First flight ever in a DC-3 of toddler Hans, 1949, Trinidad, with Mom and sisters Corine and Rita.
For 12 years, Hans lived as a young boy in faraway places where oil was to be found, His father, a Shell engineer, took his family over the globe first in 1947 to Curacao and Trinidad in the West Indies. In 1950, they went to the East Indies and arrived in a forgotten jungle post in SE Borneo. From there all transport to Java and other places could only be done by means of the Douglas DC-3 Dakota (and sometimes the PBY-5A Catalina). The airplane was to become his virtual lifeline with a bigger World, that existed for him only in his fantasy.
The romantic idea of flying away to that faraway Europe had settled and as time came in late 1957, he hated to leave this paradise island but was curious to see what came next in a rapidly changing world. For him, the ‘Gates of Wonder’ were wide open and the Dakota played a more than instrumental role in his wanderings around the world with his parents who moved on to Japan and later to Australia.
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35 years later, around the early 1990s, Hans Wiesman travels the world in his job as s creative/ sponsoring director, involved in the making of advertising themes for international brands.
While on frequent travel for event sponsoring and TV productions in the Caribbean and South America, he encounters that Dakota again, the freedom icon of his youth is still flying in a commercial role. The affection from bygone days flares up and he creates a new brand theme for a Dutch Clothing Company around that airplane, named Cargo Pilot. That scene of vintage Cargo Hauling aircraft starts pulling like a magnet and in the year 2000, he decides to follow his burning passion. A worldwide hunt starts for the legendary Dakota, now with his own Company that locates DC-3/ C-47 components for Museums and Collectors and converts surplus parts as DC-3 wing tips into valued wing desks and high-end furniture. More than 20 expeditions have been made by him between 2000 and 2012, from Madagascar and Thailand to Bolivia, Alaska, the Yukon and beyond. It all ended up in the Amazon region of Southern Colombia, where he finds the DC-3 capital of this world, Villavicencio.
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In South America, Hans found the Dakota still operational as Cargo and Passenger hauler, mostly flying to remote spots in the Jungle, where the plane has its almost exclusive domain. There is no other aircraft in the world that can bring you out there into the Amazon and back, alive!
Not every spot where Hans found the Dakota is a sweet tourist resort, The dealings with the Military can suddenly take a grim twist, as he encountered in Madagascar, Read the stunning stories in his book how they were “impressed” by the local Colonels.
But the much wanted aircraft and its parts are mostly to be found in areas controlled by the Military, or worse, Drugs runners or Militia. The arrival of a single Western Extranjero in the outbacks of Southern America gives rise to a lot of rumble in the jungle, and sometimes the situation becomes more than awkward, to say the least. But Hans’ drive to meet that plane is stronger, especially as it is often only the Dakota that flies him into these jungle settlements. That combo brings him back to romantic souvenirs of his ‘Paradise Lost’. His Borneo youth is now only a dream, but with this similar aircraft flying over that impenetrable jungle, he comes close, very close to his “Free Willy” experience on that Pacific Island and describes what happened to him in his book. It is a most stunning story written in 320 pages that you will read in awe while you’ ll view the 250 photos that give evidence to his true tales of adventure and passion for an aircraft that got lost in the mists of legends in Europe. But in certain remote places, the aircraft is still alive and kicking and even killing, as you can read about the Dakota in a combat role in fierce night fighting actions against Farc guerrillas in the deep South of Colombia.