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5 things to know about the world’s oldest plane to circle the globe

As part of a 55-city world tour, the Breitling DC-3 recently arrived in Singapore, bearing plenty of history – and some very special cargo.

Recently, The Peak had the chance to make aviation history with Breitling: In April, the watch brand’s DC-3 plane arrived in Singapore as part of a 55-city world tour, and we got to hop on the 77-year-old propeller plane for a half-hour flight to Malaysia and back. When it completes its six-month journey, this aircraft will be the oldest airplane to circumnavigate the globe. Unsurprisingly, Breitling will also release a limited-edition watch to accompany this feat. Here are five things to know about this aircraft:

01: Love flying across the world for your vacations? Thank the DC-3.

It’s no exaggeration to say that in aviation circles, the DC-3 is considered an icon that changed the face of air travel. Created in 1935 by American aviation firm the Douglas Aircraft Company, the DC-3 was the airliner (or passenger aircraft) that set the foundation for American commercial aircraft to surpass trains as the preferred mode of cross-country transport. The Breitling DC-3 was among the first models made for civilian purposes, although it was also used by Allied forces to transport troops in the Second World War.

An archival image of the Breitling DC-3.

02: It’s very high-maintenance.

During the pre-flight presentation, Captain Francisco Agullo shared that the Breitling DC-3 requires 100 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight time. Inititally, we thought that we had misheard and that it must be the other way round, but nope. That said, considering that it’s been taking to the skies since 1940 and most of its surviving brethren are in museums rather than making trips around the world, we think it’s absolutely worth the effort.

The Breitling DC-3 was given a water cannon salute when it arrived in Singapore on April 3, 2017, making it the first aircraft to be given this honour at Seletar Airport.

03: This DC-3 was bought by Breitling in 2008.

At our time of flight, the Breitling DC-3 had chalked up some 74,500 flight hours – impressive considering that some modern commercial jets are retired after clocking 60,000 flight hours. Good thing, then, that the aircraft has undergone two major overhauls: Its most recent restoration was carried out in 2008, following its purchase by Breitling. Prior to this, it was restored under its previous private owner, an American individual (also the owner of a regional airline) who purchased it after it was officially retired from active commercial service in 1988.

Breitling DC-3 co-pilot Paul Bazeley (left) and pilot Francisco Gullo (right).

04: On this world tour, its passenger capacity has been halved – for good reason.

When it’s not making record-breaking round-the-world trips, the Breitling DC-3 can carry 30 passengers. However, because the plane was built as a short-range aircraft, half the seats have been removed to allow the plane to carry important cargo such as fuel.

05: Fuel is not its only precious cargo.

Packed along with its supplies are 500 very special Breitling Navitimer watches. They will fly around the world onboard the DC-3 during its record-breaking flight – which began in Geneva on 9 March this year – and be available to buyers when the plane completes its world tour in the fall of 2017. Each of these 46-mm steel aviation chronograph timepieces will feature a caseback engraved with the Breitling DC-3 World Tour logo. Each watch will cost S$12,980.

Navitimer Breitling DC-3 Limited Edition.