Douglas DC-3


Douglas DC-3
DC-3
A DC-3 operated by Flygande Veteraner in Sweden
Role Airliner and transport aircraft
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight December 17, 1935
Introduction 1936
Status More than 400 as of 2011 in limited use
Produced 1936–1942, 1950
Number built 16,079: 10,655 (DC-3) + 4,937 (Li-2) + 487 (L2D)[1]
Developed from Douglas DC-2
Variants Douglas C-47 Skytrain
Lisunov Li-2
Basler BT-67
Conroy Turbo Three
Conroy Tri-Turbo-Three

The Douglas DC-3 is an American fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft whose speed and range revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting impact on the airline industry and World War II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made. Many DC-3s are still used in all parts of the world.

Contents

Design and development

The DC-3 was the culmination of a development effort that originated out of an inquiry from Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA) to Donald Douglas. TWA's rival in transcontinental air service, United Airlines, was inaugurating service with the Boeing 247 and Boeing refused to sell any 247s to other airlines until United's order for 60 aircraft had been filled.[2] TWA asked Douglas to design and build an aircraft that would enable TWA to compete with United. Douglas' resulting design, the 1933 DC-1, was promising, and led to the DC-2 in 1934. While the DC-2 was a success, there was still room for improvement.

The DC-3 was the result of a marathon telephone call from American Airlines CEO C. R. Smith to Donald Douglas, during which Smith persuaded a reluctant Douglas to design a sleeper aircraft based on the DC-2 to replace American's Curtiss Condor II biplanes. Douglas agreed to go ahead with development only after Smith informed him of American's intention to purchase twenty aircraft. The new aircraft was engineered by a team led by chief engineer Arthur E. Raymond over the next two years, and the prototype DST (for Douglas Sleeper Transport) first flew on December 17, 1935 (the 32nd anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina). A version with 21 passenger seats instead of the sleeping berths of the DST was also designed and given the designation DC-3. There was no prototype DC-3, the first DC-3 built followed seven DSTs off the production line and was delivered to American.[3]

A Douglas DC-3 (a former military C-47B) of Air Atlantique taking off at Hullavington airfield, England.

The amenities of the DC-3 and DST popularized air travel in the United States. With only three refueling stops, eastbound transcontinental flights crossing the U.S. in approximately 15 hours became possible. Westbound trips took 17-1/2 hours due to prevailing headwinds — still a significant improvement over the competing Boeing 247. During an earlier era, such a trip would entail short hops in slower and shorter-range aircraft during the day, coupled with train travel overnight.[4]

A variety of radial engines were available for the DC-3 throughout the course of its development. Early-production civilian aircraft used Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9s, but later aircraft (and most military versions) used the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp which offered better high-altitude and single engine performance. In 1950 three DC-3S Super DC-3s with Pratt & Whitney R-2000 Twin Wasps were built.

Production

Total production of the DC-3 was 16,079.[1] More than 400 remained in commercial service in 1998. Production was as follows:

10,655 DC-3s were built at Santa Monica, California, Long Beach, California, and Oklahoma City in both civil DC-3 (607) and military C-47 (10,048) versions.
4,937 were built under license in Russia as the Lisunov Li-2 (NATO reporting name: "Cab").
487 Mitsubishi Kinsei-engined aircraft were built by Showa and Nakajima in Japan, as the L2D2-L2D5 Type 0 transport.

Production of DC-3s ceased in 1942, military versions were produced until the end of the war in 1945. In 1949, a larger, more powerful Super DC-3 was launched to positive reviews; however, the civilian market was flooded with second-hand C-47s, many of which were converted to passenger and cargo versions of DC-3s, and only three were built and delivered the following year. The prototype Super DC-3 served the US Navy with the designation YC-129 alongside 100 C-47s that had been upgraded to the Super DC-3 specification.

Turboprop conversions

Highly modified DC-3, a BSAS C47 - 65ARTP powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-65AR engines, formerly operated by the National Test Pilot School

From the early 1950s, some DC-3s were modified to use Rolls-Royce Dart engines, as in the Conroy Turbo Three. Other conversions featured Armstrong Siddeley Mamba and Pratt & Whitney PT6A turbines.

