Another Life Touched by QAM's DC-3

by

Maj Ruben 'Duck' Donkervoort RNAF

 

From F-16 (built 1989)
To DC-3 (built 1937)
(All images on this page are linked to larger versions)
 
It was a birthday celebration for my great-grandmother in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 1978. As he would do every year for as long as I could remember, my great-uncle John Gyzemyter (known to us as Ome Joop) brother of my grandfather Ab, was present at the family gathering at their Mum's place, flying in all the way from Australia.

One of the items adorning the wall of Great Grandma's lounge room was a large picture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and I can remember always being fascinated by this picture. On this particular day as an eight year old kid enjoying his family, grandma's ever present candy and a soda, I stood looking at the sights of this bridge Down Under, when Ome Joop came and stood next to me, looking at me looking at the picture and told me the story about how he rebuilt a DC-3 and 'test-flew' this machine which resulted in flying underneath that bridge.

I know now that it really doesn't take an awful lot to impress a little kid, but his story made such an impact on me that I still remember what I was drinking, how he told his story. I actually think I still remember how it smelled at that time. He gave me the full story on how things led up to where he and two other planes flew underneath a bridge! Underneath that bridge!! He was already a hero in my eyes, as he was a travelled and wise man, a very sweet man and a man with a simply awesome sense of humor but this instantly made him the idol every boy needs when growing up. Flying underneath a bridge had to be the coolest thing man could do so right there, right then I decided that I wanted to fly and be a pilot!

Obviously it took a little more than just saying I wanted to be one. And I found out while growing up that being a fighter pilot not only made you capable of doing high speed low-level flying, but you'd be able to fly upside down as well! So the Royal Netherlands Air force it would be then. I failed at my first attempt but the second time around I got a shot at becoming a fighter pilot when in 1989 I was accepted for training.

The Internet was still to be invented back then, so I kept Ome Joop posted on my progress via letters and when I graduated at Euro Nato Joint Jet Pilot training at Sheppard AFB, Texas, USA in early '92 he was as proud of me as someone can possibly be especially when I reminded him that the whole thing started with his story of flying underneath Sydney's Harbour Bridge and led to a career of almost 20 years of flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon! He visited me in The Netherlands in 1995 by which time he was 80 years old and we got to share some 'first hand' flying stories. Needless to say that'll be another everlasting memory! I'm thankful we got to do that before he passed away four years later.

In February 2011, I was finally able to visit Australia and I got to see that bridge for myself. I couldn't find any way to fly underneath it without ending up in jail, so I climbed it instead. And if that wasn't special enough for me, upon my return to Brisbane after visiting Sydney, Ome Joop's son Frank took me to the Queensland Air Museum right after I got back. I was totally unaware of the fact that the actual aircraft my uncle flew underneath the bridge is on display in this museum! When the friendly people of this museum heard the story, they insisted on opening up the DC-3 and have me take a look inside! Being in the same cockpit as where my uncle was 60 years earlier flying under the Bridge, the thing that triggered my own flying career, well, I guess I can safely say that for me this completed the full circle!

I am extremely grateful to the people of the Queensland Air Museum for giving me the opportunity to actually sit in this wonderful aircraft that played such a significant role in my life!

Cheers
Maj Ruben 'Duck' Donkervoort
Royal Netherlands Air Force

 

Ruben in the cockpit of VH-ANR at QAM in February 2011

 

The Bridge Formation - 14 May 1942

 

The John Gyzemyter Story