Planes of the Past - Douglas Aircraft Company and McDonnell Douglas - Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of Planes of the Past - Douglas Aircraft Company and McDonnell Douglas and in this part we will talk about


The Douglas DC-3 is a fixed-wing propeller-driven airliner. Its cruise speed (207 mph or 333 km/h) and range (1,500 mi or 2,400 km) revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting effect on the airline industry and World War II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made.

The DC-3 was a twin-engine metal monoplane, developed as a larger, improved 14-bed sleeper version of the Douglas DC-2. It had many exceptional qualities compared to previous aircraft. It was fast, had a good range and could operate from short runways. Its construction was all-metal. It was reliable and easy to maintain and carried passengers in greater comfort. Before the war it pioneered many air travel routes. It was able to cross the continental United States, making transcontinental flights and worldwide flights possible, and is considered the first airliner that could make money by carrying passengers alone.

Civil DC-3 production ended in 1942 with 607 aircraft being produced. However, together with its military derivative, the C-47 Skytrain (designated the Dakota in RAF Service), and with Russian- and Japanese-built versions, over 16,000 were built. Following the Second World War, the airliner market was flooded with surplus C-47s and other transport aircraft, and attempts to produce an upgraded super DC-3 were a failure.

While the DC-3 was soon made redundant on main routes by more advanced types such as the Douglas DC-6 and Lockheed Constellation, the design continued to prove exceptionally adaptable and useful. Large numbers continue to see service in a wide variety of niche roles well into the 21st century. In 2013 it was estimated that approximately 2,000 DC-3s and military derivatives were still flying, a testament to the durability of the design.

“DC” stands for “Douglas Commercial”. The DC-3 was the culmination of a development effort that began after an inquiry from Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA) to Donald Douglas. TWA’s rival in transcontinental air service, United Airlines, was starting 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.TWA asked Douglas to design and build an aircraft that would allow TWA to compete with United. Douglas’ design, the 1933 DC-1, was promising, and led to the DC-2 in 1934. The DC-2 was a success, but there was room for improvement.The DC-3 resulted from a marathon telephone call from American Airlines CEO C. R. Smith to Donald Douglas, when Smith persuaded a reluctant Douglas to design a sleeper aircraft based on the DC-2 to replace American’s Curtiss Condor II biplanes. (The DC-2’s cabin was 66 inches (1.7 m) wide, too narrow for side-by-side berths.) 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 (Douglas Sleeper Transport) first flew on December 17, 1935 (the 32nd anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk). Its cabin was 92 in (2.3 m) wide, and a version with 21 seats instead of the 14–16 sleeping berths of the DST was 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 Airlines.The DC-3 and DST popularized air travel in the United States. Eastbound transcontinental flights could cross the U.S. in about 15 hours with three refueling stops; westbound trips against the wind took 17 1⁄2 hours. A few years earlier such a trip entailed short hops in slower and shorter-range aircraft during the day, coupled with train travel overnight.A variety of radial engines were available for the DC-3. 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 gave better high-altitude and single-engine performance. Five DC-3S Super DC-3s with Pratt & Whitney R-2000 Twin Wasps were built in the late 1940s, three of which entered airline service.


Total production of all variants was 16,079.More than 400 remained in commercial service in 1998. Production was as follows:

607 civil variants of the DC-3;
10,048 military C-47 and C-53 derivatives were built at Santa Monica, California, Long Beach, California, and Oklahoma City;
4,937 were built under license in the Soviet Union (1939–1950) as the Lisunov Li-2 (NATO reporting name: Cab);
487 Mitsubishi Kinsei-engined aircraft were built by Showa and Nakajima in Japan (1939–1945), as the L2D Type 0 transport (Allied codename Tabby).
Production of DSTs ended in mid-1941 and civil DC-3 production ended in early 1943, although dozens of DSTs and DC-3s ordered by airlines that were produced between 1941 and 1943 were impressed into the US military while still on the production line.Military versions were produced until the end of the war in 1945. A larger, more powerful Super DC-3 was launched in 1949 to positive reviews.The civilian market, however, was flooded with second-hand C-47s, many of which were converted to passenger and cargo versions. Only five Super DC-3s were built, and three of them were delivered for commercial use. The prototype Super DC-3 served the U.S. Navy with the designation YC-129 alongside 100 R4Ds that had been upgraded to the Super DC-3 specification.

Turboprop Conversions

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 Greenwich Aircraft Corp DC-3-TP is a conversion with an extended fuselage and with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65AR or PT6A-67R engines fitted.

The Basler BT-67 is a conversion of the DC-3/C-47. Basler refurbishes C-47s and 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.

