Feature Story written by: Savannah Bess, museum volunteer and aircraft photographer
Another DC-3 steadfast in service in times of both war and peace, the Potomac Pacemaker is one of the newest members of the DC-3 Society. This ship is unique, in the sense that she is the first static display DC-3 to join the Society. Proudly making her home at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC, she is still currently undergoing full restoration. Rolling off the assembly line in Santa Monica, CA in March of 1942, as C-53-DO 41-20130 (s/n 4900), she went on to serve in the 52nd Troop Carrier Squadron, 63rd Troop Carrier Group. She remained stateside as a trainer for the American Theater until 1945 when she was leased out by Western Airlines. She served that airline faithfully as N18600 for over a decade until being purchased by Piedmont Airlines in 1956, christened N56V Potomac Pacemaker, serving another six years on the airline’s circuitous “puddle jumper” routes, before retirement in 1962.
Eventually falling derelict in the middle of the woods near an airstrip in Charlotte, NC, Piedmont rediscovered her and gave her a cosmetic restoration in 1978, where she became an outdoor display for a museum in Durham, NC. There, 56V languished outside yet again, this time for a full twenty-six years. Rescue came in the form of the North Carolina Transportation Museum; the museum desired an authentic Piedmont artifact, and the former owner was ready to make a deal. Because of so many years outdoors, the airframe was compromised to the point of being unairworthy, but worthy of a full static restoration. Today, volunteers are working hard to bring her back to full Piedmont spec.
We don’t intend for her to collect dust as a mere display; she will be able to be boarded and museum visitors will have a full educational experience on what flight was like in the 1950s. We intend to pay tribute, not just to the DC-3’s worth as the workhorse of local service carriers, connecting rural communities with the nation at large – especially to the “puddle jumper” that became one of the most respected, innovative and progressive major airlines in commercial aviation history – but to the necessary work done here at home during the American Theater, to train our troops for combat during WWII.
WRAL video story on the Potomac Pacemaker: https://www.wral.com/piedmont-airlines-dc-3-the-potomac-pacemaker/19083653/
You can also follow the progress of the restoration through their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/piedmontdc3
Photo Credits: Piedmont Aviation Historical Society, Savannah Bess, NC Transportation Museum