Mcdonnell Douglas DC-3 Aircraft:
The Douglas DC-3 was launched to the globe the same year as the German airship Hindenburg crossed the Atlantic. Because of its tremendous and long-lasting impact on the airline business and aerospace engineering, the DC-3 is widely known as one of the most significant transport aircraft in history. Ric Hallquist, a veteran Chief DC-3 Pilot with Missionary Flights International who flew and worked on the hefty twin-engine cargo jet for almost 30 years, provided us with some information about this aircraft.
Douglas DC 3 Specification:
First Flight: December 17, 1935
Wingspan: 95 feet/29 metres
Length: 64 feet 5.5 inch/196 metres
Height: 16 feet 3.6 inch/49.7 metres
Ceiling: 20,800 feet/6339 metres
Range: 1495 miles/2400 km
Weight: 30,000 pounds/9144 metres
Power plant: Two 1200 horsepower Wright Cyclone radial engines
Speed: 192 miles per hour/308 kilometres per hour
Accommodation: 3 crews and 14 sleeper passengers, or 21 to 28 day passenger, or 3725 to 4500 pounds freight(1135 to 1371 metres)
Altitude: 20,000 feet/6096 metres
The aircraft has three wheels, two in the front and one beneath the tail.
Note: The maximum take-off weight is less when there is no passenger.
Douglas DC-3 History:
The aircraft’s original engine was a 400 h.p. Pratt and Whitney Wasp Major Twin-Engine aircraft engine. This aircraft (N47753) was built in 1941 by Glenn L. Martin & Company in Gresham, Oregon, and delivered to Howard Hughes’ Hughes Tool Company on April 6, 1942. The Hughes Tool Company then converted the aircraft into a flying laboratory and later a flying test bed for new and experimental Hughes vehicles, including the Sikorsky HO3S helicopter, Hughes Model 174 transport helicopter, and the Hughes H-1 helicopter.
The DC-3’s first flight took place in Oregon on June 27, 1942, from Gresham to Everett Field in Bellingham, Washington, and then on to Moffett Field in Mountain View, California.
What is the DC-3?
The Douglas DC-3, or DC-3m, or DC-3/3m, is a medium-sized, twin-engine, long-range twin-turbine transport plane. It was first flown on December 10, 1935, by the Douglas Aircraft Company, with the intent to fill a niche as a heavy transport aircraft. Designed to carry heavy cargoes such as heavy freight and large military cargo, such as bombs or fighters, it had a maximum takeoff weight of 33,000 lb (15,000 kg) and a length of 92 ft (28 m). (Aft – tail.) At the time it entered service, it was the largest, heaviest and most powerful transport aircraft in the world.
Where did the name “DC-3” come from?
The DC-3 name came after the original name of its chief designer, Hugh Dowty. He registered the DC-3 name in March 1935. The DC-3m is a designation added in 1937.
Why was the DC-3 so important to history?
“The DC-3 (pronounced Dart three) was a huge military step up from World War One Curtiss pusher style transport. It was the biggest airplane made in the USA at the time and had a capacity that would soon outstrip the largest military aircraft of World War Two: the Douglas C-54 Skymaster.” (Ric Hallquist).
The Douglas DC-3 was one of the largest aircraft in production when World War Two began. It remained the largest in production until the advent of the DC-10. Its development started as a response to World War One military demands. Many early military aircraft had been cargo-only designs, with little or no carrying capacity for passengers.
Facts and Figures about the DC-3:
The DC-3, known as the “Flyer” during World War II, was the first long-range transport airplane that was pressurized and had modern avionics. It flew continuously for 37 years and was used for many kinds of transport, including mail, mail services, and troopships. Many NASA astronauts also flew it in addition to being flown commercially. Today it is a notable transport plane museum exhibit in Beech, IL.
The Super DC-3 was redesigned in the mid-1960s to have four engines and double the engine output. The Super DC-3 had a cabin that measured 23′x11′ and could accommodate about 100 passengers. The Super DC-3 was intended for transcontinental flights and was also used by Alaskan bush pilots.
What did the aircraft contribute to?