BSAS International in South Africa is another company able to perform a Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop conversion of DC-3s. Over 50 DC-3/C-47s / 65ARTP / 67RTP / 67FTPs have been modified.

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

Operational History

American Airlines inaugurated passenger service on June 26, 1936, with simultaneous flights from Newark, New Jersey and Chicago, Illinois.Early U.S. airlines like American, United, TWA, Delta and Eastern ordered over 400 DC-3s. These fleets paved the way for the modern American air travel industry, which eventually replaced trains as the favored means of long-distance travel across the United States. A nonprofit group, Flagship Detroit Foundation, continues to operate the only original American Airlines Flagship DC-3 with air show and airport visits throughout the U.S.

In 1936, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines received its first DC-3 (in 1943 it was downed by Luftwaffe fighters while on a scheduled passenger flight), which replaced the DC-2 in service from Amsterdam via Batavia (now Jakarta) to Sydney, by far the world’s longest scheduled route at the time. In total KLM bought 23 DC-3s before the war broke out in Europe.In 1941, a China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) DC-3 pressed into wartime transportation service was bombed on the ground at Suifu airfield in China, completely destroying the right wing. The only spare wing available was that of a smaller Douglas DC-2 being overhauled in CNAC’s workshops. The DC-2’s right wing was taken off, flown to Suifu under the belly of another CNAC DC-3, and grafted to the damaged aircraft. After a single test flight, in which it was discovered that it pulled to the right due to the difference in wing sizes, the so-called DC-2½ was returned to service.

Cubana de Aviación became the first Latin American airline to offer a scheduled service to Miami when it started its first scheduled international service from Havana to Miami in 1945 with a DC-3. Cubana used DC-3s on some domestic routes well into the 1960s.

Piedmont Airlines operated DC-3s and C-47s from 1948 to 1963. A DC-3 painted in the representative markings of Piedmont, operated by the Carolinas Aviation Museum, was retired from flight in March 2011. Both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines once operated 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 U.S. 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 the Showa L2D (487 aircraft); and in the Soviet Union as the Lisunov Li-2 (4,937 aircraft).

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 frontline 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, jumpstarted the worldwide postwar air transport industry. While aviation in prewar Continental Europe had used the metric system, the overwhelming dominance of C-47s and other U.S. war-surplus types cemented the use of nautical miles, knots and feet in postwar aviation throughout the world.

Douglas 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, they 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 its 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 July 12, 1976.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.

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.

DC-3 Today

Perhaps unique among prewar aircraft, the DC-3 is in daily use. There are still small operators with DC-3s in revenue service and as cargo aircraft. The common saying among aviation enthusiasts 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”. Its ability to use grass or dirt runways makes it popular in developing countries, where runways are not always paved.

Current uses of the DC-3 include aerial spraying, freight transport, passenger service, military transport, missionary flying, skydiver shuttling and sightseeing.

The very large number of civil and military operators of the DC-3/C-47s and related types makes a listing of all the airlines, air forces and other current operators impractical. As of 2012, DC-3 #10 is still used daily for flights in Colombia. Buffalo Airways, based in Canada’s Northwest Territories, operated a scheduled DC-3 passenger service between its main base in Yellowknife and Hay River however this is currently suspended.They continue to offer some passenger charter operations using DC-3s. Some DC-3s are also used by the airline for cargo operations.

The oldest surviving DST is N133D, the sixth Douglas Sleeper Transport built in 1936. This aircraft was delivered to American Airlines on July 12, 1936 as NC16005. As of 2011 the aircraft was at Shell Creek Airport (F13), Punta Gorda, Florida, where it was undergoing restoration. The aircraft was to be restored to Douglas Sleeper Transport standards, and full airworthiness.

The oldest DC-3 still flying is the original American Airlines Flagship Detroit (c/n 1920, the 34th aircraft off the Santa Monica production line and delivered on March 2, 1937),which can be seen at airshows around the United States and is owned and operated by the nonprofit Flagship Detroit Foundation.

The base price of a new DC-3 in 1936 was around $60–80,000, and by 1960, used examples were available for $75,000.

A 1943 DC-3 was installed as a major design element atop architectural renovations at The Roasterie in Kansas City, Missouri.


