like to dissect some of the comments I have read and have been sent recently. You might first want to read the story so kindly reported by the Pantagraph HERE


The Pantagraph article contains pictures, a video and the story of our DC-3 April 23rd, 2009. Thanks and credits go to Steve Smedley & Mary Ann Ford for the Pantagraph coverage.


Ok, I assume you have read the excellent coverage in the Pantagraph article by now? So now you can read on..



First, the use of the word “Bittersweet” by current PAM members. "Bittersweet" refers to a combination of sweetness and bitterness, used as a metaphor for experiences of both happiness and sadness. Tell me.. where is the happiness here? – Our DC-3 has gone! – sold for 80K! – not even a decent send off or goodbye! - total frustration has set in!


Then, there was a comment I read by a PAM member that said “We wanted to sell her to someone that would keep her in flying condition and continue the airshow circuit?. This is ridiculous to say the least, PAM had no control over who would purchase 763A when it was sold via a broker, for all intent and purposes, it could easily have been purchased by a local scrapper, apparently, and more importantly, PAM needed the $80,000 asking price – period, no questions asked.


Now granted, PAM is in some serious financial troubles, mostly though, this was caused I am told, by the deep dive into the creation and running of the “Challenger Learning Center”. Close to $1 million in debt are the reports I have read. However, selling the DC-3, PAM’s first ever aircraft arriving at BMI in 1984, is no excuse for a puny attempt to clear such a big debt. Rather, the DC-3 being kept at PAM could have helped the debt issues., trust me I know this.


Let’s talk about PAM for a minute here. It is a great and perhaps one of the best aviation museum’s I have ever been a part of. I am proud to have been a part of the museum for many years and I am so glad they accepted me and opened there arms out to me, they changed my life and made my dreams come true.

The people at PAM, past and present are very dedicated hard working, nice folks. They do not get paid for there hard work and dedication, it is a non profit and volunteer operation. So it’s not the PAM people or past leadership I am disappointed in, it’s the recent decision making by the present leadership, the finger pointing to previous leadership and seemingly small mindedness and secrecy constantly portrayed that I have an issue with and it is why I am very frustrated.


For two years now, I am told by many PAM insiders, “You do not know the real story Trev”, One PAM member said “I would never know, because I am not a “local”. Ok so I live a 3 hour drive away. See, this kind of mentality and blinkeredness is so frustrating to me. It is ‘inside politics’ and is very unfortunate.

PAM was meant to be a global presence, not a local insider’s joint. PAM was meant to be supported globally and not just by Bloomington insiders or locals. Folks who have an interest in PAM globally want to be informed, to be involved and to feel a part of something historic. You don’t need to be a local to truly participate, donate or advertise to support an aviation museum in this day of technological advancements.  

One PAM member (and this is the small mindedness I refer to), told me, “I'm sure if you have been around the museum or even have come to one of the monthly fundraiser dinners that we have to help pay the bills you would know this. " So, I interpret this again, in that you have to be a local or within the Bloomington area to support PAM or get an answer to a problem going on.

No mention or thought about being a global presence. Let me explain further.  A person living abroad with a little internet site can support PAM by advertising, donating or participating, that was always the goal. But no, Come to Bloomington Trev, if you want to find out what’s going on or,  come to a fund raising dinner in Bloomington if you want to donate and help”.  

PAM have a web site, there is nothing on that web site, or ever has been about huge debt, or the selling of it’s DC-3. Donations yes, but no real reason why donations are desperately needed in such troubled times at PAM. For years I pushed PAM into having a web site that could accept donations on line, this was a HUGE oversight by the leadership. You cannot lead or effectively run a non-profit museum if you do not keep up with the times and current internet technology.

The folks at PAM are very well aware of my DC-3 site and no doubt aware of my help and contributions in the past. Yes it was hadr work, I am not the only one however, PAM members worked hard too.

How was I to know about the troubles?, oh, I know, “I am not a “local”, that is why I guess. I still don't know for sure to this day?

Did PAM ever contact me for help?, no, yet I have run the largest DC-3 site on the internet for 12 years. I even started, designed and personally funded the very first PAM web site myself many years ago.  The current PAM web site is an issue for me, had I been running or at least participating (again, if I had only known the real issues), I would have strongly suggested that the PAM web site, carried the headline on its main page in big red letters – HELP!! PLEASE !! - WE NEED YOUR HELP. And guess what?  I would have responded quickly, donated and got massive support globally to at least save the DC-3 and have it kept in flying condition with PAM. I would have strongly suggested to the PAM board to make there web site interactive and accept donations online, this way, they could have literally received thousands of dollars from folks world wide on a monthly basis.

