By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - For some guests, dinner in the DC7 Grille will bring back memories of flying in propeller planes in the 1950s and '60s.
Younger patrons will have to use their imaginations of air travel far different from today's sleek, faster jets.
Danny Perna of Epic Aviation bought the plane earlier this year and had it shipped to New Smyrna Beach Airport from South Florida. It became a star of a recent episode of A&E's TV show, "Shipping Wars."
The DC7 made it safely, after concrete saws were used to take off the wings so it could go down the highway.
Danny Perna's brother, Anthony "Skip" Perna, said last week they hope to be open early in 2013.
Skip Perna, who also is the chef, was overseeing the renovations by Odyssey Home Repair Services for a few days while his brother was in a fishing tournament.
"The menu will include as much local fresh produce as possible and seafood," said the chef, who was trained at Johnson & Wales University College of Arts in North Miami and has worked in restaurants in South Florida and locally.
Plans include a 49-seat restaurant inside the plane, with the kitchen in a building attached to the plane.
Skip Perna said "there are only a handful of restaurants that are in airplanes and not another DC7." Other airplane restaurants are outside of London and in California, he said.
"We are hoping it will be a draw for people to come to New Smyrna Beach, whether they fly in or drive," Chef Perna said.
He said they haven't had any opposition from tenants at the airport.
Airport Manager Rhonda Walker said last week that there was a positive response from the Airport Advisory Board and the city's Economic Development Board when they had a joint meeting recently.
"They feel the restaurant will bring people to New Smyrna Beach. It will be something really unique to our area," Ms. Walker said. "People can fly in and eat at the restaurant."
The plane, N381AA, was one of the last passenger DC5 ever produced. It flew 32,856.40 hours both as a passenger and cargo aircraft, and will now be converted into a family atmosphere restaurant.
The plane is 105 feet long and the wingspan is 116 feet wide,
Perna said the plane was owned by American Airlines and flew to the Caribbean, South and Central America and "hopped across the pond to Europe," in the '50s and '60s.
He said some of the pilots in the area are familiar with the type of plane but he hasn't met anyone who actually flew it.
The Perna family plans to combine their two interests, airplanes and cooking.
"Our dad went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and we lived in Europe and Miami," he said. His brother Danny also attended ERAU.
Skip Perna said he recalls his dad carrying him to the beach in Daytona Beach with his son under one arm and a surfboard under the other arm.
"I'm privileged to live in Ponce Inlet, so I still surf," he said.
Right now the plane is inside the airport's fence but it will be moved outside the fence before it opens, and the tail will be reattached.
He said the brothers have talked about having an event where locals can pull the 46,000 pound plane out to its new location with a rope.
"Once it's rolling, it can be moved with a pickup truck," he said.
He said they are also intending on having a fundraiser breakfast at the airport to show people the plane.
They've hung the wings, put the engines back on and the propellers back on the engines, and the landing gear is down.
"We can't put the tail on until it's in position," he said.
Information is available at DC7Restaurant.com or on the DC7 Grille Facebook page.