Douglas Sleeper Transport, the initial variant, 24 passengers during day and fitted out with 16 sleeper accommodation in the cabin for night.
Main prewar production variant fitted with 21 passenger seats.
Improved DC-3 with two 1,200 hp (894.84 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-21 radial piston engines.
Improved DC-3 with two 1,100 hp (820.27 kW) Wright R-1820-G101 Cyclone or two 1,200 hp (894.84 kW) Wright R-1820-G202A Cyclone engines.
Designation for ex-military C-47, C-53 and R4D aircraft rebuilt by Douglas Aircraft in 1946 and sold on the civil market.
Designation for 28 additional new aircraft built by Douglas in 1946 for civil airline operation using components from uncompleted USAAF C-117s.
Super DC-3, improved DC-3 with a new wing, tail, and powered by two 1,450 hp (1,081.26 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2000-D7 or 1,475 hp (1,099.91 kW) Wright R-1820-C9HE Cyclone engines. The five examples were converted by Douglas between 1949 and 1950 from existing DC-3 and R4D airframes.
Lisunov PS-84
Production of a 14-28 seat passenger airliner version in the USSR powered by two 900 hp (671.13 kW) Shvetsov M-62 / 1,000 hp (745.70 kW) Shvetsov ASh-62 engines. With a somewhat smaller span and higher empty weight, it was also equipped with lower-powered engines compared to the DC-3 and the cargo door was transposed to the right side of the fuselage.
Civil models used by Military
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.(The Douglas C-41 was not a DC-3 derivative but a modification of a Douglas C-33).
One former United Air Lines DC-3A impressed.
Three impressed DC-3As with 18-seat interiors.
Sixteen impressed former United Air Lines DST-As with 16-berth interior used as air ambulances.
Sixteen impressed DC-3As with 21-seat interiors.
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.
Various DC-3 models, 14 impressed as C-50, C-50A, C-50B, C-50C and C-50D.
One aircraft ordered by Canadian Colonial Airlines impressed into service, had starboard-side door.
DC-3A aircraft with R-1830 engines, five impressed as C-52, C-52A, C-52B, C-52C and C-52D.
Two DC-3As impressed with 21-seat interiors.
1 impressed DC-3B aircraft.
Two Eastern Air Lines DC-3s impressed into USN service as VIP transports, later designated R4D-2F and later R4D-2Z.
Ten impressed DC-3s
Seven impressed DC-3s as staff transports.
Radar countermeasures version of R4D-4.
Dakota II
RAF designation for impressed DC-3s
C-47 Skytrain
Initial military version of the DC-3A with seats for 27 troops, 965 built including 12 to the United States Navy as R4D-1.
C-47 with a 24-volt electrical system, 5,254 built including USN aircraft designated R4D-5.
C-47A equipped for photographic reconnaissance and ELINT missions.
C-47A equipped for Search Air Rescue; re-designated HC-47A in 1962.
C-47A equipped for VIP transport role.
Powered by R-1830-90 engines with superchargers and extra fuel capacity to cover the China-Burma-India routes, 3,364 built.
C-47B equipped for VIP transport role.
C-47 tested with Edo Model 78 floats for possible use as a seaplane.
C-47B with superchargers removed after the war.
Gunship aircraft with three side-firing .30 in (7.62 mm) Minigun machine guns.
C-47D with equipment for the Airborne Early Warning role; prior to 1962 was designated AC-47D.
C-47D modified for test roles.
C-47D equipped for photographic reconnaissance and ELINT missions.
C-47D equipped for Search Air Rescue; re-designated HC-47D in 1962.
C-47D equipped for VIP transport role.
Modified cargo variant with space for 27–28 passengers or 18–24 litters.
YC-129 re-designated, Super DC-3 prototype for evaluation by USAF later passed to USN as XR4D-8.
C-47H/Js equipped for the support of American Legation United States Naval Attache (ALUSNA) and Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) missions.
C-47A and D aircraft modified for ELINT/ARDF mission. N and P differ in radio bands covered, while Q replaces analog equipment found on the N and P with a digital suite, redesigned antenna equipment and uprated engines.
One C-47M modified for high altitude work, specifically for missions in Ecuador.
C-53 Skytrooper
Troop transport version of the C-47.
XC-53A Skytrooper
One aircraft with full-span slotted flaps and hot-air leading edge de-icing.
C-53B Skytrooper
Winterised version of C-53 with extra fuel capacity and separate navigator’s station, eight built.
C-53C Skytrooper
C-53 with larger port-side door, 17 built.
C-53D Skytrooper
C-53C with 24V DC electrical system, 159 built.
C-117A Skytrooper
C-47B with 24-seat airline-type interior for staff transport use, 16 built.
Three re-designated C-117s used in the VIP role.
One C-117C converted for air-sea rescue.
High-altitude superchargers removed, one built and conversions from C-117As all later VC-117B.
USN/USMC R4D-8 re-designated.
USN/USMC R4D-8L re-designated.
USN/USMC R4D-8T re-designated.
USN R4D-8Z re-designated.
Super DC-3 prototype for evaluation by USAF re-designated C-47F and later passed to USN as XR4D-8.
Canadian Forces designation for the C-47 (post-1970).
One C-47 tested as a 40-seat troop glider with engines removed and faired over.
Production aircraft, impressed civil aircraft and aircraft transferred from the USAAF / USAF
R4D-1 Skytrain
USN/USMC version of the C-47.
Twenty C-53Cs transferred to USN.
C-47A variant 24-volt electrical system replacing the 12-volt of the C-47; re-designated C-47H in 1962, 238 transferred from USAF.
R4D-5 for use in Antarctica. re-designated LC-47H in 1962.
R4D-5 for use as special ECM trainer. re-designated EC-47H in 1962.
R4D-5 for use as a personnel transport for 21 passengers and as a trainer aircraft; re-designated TC-47H in 1962.
R4D-5 for use as a special ASW trainer; re-designated SC-47H in 1962.
R4D-5 for use as a VIP transport; re-designated VC-47H in 1962.
157 C-47Bs transferred to USN; re-designated C-47J in 1962.
R4D-6L, Q, R, S, and Z
Variants as the R4D-5 series; re-designated LC-47J, EC-47J, TC-47J, SC-47J, and VC-47J respectively in 1962.
44 TC-47Bs transferred from USAF for use as a navigational trainer; re-designated TC-47K in 1962.
R4D-5 and R4D-6 aircraft fitted with modified wings and re-designed tail surfaces; re-designated C-117D in 1962.
R4D-8 converted for Antarctic use, re-designated LC-117D in 1962.
R4D-8 converted as crew trainers, re-designated TC-117D in 1962.
R4D-8 converted as a staff transport, re-designated VC-117D in 1962.
Dakota I
RAF designation for the C-47 and R4D-1
Dakota III
RAF designation for the C-47A.
Dakota IV
RAF designation for the C-47B.
4,937 DC-3 derived military transport aircraft with defensive armament license-built in the USSR (designation started from 17 September 1942).
Paratroop transport version (1942), with reinforced floor and tie-downs, plus cargo doors (slightly smaller than the C-47 doors) on the left.
Basic civil passenger model.
Civil “combi” passenger-cargo version.
“Reconnaissance” version, with bulged windows fitted behind the cockpit.
Bomber version (1942).
High-altitude weather surveillance version of the Li-2, equipped with turbocharged engines.
Yugoslavian version equipped with American Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines (similar to the DC-3).
Polish bomber training aircraft.
487 License built DC-3s for the IJNAS.
A single DC-3 supplied for evaluation by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.
Personnel transports with Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 radials.
Cargo version with enlarged cargo door.
L2D3 and L2D3-1
Versions with two Mitsubishi Kinsei 51 engines, each at 1,325 hp (975 kW).
L2D3a and L2D3-1a
Production series with two Mitsubishi Kinsei 53 engines, each at 1,325 hp (975 kW).
L2D4 and L2D4-1
Armed versions with a 13 mm machine gun in a dorsal turret and two 7.7 mm machine guns in the left and right fuselage hatches.
Wooden version, replacement of steel components with wood; used two Mitsubishi Kinsei 62 engines, each 1,590 hp (1,170 kW).


