Aviation enthusiasts have said a final fond goodbye to a Second World War transport plane which is being forced to stop carrying passengers due to EU safety regulations.
More than 400 people travelled on the last 12 flights of the former RAF DC-3 Dakota from Coventry Airport, ending a countrywide two-month farewell tour which has seen more than 9,000 passengers take to the skies.
Air Atlantique, which owns two DC-3s, described the final flights as a sad day for all those with an interest in Dakotas, which revolutionised air travel when they were first built in 1935.
The company’s commercial director, Richard Parr, said the EU regulations - governing planes carrying 19 or more passengers, required measures which were not necessary on the DC-3, including an emergency escape chute, floor lighting and weather radar.
Mr Parr said of the safety measures: “They would not improve the safety of the aircraft one iota as far as we are concerned.
“It’s a sad day, definitely. These aircraft have been around for more than 70 years now.
“The Farewell Tour has been rammed, which is a phenomenal achievement for the aircraft.”
Previously, the Civilian Aviation Authority had exempted the pleasure flight DC-3s from the safety regulations, but responsibility for their enforcement has now transferred to the EU.
Air Atlantique, the only UK operator of passenger-carrying DC-3s, will now seek an exemption from EU officials, but concedes the process may prove difficult.
“I don’t think it was malicious,” Mr Parr said of the new regulations. “They just didn’t consider people like ourselves, who operate vintage aircraft.
“I have never dealt with the European Union before but I don’t think that they move particularly quickly.”
Mr Parr said the Dakotas, which are not flown in bad weather, were extremely popular with the public and had an exemplary safety record.
“From a commercial point of view it’s going to have an impact on us. We have 28 historic aircraft to keep flying and we need revenue to do that,” he added.
Among those gathered at Coventry Airport to see the last passengers board a Dakota painted in the livery of RAF Transport Command was the air charter manager at Omega Holidays, which handled bookings for the farewell tour.
Peter Truman said many ex-service personnel were among those who had inundated Omega seeking tickets for the flights.
“It’s a sad occasion that such an iconic aircraft is finishing,” he said. “We could have sold twice as many tickets and there were a lot of disappointed people who couldn’t get on.
“There were a lot of veterans - for some people it’s the first time they have actually landed in a Dakota because they have always leapt out of it into a theatre of war!”
Mr Truman also expressed hope that a change in the law might see the two DC-3s, one of which saw war service in Burma, carrying passengers again.