The Basler BT-67 is a conversion of the DC-3. Basler refurbishes DC-3s at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, fitting them with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprop engines, lengthening the fuselage by 40 in (100 cm) with a fuselage plug ahead of the wing and strengthening the airframe in selected areas. The airframe is rated as having "zero accumulated fatigue damage." This and extensive modifications to various systems and avionics result in a practically brand-new aircraft. The BT-67s have been supplied to civil and military customers in several countries.[5]

Braddick Specialised Air Services International PTY Ltd (BSAS International) in South Africa is another company able to perform a Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop conversion of DC-3s. Over 50 DC3/C47 65ARTP / 67RTP / 67FTPs have been modified.[6]

Conroy Aircraft also made a three engine conversion with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 called the Conroy Tri-Turbo-Three.

Operational history

Douglas C-47B of Aigle Azur (France) in 1953, fitted with a ventral Turbomeca Palas booster jet for hot and high operations.
DC-3 on amphibious EDO floats. Sun-n-Fun 2003, Lakeland, Florida, United States
Ex-US Navy C-117D of Kenn Borek Air at Calgary Airport in 1996

American Airlines inaugurated passenger service on June 26, 1936, with simultaneous flights from Newark, N.J. and Chicago, IL.[7] Early U.S. airlines like American, United, 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.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines received its first DC-3 in 1936, it replaced earlier aircraft types on the service from Amsterdam via Batavia (now Jakarta) to Sydney, by far the longest scheduled route in the world at the time.

Piedmont Airlines operated DC-3s from 1948 to 1963. A DC-3 painted in the representative markings of Piedmont, operated by the Carolinas Aviation Museum, continues to fly to air shows today. Both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines operate "commemorative" DC-3s wearing period markings.

During World War II, many civilian DC-3s were drafted for the war effort and just over 10,000 US military versions of the DC-3 were built, under the designations C-47, C-53, R4D, and Dakota. Peak production was reached in 1944, with 4,853 being delivered. The armed forces of many countries used the DC-3 and its military variants for the transport of troops, cargo, and wounded.

Licensed copies of the DC-3 were built in Japan as Showa L2D (487 aircraft) and in the USSR as the Lisunov Li-2 (4937 aircraft)[1]

Thousands of surplus C-47s, previously operated by several air forces, were converted for civilian use after the war and became the standard equipment of almost all the world's airlines, remaining in front line service for many years. The ready availability of cheap, easily maintained ex-military C-47s, both large and fast by the standards of the day, jump-started the worldwide post-war air transport industry. While aviation in pre-war Continental Europe had used the metric system, the overwhelming dominance of C-47s and other US war-surplus types cemented the use of nautical miles, knots and feet in post-war aviation throughout the world.[citation needed]

Douglas had developed an improved version, the Super DC-3, with more engine power, greater cargo capacity, and a different wing but, with all the bargain-priced surplus aircraft available, this did not sell well in the civil aviation market. Only five were delivered, three of them to Capital Airlines. The U.S. Navy had 100 of their early R4Ds converted to Super DC-3 standard during the early 1950s as the R4D-8, later C-117D. The last U.S. Navy C-117 was retired 12 July 1976.[8] The last U.S. Marine Corps C-117, serial 50835, was retired from active service during June 1982. Several remained in service with small airlines in North and South America in 2006.[9]

A number of aircraft companies attempted to design a "DC-3 replacement" over the next three decades (including the very successful Fokker F27 Friendship), but no single type could match the versatility, rugged reliability, and economy of the DC-3. It remained a significant part of air transport systems well into the 1970s.

Douglas DC-3 today

A C-47A of Rovos Air in service in South Africa, 2006

December 17, 2010, marked the 75th anniversary of the DC-3's first flight, and there are still small operators with DC-3s in revenue service and as cargo aircraft. The common saying among aviation buffs and pilots is that "the only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3." The aircraft's legendary ruggedness is enshrined in the lighthearted description of the DC-3 as "a collection of parts flying in loose formation."[10] Its ability to take off and land on grass or dirt runways makes it popular in developing countries, where runways are not always paved.

Some of the uses of the DC-3 have included aerial spraying, freight transport, passenger service, military transport, missionary flying, and sport skydiving shuttling and sightseeing.