Crew: two
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)
Aspect ratio: 9.17
Airfoil: NACA2215 / NACA2206
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 ft 6 in (3.51 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)


The DC-3 was considerably a large update from the DC-2 and was the most produced aircraft from that era which are still flying in the 21st Century as are used widely around the world


Source - File:N34---Douglas-DC3-Cockpit.jpg - Wikipedia

Source - File:Douglas DC-3C cold start.jpg - Wikipedia

Source - File:Air India DC 3 at Heathrow.jpg - Wikipedia

Source - File:DC-3 spinning props.JPG - Wikipedia

This topic is made by @B747fan with the help of Wikipedia and now I am starting doing work on DC-4
Link to previous topic -


I saw a documentary about the DC-3. It was also one of the most produced aircraft in aviation.


the review is really good, but i would love to see some pictures with this post…


ohh…sorry about that

MaxSez: Fine review of the Douglas/McDonnell Douglas/Boeing Corporate Structure, most of the worthwhile legendary US manufacturers merged with Boeing. “If it ain’t Boeing it ain’t Going!”. As a side note, USMC #50835 is now displayed proudly in the Marine Corps Museum, Quantico, Va. She saw her last service as the station bird at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hi. I helped box her up and ship her home. Regards, & thanks for the memory @B747fan, “Do Good Work”


Thanks Max btw the style of your posts are awesome

Awesome as always! Keep up the good work ;)

Tip :

  • It would be better if you can type the script on a PM to yourself in the future when making another series. Once it’s done, you can copycat it and post it here :)

Can I pm you instead of myself ?

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Sure if you want to. I’m always open for a PM ;)

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