MISSOULA – Miss Montana completed her mission by successfully flying to Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
The plane participated in both the paratrooper drop over Sannerville, France and the presidential flyover.
The Miss Montana crew found out June 3 that they were one of 14 Dakotas selected to participate in the presidential flyover.
"It's a great honor, and to have all the heads of state and the tens of thousands of people watching, it's great for us, and I think great for the state of Montana to have Miss Montana splashed all over the world,” said Perry Francis, a volunteer who worked on the historic war plane.
It took dedicated volunteers, mechanics, donors, and skilled pilots to achieve the goal of getting Miss Montana airborne and ready to cross the Atlantic.
Miss Montana was built in 1944, although the war ended before the plane was deployed, and it was repurposed as a firefighting plane.
Miss Montana was the airplane that transported the smoke jumpers to the infamous Mann Gulch Fire in 1949, where several firefighters died.
Eventually, the plane was acquired by the Museum of Mountain Flying said the Miss Montana to Normandy Facebook page.
Since it didn’t make it to World War II, Francis said the goal was to have the plane participate in the anniversary of D-Day to honor and represent over 57,000 Montanans who served during the war.
"Immensely satisfying and I think 'pride' would be a good adjective to use," Francis said. "Everybody was just really pleased to see it take off successfully."
What's next? Miss Montana will fly home to Missoula, and from there participate in air shows around the country. If all goes to plan, the plane will appear at a 70th anniversary commemoration of the deadly Mann Gulch fire.