Friday, December 16, 2005

70th Anniversary of the DC-3

Tomorrow is the 70th Anniversary of the first flight of the Douglas DC-3.

Seventy years ago, one of aviation's best-known and most-loved airplanes was born. On Dec. 17, 1935, the DC-3 made its first flight.

It was the plane that changed the way the world flew. The DC-3 made commercial air travel popular and airline profits possible. Its commercial and military service over seven decades has made it an aviation legend.

The importance of the DC-3 cannot be understated. As noted in the quote, it's the airplane that made airline service a viable business model. During World War II it was the main transport aircraft for the US and British Empire. The official US Army name was the C-47 Skytrain while the Brits called it the Dakota. The most common nickname, though, was Gooney Bird. It was used to ferry troops and supplies all over the world. It was used to tow assault gliders and to drop paratroops. It served on in US military use until the 60s, and hundreds of Gooney Birds, mostly C-47s made during The War, are still being flown today in commercial service. Can you imagine a 1940s-vintage truck being used to haul freight today? Talk about over-engineered!

I've been an aviation buff since I was a kid and one airplace I still want a ride in is a DC-3.


3 comments:

Don Armstrong said...

"The importance of the DC-3 cannot be understated."
I'm sorry, but nature and professional IT training make me a confirmed nitpicker. I believe that the importance of the DC-3 can be understated - and often is. I think that the importance of the DC-3 cannot be overstated.

I know, I know - that's what you think too. Still and all, you've got to say what you think, counsellor - not say what you don't think.

Gee, I'm glad I never got into this blogging thing - the number of oopsies I make!

Al Sande said...

The DC-3 is one of the few "older" aircraft that I haven't been in... I grew up around bush planes in the Yukon Territory as that was our family business. We operated mostly deHavilland products - Otter, Beaver, Turbo Beaver, Twin Otter - as well as a few other types - Cessna 185's and 206s, BN Islander, Bellanca Scout, and a Super Cub. I even managed to get a ride in a B-25 Mitchell once (although it had been converted into a water bomber for forest fire service.)

But, there's still nothing available now, after 50 years, to replace aircraft like the Otter and Beaver - and the DC3. They just don't make them like they used to...

BTW, did you know that the DC3 is pretty much extinct for commercial use in Alaska now? With the new regulations after 9/11 requiring all commercial aircraft in the US to be refitted with reinforced (inpenetrable) cockpit doors, the costs proved too great and most of the aircraft parked... That's a pity. This little tidbit of information came from the now-retired president of ERA Helicopters in Anchorage (who incidentally gave me my first helicopter ride back in about 1973 or so).

paul hampson said...

Dave-

I haven't been up in many planes, most of them modern commercial, but I did manage to hitch a ride on an Air Force C-47 from Satahip to Bankok, Thailand and back in 1967. Interesting and all, but not too comfortable on the web bench seats they provided. I was also a bit nervous about the loading ramp that didn't seem to be all the way closed. Made both legs without incident, but pretty hard on dress whites, also pretty noisy in that configuration.

In retrospect it wasn't all that different from the CG cutter I served on, a converted Navy seaplane tender that was given to the CG in 1947. 500 watt transmitters the size of a very tall refrigerator, well, maybe 500 watts when they were new. Contrast that with the nice ham transceiver with a 1500 watt linear amp we had on a table in the back room that took up maybe 2 cubic feet.

Getting older guy reminisces, keep up with the ham stuff, I sometimes wish I had.