The Douglas DC-3 quickly became a fixture in the aviation world after it was introduced on December 17, 1935. Within two years, the DC-3 was carrying 90 percent of the world’s commercial airline passengers. In addition to ferrying people around the country, the DC-3 also transported mail for the United States Postal Service. In 1944, 4,853 DC-3s were produced, a sizeable number of aircraft for that time.
The DC-3 is recognized as one of the single greatest influences in developing commercial air travel, in addition to its heavy use by the American military for transport operations during the Second World War. The Australian Defense Force also used DC-3s for wartime missions. Approximately 10,000 of the Douglas DC-3s were pressed into military service around the world. Military versions of the DC-3 include the Dakota, R4D, C-47, and the C-53. The DC-3 has also been used for transporting cargo, skydiving, and aerial spraying. Altogether, Douglas built 13,000 DC-3s.
Douglas had developed the DC-3 as a successor to the DC-2. Some of the primary changes with the newer aircraft were larger, reinforced wings that provided additional lift and enabled it to carry a heavier payload. More space was also provided for fuel tanks, giving the DC-3 a much longer range than the DC-2.
The DC-3 answered customers’ needs for an aircraft that was capable of covering longer distances and traversing the United States easier and faster than airplanes currently in service. When World War II concluded, the thousands of existing military DC-3 aircraft were converted for civilian use and were purchased by most major airlines. Sleeping berths were standard in early versions of the DC-3 and many passengers chose to travel by air rather than by train, which was much slower and took days instead of hours to cross the country.
A retired Canadian Pacific DC-3 is permanently mounted on display at Whitehorse International Airport in the Yukon Territory. The DC-3 swivels into the wind and is affectionately called “The World’s Largest Weather Vane.”
Maximum speed: 237 mph
Cruise speed: 170 mph
Range: 1,025 miles
Length: 64′ 5″
Height: 16′ 11″
Maximum weight: 28,000 pounds
Empty weight: 18,300 pounds
Engine(s): Two 1,200 HP Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1C3G 14-cylinder engines
Rate of climb: 1,130′ per minute