On this day, 87 years ago, the Douglas DC-1 first took to the skies. This would mark the beginning of an era — one that would change the aviation industry forever.
History of the DC-1
On August 2nd, 1932, Donald Douglas got a letter. Years later, he called this letter “The birth certificate of all the DC ships.” This letter was signed by Jack Frye, and it asked for an all-metal, tri-motored monoplane, able to carry 12 passengers. It was a gamble, since at the time, Douglas was building military aircraft, not airliners. His was when the original idea for the DC-1 was born.
Now, fast forwarding to July 1st, 1933. Everyone involved with the DC-1 program was both nervous, and exited. Carl Cover and Fred Herman boarded the DC-1. With a clear sky and a shining sun, the engines sputtered to life and they taxied the mighty aircraft to the runway. With a cloud of over 800 people, at exactly 12:36 (local time), on July 1st, 1933, the DC-1 became airborne for the first time. The engines quit at about 1,000 feet, so Cover and Herman had to land the plane. The flight was only 12 minutes, but those 12 minutes would change aviation forever.
DC-1 taking off from Clover Field. Credit.
What did this mean for aviation?
There may have only been one DC-1 built, it sparked change in the aviation industry. From then on, aircraft manufacturers moved to all-metal aircraft design for good, leaving behind wood and fabric manufacturing methods. And airlines began shifting from operating tri-motored aircraft to twin-engine aircraft, which would become the norm for decades.
The DC-1 revolutionized Douglas, as it was the base for its successor, the DC-2. The DC-2 served with airlines for decades. And when the DC-2 was developed into the DC-3, a perfect aircraft was created, and the DC-3 still serves today. None of this would have been possible without the DC-1.
The DC-1 being handed over to TWA. Credit.
What happened to the DC-1?
The DC-1 flew throughout the 1930’s with multiple operators. It eventually ended up in Spain and served in the Spanish Civil War, where it survived undamaged. But eventually, all great things have to end. It was a typical day in 1940, but upon takeoff an engine failed. The pilot, who possibly didn’t know that the aircraft could fly on one engine (not trying to make assumptions), and lowered the gear. When it was all over, the aircraft lay crippled on the ground, but the passengers and pilot escaped. The useful parts were salvaged, but the frame was left to rot.
Last photo of the DC-1. Credit.
It was really fun to learn so much about such a revolutionary aircraft, and I hope you learned a little something as well. Have a great day, IFC!