The folks at PAM today need to realize that you cannot rely on ‘locals’ or current members for help, people who just love aviation and non-members would always be willing to help, especially DC-3 enthusiasts world wide.

Marketing, e-mail, and the use of the internet is simply not one of PAM’s strong points today, and that is quite a shame. PAM are missing out on such a huge supporting audience globally. It has become it seems, there demise.

PAM have spent too much time looking backward versus looking forward and keeping up with the times, especially from a technical perspective online and electronically . PAM often struggle via e-mail communication even today, I have a story here, just happened last week, but how on earth can a very high up person within PAM directorship, send me an e-mail that I cannot reply to? Hhe left me his cell number though.

Another example by a PAM insider, I am told this.. “To all that are concerned with the selling price of the DC-3, and the perceived lack of notice...the airplane has been up for sale by word of mouth for almost two years- Oh my!! – “Word of Mouth”?  This is another example of ‘local participation only’ with severe lack of marketing skills and no real use of there own web site to communicate globally. It's why folks like me, and hundreds of others out there, perhaps thousands are shocked, and dismayed at recent developments and in particular, the demise of our DC-3.  

You will have noticed by now, that I refer to 763A as ‘our’ DC-3 and not the ‘PAM DC-3

763A was helped over the years by thousands of folks (not just local ones), all of us members and non-members donated, dedicated our time and helped PAM keep the DC-3 in flying condition. “The DC-3 Challenge” was one such supporting mechanism at PAM way back when. I personally donated a lot of time, effort and money to PAM, and so too, did many others.

It is our DC-3 and always will be, granted, thanks to PAM for letting us share it with them and be a part of it and its history.  

This brings me to another PAM member comment“The sales price...unless the museum wants to release it, is not of anyone's concern, but it was fair market value for the condition of the airplane”. What shear small mindedness, yet again, a failure to communicate.  

 It was the broker selling the aircraft on PAM’s behalf that had the good marketing sense to place the DC-3 on the internet and advertise the DC-3 for sale along with spare parts for a price of $80,000. There is no secret here?. Why on earth would current PAM leadership think that 'word of mouth' would get them results? Why they don't share the selling price when it was all over the internet to begin with?

Again, insider secrecy when there is really no need for it, that is also frustrating to me.

As for fair market value, I very much disagree, the asking price was way too low in my opinion, some DC-3’s in Alaska that are in much worse condition sell for up to $120,000.  I only wish I had $80,000, but I don’t, could I have raised that much in two years?.. absolutely yes! .. easily!, through this web site, and I would have been willing to do it too! .. but I was not informed of the massive troubles in  PAM, it was not communicated.

 I was told that in a small room, two years ago, a decision was indeed made by the new leadership via a board meeting to sell the DC-3. But I am not a local, so I would never know that would I?  It was never on the PAM web site either. Such is the mentality it seems and it is very unfortunate at this point that PAM seemed to become an insider club with scars that became open wounds from time to time.  

I know how much money PAM plowed into this DC-3, dedication and hard work, by the board and its members, both in the early years, and throughout 763A’s life, DC-3 engine difficulties and, finally a much needed upgrade to the cockpit which made it IFR compatible. The usual insurance, FAA and typical inspection fees etc.. comes with the territory, and you plan for that, difficult at it is.



4/23/09 will remain a sad day for me and many others.


"The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3"


Below, Is the oldest known photograph of N763A I have, in Southern scheme as NC73726, this was later verified as correct by ex Southern DC-3 employees.




Below.. Here is another old rare picture as N70SA



Below - This was the state of our DC-3, N763A, and how it looked originally, when we bought it back in Februaary 1984





Above – April 23rd, 2009 - N763A’s sad final flight out of BMI – phot credit Steve Smedley of the Pantagraph.


In closing - thanks you for all who have read this article, I only shared snippets here of the work and involvement I had with PAM over the years, its members and its leadership past/present, there was so much more I could have shared, because 99.9% of the time, it was just so much fun and I was so proud to be a PAM member and a very big part of DC-3 N763A.


I will continue to be a part of N763A using my skills online.

Below our DC-3 N763A, arriving at its new home in Florida.


Two Pics below is N763A on the ground at Marathon, Florida shortly after its arrival





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