Perhaps unique among prewar and wartime aircraft, the DC-3 is in daily use. The very large number of civil and military operators of the DC-3, C-47, and related types means that a listing of all the airlines, air forces and other current operators is impractical.

Indigo Aviation DC-3 before takeoff at Pemba Airport (Tanzania), August 2009

The oldest surviving DC-3 is N133D, the sixth Douglas Sleeper Transport built in 1936. This aircraft was delivered to American Airlines on 12 July 1936 as NC16005. The aircraft was at Griffin-Spaulding County Airport, Griffin, Georgia as of November 2010, where it was being prepared for a ferry flight to Charlotte County Airport, Punta Gorda, Florida. The aircraft will be restored back to Douglas Sleeper Transport standards, and full airworthiness.[11]

The oldest DC-3 still flying is the original American Airlines Flagship Detroit (c/n 1920, #43 off the Santa Monica production line),[12] which can be seen at airshows around the United States and is owned and operated by the nonprofit Flagship Detroit Foundation.[13]

Operators

Variants

Fujairah Airlines DC-3 in the late 1960s
DST
Douglas Sleeper Transport, the initial variant, 24 passengers during day and fitted out with 16 sleeper accommodation in the cabin for night.[14]
DC-3
variant of DST with 21 passenger seats.
DC-3A
Improved DC-3 with two 1,200 hp (895 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-21 radial piston engines.
DC-3B
Improved DC-3 with two Pratt & Whitney R-1820 Cyclone engines.
DC-3C
Designation for ex-military C-47, C-53 and R4D aircraft sold on the civil market.[15]
DC-3S
Super DC-3, improved DC-3 with a new wing, tail, and powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engines.
DC-3/2000
DC-3 engine conversion done by Airtech Canada, first offered in 1987. Powered by two PZL ASz-62IT radials.[16]
Basler BT-67
DC-3 conversion with a stretched fuselage, strengthened structure, modern avionics, and powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6A-67R turboprops.
Conroy Tri-Turbo-Three at Farnborough Airshow in 1978.
Conroy Turbo Three
One DC-3 converted by Conroy Aircraft with two Rolls-Royce Dart Mk. 510 turboprop engines.
Conroy Super-Turbo-Three
Same as the Turbo Three but converted from a Super DC-3. One converted.
Conroy Tri-Turbo-Three
One DC-3 converted by Conroy Aircraft with three Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6A turboprops.
USAC DC-3 Turbo Express
A turboprop conversion by the United States Aircraft Corporation, fitting Pratt & Whitney PT-6A-45R turboprop engines with an extended forward fuselage to maintain center of gravity. First flight of the prototype conversion, (N300TX), was on July 29, 1982.[17]
LXD1
A single DC-3 supplied for evaluation by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.
Douglas/Showa L2D
487 License built DC-3s for the IJNAS.
C-41A
A single DC-3A (40-070) modified as a VIP transport, powered by two 1,200 hp (895 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-21 radial piston engines, used to fly the Secretary of War.[18] (The Douglas C-41 was not a DC-3 derivative but a modification of a Douglas C-33.)
Douglas C-47
Production military DC-3A variant.
C-48
One former United Air Lines DC-3A impressed.
C-48A
Three impressed DC-3As with 18-seat interiors.
C-48B
Sixteen impressed former United Air Lines DST-As with 16-berth interior used as air ambulances.
C-48C
Sixteen impressed DC-3As with 21-seat interiors.
C-49
Various DC-3 and DST models, 138 impressed into service as C-49, C-49A, C-49B, C-49C, C-49D, C-49E, C-49F, C-49G, C-49H, C-49J, and C-49K.
C-50
Various DC-3 models, 14 impressed as C-50, C-50A, C-50B, C-50C and C-50D.
C-51
One aircraft ordered by Canadian Colonial Airlines impressed into service, had starboard-side door.
C-52
DC-3A aircraft with R-1830 engines, five impressed as C-52, C-52A, C-52B, C-52C and C-52D.
C-68
Two DC-3As impressed with 21-seat interiors.
C-84
1 impressed DC-3B aircraft.
R4D-2
Two Eastern Air Lines DC-3s impressed into USN service as VIP transports, later designated R4D-2F and later R4D-2Z.
R4D-4
Ten impressed DC-3s
R4D-4R
Seven impressed DC-3s as staff transports.
R4D-4Q
Radar countermeasures version of R4D-4.
R4D-8
Several R4Ds converted to Super DC-3 standard.
Lisunov Li-2
4,937 DC-3 derivatives license-built in the USSR
Dakota II
RAF designation for impressed DC-3s

