first of the "Douglas Commercial" family the DC-1 which first flew on
the 1st July 1933. The DC-1 was very advanced
for its day. Its fuselage was
streamlined, as were its wings and engine cowlings. It featured
all-metal construction and retractable landing gear. Variable-pitch
propellers gave the plane remarkable takeoff and landing
characteristics. With plush seats, a kitchen and a comfortable
restroom, the DC-1 set a new standard for passenger comfort.
efforts were made to insulate the passenger compartment from the noise
of the plane's engines. The plane's passenger seats were mounted on
rubber supports, while the cabin was lined with noise absorbing fabric.
Carpet covered the cabin floor and even the engines were mounted on
rubber insulators. The DC-1 carried 12 passengers
(two more than the Model 247) and could fly as fast as 180 mph. In
April 1935, it set a transcontinental speed record covering the
distance from Los Angles, Calif., to New York in 11 hours and five
minutes. Pleased with its new plane, TWA placed an order for 25 larger
aircraft designated the DC-2.
Before the DC-1
was delivered on September 13, 1933, an order
was received from TWA for 25 of an improved version. The
DC-2 was an instant hit, In its first six months of service, the
DC-2 established 19 American speed and distance records. In 1934, TWA
put DC-2s on overnight flights from New York to Los Angeles, Calif.
Called The Sky Chief, the flight left New York at 4 p.m. and,
after stops in Chicago, Ill., Kansas City, Mo., and Albuquerque, N.M.,
arrived in Los Angeles at 7 a.m. For the first time, the air traveler
could fly from coast to coast without losing the business day. The
DC-2 was the first Douglas airliner to enter service with an airline
outside the United States. In October 1934, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
entered one of its DC-2s in the London-to-Melbourne, Australia, air
race. It made every scheduled passenger stop on KLM's regular
9,000-mile route (1,000 miles longer than the official race route),
carried mail and even turned back once to pick up a stranded passenger.
Yet the DC-2 finished in second place behind a racing plane built
especially for the competition. After that, the DC-2's reputation was
assured, and it became the airplane of choice for many of the world's
largest airlines. In 1935, the DC-2 became the
first Douglas aircraft to receive the prestigious Collier Trophy for
outstanding achievements in flight. Between 1934 and 1937, Douglas
built 156 DC-2s at its Santa Monica, Calif., plant.
The immortal DC-3 first
flew on December 17, 1935. It was a simple, logical, evolutionary development of the DC-1 and
DC-2. New 1,000 hp Pratt & Whitney engines permitted the DC-3
carry 21 passengers 1,480 miles at 195 mph. The world’s airlines bought
455 DC-3s, and many times that number of surplus C-47s.
The DC-3 was
engineered by a team
led by chief engineer Arthur E. Raymond and first flew on December 17,
1935 (the 32nd. anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty
Hawk). The plane was the result of a marathon phone call from American
Airlines CEO C.R. Smith demanding improvements in the design of the
DC-2. The amenities of the DC-3 (including sleeping berths on early
models and an in-flight kitchen) popularized air travel in the United
States. With just one refuelling stop, transcontinental flights across
America became possible. Before the DC-3, such a trip would entail
short hops in commuter aircraft during the day coupled with train
Early American airlines like United, American, TWA, and Eastern ordered
over 400 DC-3s. These fleets paved the way for the modern American air
travel industry, quickly replacing trains as the favored means of
long-distance travel across the United States.
During World War II the armed forces of many countries used the DC-3
for the transport of troops, cargo and wounded.
10,000 aircraft were produced (some as unlicensed copies in Japan as
Showa L2D, and as licensed copies in the USSR as Lisunov Li-2 &
Li-3 Yugoslavia built Li-2 with Pratt & Whitney R-1839 engines) and
the DC-3 was vital to the success of many Allied campaigns, in
particular those in the jungles of New Guinea and Burma where the DC-3
alone made it possible for Allied troops to counter the mobility of the
light-travelling Japanese army. In Europe, the DC-3 was used in vast
numbers in the later stages of the war, particularly to tow gliders and
drop paratroops. In the Pacific, with careful use of the island landing
strips of the Pacific Ocean, DC-3s were even used for ferrying soldiers
serving in the Pacific theater back to the US.
After the war, thousands of surplus C-47s were converted to civil
service, and became the standard equipment of almost all the world's
airlines, remaining in front-line service for many years. The ready
availability of ex-military examples of this cheap, easily maintained
aircraft (it was both large and fast by the standards of the day)
jump-started the worldwide post-war air transport industry.
Numerous attempts were made to design a "DC-3 replacement" over the
next three decades (including the very successful Fokker Friendship)
but no single type could match the versatility, rugged reliability, and
economy of the DC-3, and it remained a significant part of air
transport systems well into the 1970s. Even today, almost 70 years
after the DC-3 first flew, there are still small operators with DC-3s
in revenue service. The common saying among aviation buffs and pilots
is that "The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3."
Powerplants: 2 895 kW (1200 hp)
Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp 14 cylinder twin row radial piston
engines, or 2 895 kW (1200 hp)
Wright Cyclone nine cylinder radials.
Performance: Max speed 346 km/h (187 kt), economical crusing speed 266
km/h (143 kt). Initial rate of climb 1130 ft/min.
Max range 2420 km (1307 nautical miles), range with max payload 563 km
(305 nautical miles).
Weights: empty 8030 kg (17,720 lb), max takeoff 12,700 kg (28,000 lb).
Dimensions: Wing span 28.96 m (95 ft 0 in), length 19.66m (64 ft 6 in),
height 5.16 m (16 ft 12 in). Wing area 91.7 m� (987 ft�).
Capacity: Flight crew of two. Seating for between 28 and 32 passengers
at four abreast or 21 three abreast.
Production: 455 DC-3, 10,174 C-47 built, could be as many as 6,150
built in Russia & 485 in Japan under licence. More than 400
remained in commercial service in 1998.
generation DC-3, The Basler turbo conversion
Some of the names
the DC-3 has had:
Dakota (The British called it the
Dakota, a clever acronym comprised of
the letters DACoTA for Douglas Aircraft Co. Transport Aircraft);Gooney
Bird; Super DC-3 (R4D-8); Skytrooper; Biscuit Bomber; Tabby (NATO code
name for the Showa L2D); Cab (NATO code name for Lisunov Li-2); Dumbo
(SC-47 Search-and Rescue variant); Sister Gabby/Bullshit Bomber (EC-47
dispensing propaganda-leaflets in Vietnam); Spooky/Puff the Magic
Dragon (AC-47 Gunship); Dowager Dutchess; Old Methuselah; The Placid
Plodder; Dizzy Three; Old Bucket Seats; Duck; Dak; Dakleton (South
African C-47s which replaced their Avro Shackletons), Vomit Comet
(Nickname used by US Army paratroops during the Normandy invasion.)