Airplane used in D-Day invasion headed for Normandy 75 years later

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BRIGHTON, Colo. -- The mission starts bright and early Wednesday morning.

Colorado pilot Brandon Jewett will leave his Brighton airstrip, embarking on his most ambitious adventure yet: a 5,000 mile trek to Europe in a vintage airplane that played an important role in history. His old DC-3 (or C-47, as the military called it) ferried paratroopers across the English Channel on June 6, 1944, to take part in the Normandy invasion.

Now, the old plane is about to invade Normandy again.

"Yeah, it's going to be incredible. I can't wait," Jewett told FOX31.

"I bought the airplane with the idea of taking it on this D-Day trip a year ago," he said.

Jewett bought the plane from a man in Missouri and has spent countless hours and dollars over the last year fixing it up.

"The airplane hasn't flown in 10 years. It had been sitting in storage, bird poop all over it, dust, it was really in poor shape," he said.

However, it is airworthy. So, alongside two additional pilots and a fourth crew member, he's departing on his epic plane on an epic trip to honor the epic men and women who built it 76 years ago.

"What about the men who spent hours designing these aircraft, and the women?  Don't forget the women who spent hours building these aircraft because all the men were at war. I mean, it's an incredible feat that's beyond measure and to ignore it and let it be forgotten is a crime," Jewett said.

It's also a chance to honor those who parachuted out of the plane, under darkness of night, under heavy fire.  They jumped into France in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, to help turn the tide of the war.

Jewett, who's a commercial pilot for Denver-based Frontier Airlines, added some new technology to the old plane, like a radar and GPS system, an emergency locator beacon and rafts, just in case something goes wrong. And it could.

"It's as ready as I think it can be. Now, what that means is, everything that we knew was wrong has been fixed. Everything that goes wrong, we didn't know about. And that's going to happen," Jewett joked.

We first told you about Jewett back in December, when he was trying to find some of this plane's original crew members to take to Normandy with him. But after months of research, he realized they've all died. Yet their spirit still shines like the polished aluminum that adorns their old plane.  A plane that has taken part in history -- not once, but twice.

His plane will be part of a squadron of DC-3/C-47 Skytrains taking part in the mission. At least 14 of the airplanes are making the trip as part of the D-Day 75th Anniversary Squadron, and they'll fly over the English Channel to commemorate D-Day.

It will be the largest assembly of the aircraft and paratroopers since June 6, 1944.

"We keep joking that this is no trip. This is no vacation. This is an adventure," Jewett said.

"Normandy or bust, as they say. Hopefully no bust," he joked.

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