Accidents and incidents

Specifications (DC-3)

Douglas DC-3
Cockpit of DC-3 operated by FAA to verify operation of navaids (VORs and NDBs) along federal airways

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Capacity: 21-32 passengers
  • Length: 64 ft 5 in (19.7 m)
  • Wingspan: 95 ft 0 in (29.0 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 11 in (5.16 m)
  • Wing area: 987 ft² (91.7 m²)
  • Empty weight: 18,300 lb (8,300 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 25,200 lb (25,346 with deicing boots, 26,900 in some freight versions) (11,400 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9 series (earliest aircraft) or Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1C3G in the C-47 and later civilian aircraft, 1,100 or 1,200 hp max rating, depending upon engine and model (895 kW) each
  • Propellers: 3-bladed Hamilton Standard 23E50 series hydraulically controlled constant speed, feathering

Performance

Notable appearances in media

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists

References

Notes
  1. ^ a b c Gradidge 2006, p. 20.
  2. ^ O'Leary 1992, p. 7.
  3. ^ Pearcy 1987, p. 17.
  4. ^ O'Leary 2006, p. 54.
  5. ^ "Basler BT-67." www.baslerturbo.com, Basler Turbo Conversions, LLC, 2008. Retrieved: March 7, 2009.
  6. ^ "BSAS International." www.bsasinternational.com. Retrieved: October 11, 2011.
  7. ^ Holden, Henry. "DC-3 History." dc3history.org. Retrieved: October 7, 2010.
  8. ^ "The Seventies 1970–1980: C-117, p. 316." history.navy.mil. Retrieved: August 10, 2010.
  9. ^ Gradidge 2006, pp. 634–637.
  10. ^ Williams, Michael. "How health and safety rules have grounded the Dakota, the war workhorse." Daily Mail, February 25, 2008. Retrieved: March 7, 2009.
  11. ^ McSwiggen, Bob. "World's Oldest DC-3." douglasdc3.com, 2011. Retrieved: 9 August 2011.
  12. ^ Pearcy 1985
  13. ^ "DC-3." Flagship Detroit Foundation. Retrieved: October 7, 2010.
  14. ^ "Sleeping Car of the Air Has Sixteen Sleeping Berths." Popular Mechanics, January 1936.
  15. ^ "Aircraft Specifications NO. A-669." FAA. Retrieved: October 20, 2011.
  16. ^ "AirTech Company Profile." ic.gc.ca. Retrieved: November 22, 2009.
  17. ^ Taylor 1983
  18. ^ "Douglas C-41A." aero-web.org. Retrieved: August 10, 2010.
Bibliography
  • Francillon, René. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-87021-428-4.
  • Gradidge, Jennifer M. The Douglas DC-1/DC-2/DC-3: The First Seventy Years Volumes One and Two. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 2006. ISBN 0-85130-332-3.
  • O'Leary, Michael. DC-3 and C-47 Gooney Birds. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1992. ISBN 0-87938-543-X.
  • O'Leary, Michael. "When Fords Ruled the Sky (Part Two)." Air Classics, Volume 42, No. 5, May 2006.
  • Pearcy, Arthur. Douglas DC-3 Survivors, Volume 1. Bourne End, Bucks, UK: Aston Publications, 1987. ISBN 0-946627-13-4.
  • Pearcy, Arthur. Douglas Propliners: DC-1–DC-7. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1995. ISBN 1-85310-261-X.
  • Taylor, John W. R. Jane's All the World's Aircraft, 1982-83. London: Jane's Publishing Company, 1983. ISBN 0-71060-748-2.
  • Yenne, Bill. McDonnell Douglas: A Tale of Two Giants. Greenwich, Connecticut: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-517-44287-6.

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