PAUL VAN DEN HURK visits Sedes in northern Greece to provide an insight of this little known location that is home to an impressive collection of Dakotas and historic aircraft.
Just five kilometres from Thessaloniki International Airport is the Hellenic Air Base of Sedes, a veritable Dakota paradise. Sedes is home to the largest collection of C-47s in Europe, an Air Force museum and a Greek Army Helicopter servicing unit.
For Dakota lovers Sedes presents a mixture of emotions. While it's a delight to see three airworthy C-47s, it is sad to tour the Dakota dump where another six languish in various states of disrepair.
The host unit at Sedes is 355/1 Sminos Taktikon Metaforon (Tactical Transport Squadron) and, quite appropriately for a C-47 squadron, it is named 'Atlas' in honour of the Greek Titan who 'carried the sky on his shoulders'. A large number of RAF Dakotas were supplied to Greece under the MDAP agreement between 1947 and 1950, and of the 80+ C-47s operated by the Hellenic Air Force at one time or another, less than half still survive in Greece - of these ten Dakotas can be found at Sedes, although only three are currently airworthy.
A task that has been allocated to the C-47 is target towing. Operating on behalf of the Greek Army when ground-to-air training is required and the Hellenic Navy for sea-to-air target training, this role has been taken on by 355/1STM following the retirement of the T-33 squadron that was based at Mikra. The aircraft allocated to the task is KK156 which will operate in the target-towing configuration until it is retired from service.
Two aircraft, KN575 and KP255, are allocated for survey and photographic work. C-47 KN575 was configured as a VIP transport and was exclusive used by the commander of the Hellenic Diokisi Taktiki Aeroporiki Dynamis (Tactical Air Force) based at Larissa Air Base in central Greece. Today, it has lost its white VIP colours and wears a standard camouflage colour scheme since the ERJ-145 replaced it from its VIP role.
If the DC-3 is your first love, then a visit to Sedes really does take your breath away. With KN575 just out of rework, the 355/1STM 'Atlas' can celebrate the Dakota's 55th anniversary in Greek service in style.