One of the most striking features of the Botanic Gardens is the RAAF DC-3 Plane. She has had a busy and colourful history before she retired to the gardens and is a symbol and reminder of Papua New Guinea’s place in World War II history. The Morobe and Lae region and other parts of Papua New Guinea witnessed much activity during this time.
Dakota A65-122 was purchased from the USAAF for the price of $180,000 and delivered on 4 July 1945. From 1947, the aircraft was allocated to No 86 Wing and flew with No 36 and 38 Squadrons from RAAF Bases Schofields, Richmond and Canberra. During this time, it probably flew some of the Japan Courier flights and flights to PNG.
From Feb 1967 until June 1980, the aircraft served with Transport Support Flight, Butterworth Malaysia, where it flew missions to South Vietnam and other countries in SE Asia.
On 30 June 1980, it departed Butterworth for RAAF East Sale where it was prepared for donation to the PNGDF. On 17 Nov 1980, the aircraft was handed over to the PNGDF at Lae for use as a ground training aid.
On 30th June 1999 the PNGDF decided that the aircraft was no longer required for training purposes and needed considerable maintenance with no funds available, it was donated to the National Botanic Garden Management Committee. Under the direction of the Curator at that time, Mr. Rod Spivey, it was moved to a suitable location at the National Botanical Gardens, and funds and manpower were provided by various private sector organisations, to return the Aircraft to much of its former splendour.
The National Botanic Gardens (Lae) Advancement Program has established a steering committee of interested members and businesses in the Lae Community to look after the plane and oversee its restoration and maintenance. Working Groups within the committee are listed below.
Technical Advice – to ensure accuracy in the restoration of the plane;
Plane Covering – to coordinate the building of a shelter to protect the plane from the elements;
Plane History – to collate and document information on the plane, it’s history and use during WWII;
Documentation – of plans, archival footage and the process of restoration.
The committee is made up of several interested individuals and businesses including the Friends of the Lae Botanic Gardens, PNGFRI, Swire Shipping, Trans Marine, Northbuild PNG, AHI Hope Foundation, Riback, Unitech and Coca Cola Amatil (CCA). Other companies that may be involved in this restoration include Dulux Group, Digicel, Defence, Lae Builders & Contractors (LBC).
Those interested in the plane, its history and upkeep can contact the following people to find out more.
Steering Committee Chair
Gilinde Kitoria – firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Lovave – email@example.com