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THIS DOUGLAS DC-3 pin was the object of my recent rummaging through the desk. The search was prompted by a cameo appearance of Donald Douglas in a recent item here at SimanaitisSays. This in turn reminded me of having flown years ago in DC-3s.
The Douglas DC-3, as in Douglas Commercial series 3, owed its genesis to the DC-1, DC-2, and American Airlines’ night-sleeper service using outmoded and aging Fokker tri-motors and Curtiss Condors. The DST, Douglas Sleeper Transport, was wider than the DC-2, carried 14 sleeper berths, and first flew on December 17, 1935 (the 32nd anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight). The DC-3 replaced the DST’s berths with seating for 21 passengers and became the workhorse twin-engine air transport for three decades.
Only 607 DC-3s were sold between 1936 and the onset of World War II. On the other hand, these aircraft were sold to firms in 11 different countries; in the U.S., American Airlines and 12 other airlines bought them.
During wartime, Douglas built 10,048 C-47/C-53/Brit Dakota military versions. Another 4937 were added under license in the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1950. And 487 Japanese Mitsubishis (codename Tabby) were built between 1939 and 1945.
After WWII, surplus C-47s flooded the market, with an eventual total of 97 countries registering them. Of the 16,079 aircraft produced, it’s estimated that a few hundred are still airworthy; this, according to a 2014 article at cnn.com (which contains an interesting video).
From June 1948 to May 16, 1949, the Soviets tried to isolate the 2 1/2 million people of West Berlin divided from the rest of West Germany. The C-47, its Brit Dakota and other aircraft made history in the Berlin Airlift. Everything from coal to flour to Spam arrived in a high point of humanitarian relief.
For a good many years after WWII, DC-3s in commercial service around the world outnumbered the total of all other types of transport aircraft put together. As late as 1970, nearly 900 were still in use.
That was about the time I had my first of several flights in DC-3s, when I lived on St. Thomas in the Caribbean. I’ve forgotten details, but from contemporary photos it must have been Air Caribbean DC-3s flying routes including STT and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The DC-3 is a tail-dragger. And anyone who has ever flown in one remembers the steep climb from door to seat. I recall sort of pulling myself up the aisle by gripping seat backs in turn.
I also recall the DC-3 didn’t suffer overly much from sound insulation. In fact, the entire structure vibrated, giving rise to the line, offered reverentially, that a DC-3 was a “collection of parts flying in loose formation.”
Was? Still is. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017