The Let's Play Archive

Chris Sawyer's Locomotion

by Jaguars!

Part 21: Interlude: DC-3 (Spaced God)

If y'all don't mind, I'm gonna out a bit over the Douglas DC-3.

The Douglas Cargo (DC) series of aircraft was first designed after TWA approached Donald Douglas asking for an aircraft to compete with their rival United. United had bought 60 Boeing 247's, and Boeing refused to sell to any more airlines until that order had been completed. The design Douglas came up with in 1933 was the DC-1, and then a year later they made the DC-2. Both were great starting points, but in 1935 a call from American Airlines CEO C. R. Smith convinced Douglas to improve on the aircraft to replace American's Curtiss biplanes. Douglas agreed only because he was led to believe 20 airframes would ever be made. (In the end, 16,079 airframes would be built or licensed over the 17 year production run, making it the most produced airliner)

The first flight of the DC-3 (there was no prototype other than a sleeper variant) was on December 17, 1935, which happened to be the 32nd anniversary of the flight at Kitty Hawk. The DC-3 and the sleeper variant (the DST, or Douglas Sleeper Transport) could cross the US in 15 hours at a cruising speed of 200 mph with only 3 refueling stops (17 hours if you went westbound). Before then, one would have to take several trains as well as a few short flights if you wanted to fly from coast to coast. The DC-3 entered civilian service in 1936 under American, but soon everyone was picking them up, including United, TWA, KLM, Piedmont, and Eastern.

The DC-3 is mostly known for being one of the most important military transports, designated the C-47 Skytrain by the US Army Air Force. It was also used by the RAF, RCAF, and... fuck it here's a list of the like 96 countries. Over 10,000 Skytrains were built, and were used for troop and cargo transport all across the globe. These were the guys you saw carrying gliders and Airborne troops during the invasion of Normandy. After the war, most all of the surviving C-47s were converted to civilian use. In fact, so many C-47's being given to Europe post-war it ended up cementing the use of the American imperial system in international aviation (Knots, nautical miles, etc).

DC-3s are still in use today, which says something about their reliability. Most have been converted to turboprops for better speed. These aircraft now see roles in aerial firefighting, cropdusting, freight, and pretty much everything goddamn else. Hell, here's a picture of a DC on FUCKING FLOATS

Motherfucker's versatile and a great aircraft.

Let me know if you want more plane shit. I worked as a tour guide at an aviation museum for years so I know way too much about them.