Days ago I was sharing the cockpit with a pilot that flew it; I can’t deny that I felt a bit of envy for him. I guess we all feel admiration for this airplane, so many years and still flying, no matter which place in the world, airport, air show or what other birds are parked beside her, she always captures the attention.
I’m talking about a flying legend of all times: The Douglas DC-3, the most successful aircraft’s design in story.
It made its first flight on the 32th anniversary of Wilbur and Orville Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It appeared on the world of aviation almost unnoticed, not even a photographer was there to document the event. It was December 17th, 1935; she was born under the name of Douglas Sleeping Transport or DST; later known as DC-3. The first DST / DC-3 were first used for American Airlines in replacement of its Curtiss Condor and had a configuration of fourteen passengers in a luxury cabin with folding berths.
More than 16.000 DC-3 in both, civil and military versions were built between 1935 and 1946 in the USA and under licensing agreements in Holland, Japan and Russia. The first military version of the DC-3 was the C-41, used by the Army Corps as VIP transport. The famous C-47 known also as the Skytrain, Skytrooper, Dakota, Doug, etc., was a DC-3 in cargo configuration, modified with a large double cargo door, floor with tie down fittings, folding bench type seating along the sides, a navigational astrodome aft of the flight compartment and a stronger landing gear. During WW II, the C-47 operated in all battle zones performing numerous roles, transport of personnel, cargo, logistics, medical evacuations, etc.
There are still today small operators with DC-3s in revenue service and as cargo aircraft, also some armed forces. The common saying among aviation buffs and pilots is that “the only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3”. 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.
Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920
- Crew: 2
- Capacity: 21–32 passengers
- Length: 64 ft 8 in (19.7 m)
- Wingspan: 95 ft 2 in (29.0 m)
- Height: 16 ft 11 in (5.16 m)
- Wing area: 987 sq ft (91.7 m2)
- Empty weight: 16,865 lb (7,650 kg)
- Gross weight: 25,199 lb (11,430 kg)
- Fuel capacity: 822 gal. (3736 l)
- Powerplant: 2 × Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9-cyl. air-cooled radial piston engine, 1,100 hp (820 kW) each
- Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S1C3G Twin Wasp 14-cyl. air-cooled two row radial piston engine, 1,200 hp (890 kW) each
- Propellers: 3-bladed Hamilton Standard 23E50 series, 11.5 ft (3.5 m) diameter
- Maximum speed: 200 kn; 370 km/h (230 mph) at 8,500 ft (2,590 m)
- Cruise speed: 180 kn; 333 km/h (207 mph)
- Stall speed: 58.2 kn (67 mph; 108 km/h)
- Service ceiling: 23,200 ft (7,100 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,130 ft/min (5.7 m/s)
- Wing loading: 25.5 lb/sq ft (125 kg/m²)
- Power/mass: 0.0952 hp/lb (156.5 W/kg)
From the early 1950’s some DC-3 were modified with several types of turboprop engines, some improvements included and stretched fuselage.
The oldest DC-3 still flying is the original American Airlines Flagship Detroit s/n 1920, #43.
78 years later, the DC-3 gets even better, like the wine….