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A Family’s Original Western Douglas DC-3: ‘The Only Way to Fly’

By Megan Esau

July 20, 2015 - While EAA is known for its association with small, experimental aircraft, it is always a treat to see large aircraft up close. What is even more exciting for Mary Linda Kimbrel of Oakville, Washington is that she owns a large aircraft—a Douglas DC-3.

Her husband, Mike, used to be a pilot for Western Airlines flying DC-3s, and 25 years ago the couple traded one of their old personal aircraft with a museum to acquire the original Western DC-3 they fly for recreation today.

Mike’s sister repainted the airplane with “Western” on the fuselage, and she hopes to have the bird holding champagne from the company’s 1979 commercial painted on the tail.

Mary Linda said she and Mike, who have 15 children and 38 grandchildren, have been coming to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh forever.

“We started out in a school bus,” she said. “Then we had the motor home, and then he drove a pickup and we brought airplanes in several times, and I’ve been here in the (Cessna) 310 twice, and (the DC-3) has been here nine years.”

It was through Mike that Mary Linda became involved in aviation. She said she met him after he first soloed, and she wondered at the time why he wouldn’t take her up, realizing later that he had to get more hours under his belt.

Mary Linda said while her house may be “falling apart,” she and Mike take good care of their planes on their family’s farm.

“We have 115 acres and a 1,900-foot grass strip, and this lives in a hangar,” she said. “The airplanes all have hangars.”

Mary Linda’s plans for AirVenture 2015 are to recline underneath the wing of her DC-3, nicknamed Mary Linda II, and just watch the excitement on the runway and enjoy the company of friends.

“It’s wonderful, the people you meet,” Mary Linda said. “And you don’t lose contact with them like you would other people. It’s just neat people you meet here.”

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