The DC-3 was the first practical, high-capacity long-range passenger transport. Before the end of the 1930s, long-distance flying was strictly limited to cargo operations. The DC-3 fulfilled a critical need, allowing worldwide air travel by people of all classes and making possible the idea of chartering a plane for personal use. The DC-3 turned air travel into a mass sport.
The DC-3 was used for commercial, military, and inter-racial passenger flights, often in a segregated seating system for passengers with non-white backgrounds. Passengers could also fly to their destination by both scheduled and chartered flights. In the Second World War, U.S. commercial airline operators even operated them as cargo aircraft.
What Makes the Aircraft So Significant?
The Douglas Aircraft Company’s DC-3 is an important part of the history of commercial aircraft, business aviation and aircraft engineering, according to John Weissbach, retired Boeing Business Jets Master Instructor and DC-3 Pilot. “The DC-3 pioneered the freighter, and its successful development remains unparalleled.” Weissbach, who flew with McDonnell Douglas DC-10 Crew Chief Dave Hicken, said, “A dozen companies around the globe manufacture DC-3s, and they all are major players in their respective fields.”
“The DC-3 represents a dominant part of the history of civilian aviation,” said R.E. Rickey, founder and former president of the Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (IAA). He noted, “As transportation, it has remained in operation for over 70 years with minimal changes.
What’s the future of the DC-3?
We know the French and Russians are studying a new jet-propulsion system for the DC-3, so there is that. Today, however, the DC-3 will remain as a viable and economically viable transport aircraft until perhaps 2030, a testament to its unpredictability and longevity. The DC-3 will continue to fly as an invaluable workhorse for decades to come.
Aircraft of similar age, location, and size would be nearing the end of their usable life and definitely have reached retirement age by now. However, the DC-3 is just approaching what’s commonly known as the Ageless Aviation Age. The aircraft’s un-matched reliability and longevity have turned it into a premium workhorse for companies that need dependable transportation, particularly in the pursuit of long-distance flights.
Douglas DC 3 cockpit:
The cockpit of the Douglas DC 3 is different from regular aircraft. The cockpit interface is all analogue, and the display is not as sophisticated as modern aircraft. You cannot directly see the runway because the plane is in an upward position while on the ground. In real life, the only way to see the runway is when you are about to take off, but it is easier to see the runway when landing. There are few controls on the overhead panels.
The throttle look is different from regular aircraft because it uses a throttle quadrant. There are mixer controls and power controls. On the right side of the throttle, there is a trim wheel. Modern aircraft also uses a trim wheel. Use the middle throttle to increase or decrease power. Use the throttle in specific ways, but that depends on the engine type. When using the keyboard or joystick, you will notice one of the sticks is moving, not the whole quadrant.
My experience with Douglas DC aircraft:
The Douglas DC 3 is one of my favourite aircraft because it flies at low speed, and I can explore cities and landscapes at my own pace. However, while preparing for taking off, I have to wait for the aircraft to level off, or I have to press the W key on the keyboard to hide the cockpit display in order to see the runway. This aircraft can take off in short runways, but you need to push the throttle to full for faster take-off. It can also land in paved and unpaved runways at a length of over 400 metres. Older Douglas aircraft can land in shorter runways.
On the cockpit panel, I can see the primary instrument, but they are old. The altitude indicator is displayed in a small and large needle, the flap and fuel indicator are shown in the front panel, and there are other controls displayed as well. The switch for landing light, strobe light, and fuel is located in the overhead panel.
When the aircraft take off, the landing gear is retracted but not fully because I can still see the wheel of the plane, and there is no landing gear door.
The ultimate air travel in aviation history is the maiden flight of the first aircraft capable of flying intercontinental. Although the very first airplane crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in history is the mail plane that started as the two blimps, it took about two months to cross the Pacific Ocean between England and San Francisco. The notion of flying airmail was only conceivable since World War I.
The DC-3 was the first aeroplane to make a trans-Atlantic crossing and the last one to make a trans-Pacific flight for commercial purposes.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article, and feel free to share your thoughts about D3 or any other aircraft that you’re interested in the comments below.