The DC-3 Genesis of The Legend


made the DC-3 without a computer to test it. There was plenty of data from the DC-1 and DC-2 to formulate the design. Often we got down on the floor and worked things out ourselves. There was personal ingenuity, and application, and we made things happen overnight." Ivar Shogran ; Chief Power Plant Engineer "; Douglas Aircraft Company


Cyrus Rowlett Smith, President of American Airlines and William Littlewood, American Airlines. Vice president of engineering, had both flown in the DC-2 and did not like some of its performance characteristics, although it was a marked improvement over the Boeing 247. It had the highest rated engines in use at the time, but they felt it lacked power. It carried 14 passengers, two more than the DC-1. Moreover, it could not make New York to Chicago, non-stop, although it was faster than any other airliner on that route. They also had reports that, at times, it was difficult to land, with heavy aileron and rudder control. Additional reports of directional instability, propeller, and fin icing problems and yawing excessively in turbulence also concerned them...

. to passenger accommodations. Smith spent over $300 on a two-hour long distance call before he finally convinced Douglas to modify a DC-2 to American's sleeper requirements. Some have said if Smith had not persisted and made an offer. The DC-2 was in full production with 102 machines already manufactured. Douglas did not react strongly or positively to Smith's proposal. He was looking for a larger and more comfortable airplane than his Condors or Fords. and another 90 orders on the assembly line. from the number of aircraft.. Smith wanted to give his customers safe. Smith read the report he telephoned Donald Douglas with a proposal. Holden Click here for the DC-3/Dakota Store At first. ©Copyright Henry M. comfortable. After there was general agreement among the airlines on the potential. Where would Smith get the millions of dollars needed to finance this venture and who would want to sleep in an airplane? After all. He was reluctant to take on a new design and the associated headaches. a detailed evaluation process began. Douglas would never have built the DC-3.Soon after C. Douglas nevertheless was skeptical.. and better than the Boeing 247.. The airline's total needs. and total economic impact was part of the evaluation. R. The airplane Smith was looking for had been described in Raymond's report. Night flying was about as popular as the plague. facility requirements. Smith had decided what kind of airplane American needed. He also wanted something bigger than the DC-2. and reliable transportation. the Fords were noisy and the Condors were cramped. and he wondered about Smith's business sense. The Great Depression had created hard times for many of America's industries and the government had formed the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to loan money to the private . and his Curtiss Condor "Sleepers" and Ford Tri-Motors simply did not measure up to these standards.2 A new model would mean new tooling and starting over another gamble.

This cockpit has an almost antiseptic look about it. .. and rounding the fuselage would allow enough space for the berths. They used 114 DC-3s/DSTs and it all started with the . like the maiden flight of the DC-1 went unnoticed by the Press. Then it began to move. Cyrus Smith took advantage of this agency and obtained a loan to fund the development of the new design. Holden DC-3 DC-3 ON PAPER The plan called for using the DC-2 design as a starting point. On July 8. In contrast to maiden flights of today's aircraft. effortlessly. navigation electrical and radio control instruments." THE FIRST FLIGHT December 17."" AMERICAN AIRLINES It is fitting that as the co-creator of the DC-3 that American Airlines also be the airline that used the most machines over the years. its engines running at full throttle. American Airlines had such faith in Douglas' dependability and integrity that the order came first and the contract after delivery.000 feet it lifted off. The DST sat at the edge of the runway for about five minutes. 1936..000. American Airlines and Donald Douglas both had a heavy financial commitment. would be one of the |most significant events of the twentieth century. In the original DST panel shown here there were 115 flight. By the time the actual contract was signed on April 8. but in 1935. Photograph courtesy McDonnell Douglas. The actual specifications for Smith's proposed airplane arrived at Douglas Aircraft on November 14. The lives of millions of people throughout the world were about to change. 1935.©Copyright Henry M. this flight. American doubled their initial order to include eight DSTs and 12 DC-3s. and increasing the power would help lift the larger plane. 1935 (long after construction had begun). The cockpit instrument panel was a far cry from the Ford Tri-Motor. Smith sent a telegram to Douglas ordering ten transports costing $795.3 In today's business environment the contract always precedes work. California.m. and they told him they could modify the 855 hp engines on the DC-2 to deliver . But the event on a runway in Santa Monica. was a sunny but cool afternoon in Santa Monica. The DST remained airborne from 3:00 p. slowly at first but within 1.sector... Widening. Littlewood had discussed the design with engineers at Curtis -Wright. 1935. California. covered extensively by the media. Before the first flight of the DC-3.

