Airplane on historic worldwide trip stops at Chicago Executive Airport

Aviation history landed in the suburbs Tuesday when a 77-year-old plane stopped at Chicago Executive Airport during a trip around the world.

The Douglas DC-3 plane owned by Swiss watchmaker Breitling is being flown to become the oldest aircraft to circumnavigate the globe. This six-month journey will be only a small part of its history, which can be traced back to its service in World War II.

“I can't get enough of it,” said Francisco Agullo, a Swiss pilot flying the plane. “It's a privilege to fly an airplane like this. There are only a few left in the world.”

Built in 1940, the plane spent two years flying for American Airlines before serving U.S. troops in World War II from 1942 to 1944. The plane then returned to commercial airline service until 1988, when a private owner purchased the aircraft. Breitling bought the plane in 2008.

About 16,000 of the DC-3 planes were manufactured and most major airlines used them, according to the company.

Maintaining the historic plane is demanding, Agullo said. The plane requires about 100 hours of maintenance for every hour it spends in the air. Typically, the aircraft spends six months undergoing restoration and six months flying, he said.

As for operating the plane, Agullo said the heavy aircraft is especially difficult to fly in crosswinds.

“It's comparable to running an old car versus a new car,” Agullo said.

Crew members spent several hours at Signature Flight Support showing off the aircraft before departing for Toronto. The worldwide tour started in March and will conclude in September.

  These are the throttle controls inside the cockpit of the Douglas DC-3 world tour American Airlines plane from the 1940s that stopped at Chicago Executive Airport Tuesday on its way around the world. Mark Welsh/
  The Douglas DC-3 that stopped at Chicago Executive Airport Tuesday was built 77 years ago. Mark Welsh/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.