The DC-2-112 was one of 200 built by the Douglas Aircraft Co, Santa Monica, in 1934. It was designated as serial no 1286 and delivered to Eastern Air Lines, New York as NC-13736.
Eastern Air Lines was a composite of assorted air travel corporations, including Florida Airways and Pitcairn Aviation, the latter established on April 19, 1926, by Harold Frederick Pitcairn, son of Pittsburgh Plate Glass founder John Pitcairn, Jr.
In the late 1920s, Pitcairn Aviation won a contract to fly mail between New York City and Atlanta, Georgia on Mailwing single-engine aircraft. In 1929, Clement Keys, the owner of North American Aviation, purchased Pitcairn. In 1930, Keys changed company's name to Eastern Air Transport, soon to be known as Eastern Air Lines after being purchased by General Motors and experiencing a change in leadership after the Airmail Act of 1934.
In 1938 World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker bought Eastern from General Motors. The complex deal was concluded when Rickenbacker presented Alfred P. Sloan with a certified check for $3.5 million. Eastern Airlines was one of America’s most successful airlines. It ceased operations in 1991.
NC-13736 served as a passenger aircraft until it was purchased in 1941, along with 10 other remaining DC-2s, by the British Purchasing Commission in the USA, on behalf of the Australian Government. There was a desperate need for large capacity transport aircraft by the RAAF.
In 1941 the aircraft was brought on RAAF charge as A30-11. It had been disassembled by Eastern Air Lines for freighting and was reassembled at Laverton No.1 Aircraft Depot in Victoria. New Wright Cyclone R1820 radial engines were installed. A month later it was sent to Point Cook, Victoria to train radio operators in the No.1 Service Flying Training School.
In 1942, after an engine change at Essendon by Australian National Airways (ANA) it was received at the No.1 Wireless Air Gunners School, RAAF Station Ballarat, Victoria, for use as a wireless and radio navigation trainer.
In April of 1942, it was modified and painted in camouflage colours with the 36 Squadron code “RE-B” on the sides of the fuselage and given the transport call sign “VH-CRE” painted on the tail. It was completely overhauled again by ANA at Essendon, for conversion to a transport aircraft for engines. The DC-2s operational duties included a run from Laverton, Victoria to Batchelor, NT and return. It transported engines from No.5 Depot at Wagga, to Pearce in WA.
After a few mishaps and minor damage, the aircraft continued as a “workhorse” transport vehicle moving between, Tocumwal Victoria, Parafield South Australia and Richmond NSW. It finally crashed in 1945 during a forced landing at Parafield suffering major damage to the fuselage, starboard wing and undercarriage. It had been issued to 37 Squadron, whose three crew and 12 passengers were unhurt.
By the end of the war, the aircraft was considered useable only for components and although offered by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to the Department of Civil Aviation for their use, the offered was declined.
In October 1946, the airframe was sold to Sid Marshall of Marshall Airways, Mascot, NSW. The airframe had been dismantled and stored at Parafield in SA. Sid Marshall collected the aircraft and stored the parts on a nearby farm until 1954. He then attempted to move the aircraft back to Sydney in order to use it for spare parts on other DC-2s he had purchased. Unfortunately the truck transporting the aircraft broke down on the Glen Osmond Road as it was leaving Adelaide and some of the wing sections were left at a garage and stored for 12 years.
In 1966 Sid Marshall returned for the wings and they were transported to Sydney and stored with other DC-2 parts in a storage compound at Bankstown Airport where it remained until 1979 when it was sold to the West Albury Rotary Club.
The Uiver Memorial was dedicated to the people of Albury and to commemorate the Uiver story by the Rotary Club of West Albury, in 1979. Rotarians, many of whom were aviation enthusiasts, embarked on an ambitious project to purchase the derelict DC-2 from Bankstown, Sydney and restore it as a memorial to the Uiver Story as a part of the club’s 75th Anniversary.
The DC-2, purchased for $4,500 from Rotary’s fundraising activities, came from Sid Marshall, and was in a poor state, having been previously dismantled. The Rotarians had actively sought to find any available DC-2 and were aware that this was the oldest surviving Douglas commercial airliner in the world and worthy of restoration to become a significant Albury Monument. Geoff Ross and Adrian Friday made the journey to retrieve the aircraft and returned with two semi-trailer loads, making an impressive sight as the large airframe made its unceremonious way down Dean Street to be housed in a shed on the causeway.
The temporary location allowed for the wings to be reattached and restoration completed over successive months. The wings then had to be disassembled again for its eventual relocation to Albury Airport. The Rotarians had arrived at a concept to display this massive aircraft on poles, as was a common trend in the ‘80’s as a way of displaying these important aircraft as prominent and permanent monuments. Many RSL clubs and rural communities have their own “plane on a pole” as a public monument in tribute to Australia’s Returned Soldiers. That the DC-2 was being used to commemorate a significant civilian event, prior to WWII, as well as being recognised for its military history, adds to its unique significance as a memorial.
The working group managed to raise this large aircraft onto three poles, located just to the east of the Airport Terminal. A memorial wall and garden were built at the base, with the Uiver story immortalised. The monument was officially dedicated on Sunday, 2nd March, 1980 by Sir Zelman Cowen the Governor General of Australia, with the Albury Mayor, Alderman John Roach. The Uiver Memorial became a distinctive landmark for all those flying into the town, an awe-inspiring “sculpture” that many tourists and locals came to identify with Albury for 20 years.