and arriving in Los Angeles at 11:30 p.... the DC-3 day plane seating of 21 was not an accident.acceptance of the first DST on April 29. 1937. TWA called this flight the "Sun Racer. It made the trip in three hours fifty-five minutes westbound." although it never quite won the race. It chased the sun across the country. Contrary to popular belief." TRANS WORLD AIRLINES TWA was the third airline to put the new DST in service. and returned in .m." ©Copyright Henry M. in service between New York and Los Angeles. It was the first plane that could fly from New York to Chicago non-stop.. progress quickly replaced its younger sister. The entire aviation industry praised the DC-3. They accepted the first eight in April. DC-3 EVOLUTION In the evolution of the Douglas Commercial transports.. the same day. leaving New York at 8:30 a.. 1937.m.. On June 1. the DST occupied only a slightly better position than the DC-1. Like the DC-1... 1936. An engineer noticed that removing the berths made room for a third row of seats." DC-3 DC-3 SELLS ITSELF The DC-3 overwhelmed the industry. Holden . two on one side of the aisle. they put their "Super Sky liner Sleeper" DSTs outfitted with eight berths up front and nine divan chairs in the rear. and . the DST.

Holland.. Tony Fokker never manufactured any DC-3s for Holland.000 miles flown.000 miles.000. The PS-84 used the 900 hp Shvetsov M-62 engine (developed from the licensed Wright SGR-1820F which powered the DC-2) and the engine configuration gave the nacelles a narrower chord. the nacelle shape remained close to the first models. Russia has never paid Douglas a cent in license fees.000 Li-2s. Douglas sold the licenses to manufacture the DC-3 to three countries.. In 1936 for example. 1938. Even after they upgraded the engines to 1200 hp ASH-62. the Japanese immediately recognized its potential. On February 24. Japan. the number of fatal accidents even decreased. The first intended for KLM as PH-ARA. domestic airlines flew 63. DC-3 IN FOREIGN MANUFACTURE To relieve the pressure on the factory. purchased the production rights and technical data to the DC-3 for $90. in 1941 there were only four fatal accidents for 133. RUSSIA Russia built as many as 20. ©Copyright Henry M. the sale was directed behind the scenes by the Imperial Japanese Navy (who was planning on using the type in the invasion of the East Indies). Holden . Mitsui (a subsidiary of Nakajima Hikoki). arrived in Japan on December 6. but canceled. a Japanese manufacturer. especially since they had such great success with the DC-2. As the DC-3 became more universal. Fokker died of pneumonia complicated by meningitis a week before Germany invaded Holland. Great Northern Airways and the Far East Fur Trading Company (another Japanese military front company) purchased at least 21 DC-3s from Douglas between 1937 and 1939. 1937. but he distributed 63 before the war in Europe ended his operation. and had eight fatal accidents. The surviving transports were scrapped at the end of the war. Unknown to the United States at the time. These transports were operated by Dai Nippon Koku and impressed into Imperial service during the war. THE JAPANESE DC-3 When the DC-3 came along.000.. and Russia.000. A royalty paid to Douglas for each aircraft manufactured was part of the license agreement.C-47 ECONOMY AND SAFETY The accident rate in the early days of the DC-3 was comparatively low..

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