|G-DAKK was used to operate pleasure flights and charters by South Coast Airways in the United Kingdom during the 1990s.|
Douglas DC3 is, quite simply, the most important transport aircraft
First flying on December 17, 1935, the Douglas Sleeper Transport (DST) as it was originally known, was to set the standards in air transport across the United States pre-war and was to prove invaluable as a troop transport in the Second World War.
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the 10,655 DC3s built for Allied use in that conflict and their wide availability when peace came was to be a major reason for the type's worldwide popularity. And 'worldwide' means precisely that - a further 2,500 were built under licence in the former Soviet Union as the PS84, later Lisunov Li2, and Nakajima and Showa built the type in Japan as the L2D.
With so many former military aircraft available it is small wonder that, at the start of the 21st century and more than 55 years after the type's first flight - several hundred remain airworthy, both with small airlines and historic operators. From 1945 the phrase 'DC3 replacement' was coined to describe numerous types, including the Convair twin series, Fokker F27 and Avro 748. But it is reasonable to predict that the DC3, Dak, Skytrain or Gooney Bird, to coin some of its nicknames, will outlast them in flying service.
The original DST was born as a result of American Airlines' need for a transport that had the range of the earlier DC2, but with room for sleeping berths. The resulting design had longer wings than the DC2, wider fuselage, more powerful engines and a modified tail. Two versions were planned - the DST with 14 berths and the DC3, with 21 seats.
The first DST lifted off from Santa Monica in California with 1,000hp Wright Cyclone SGR-1820-G2 piston engines and the type entered service with American on June 25, 1936 between New York and Chicago.
Forty DSTs were built but the DC3 quickly became the standard version. About 400 had been built before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour brought the Americans into the war, and created the immediate need for a reliable troop transport.
Two of the most widely used marks were the C47 Skytrain series, known as Dakota in Royal Air Force service, and the C53 Skytrooper. The US Navy designated its aircraft the R4D.
Most airlines used the war surplus machines to rebuild air services post war until turboprop aircraft could be developed. When faster machines chased the aircraft off the main American and European routes many DC3s found refuge in Latin America and Africa.
Their were numerous upgrades, Douglas developing the Super DC3, or DC3s, designated the C117 in military service and easily recgnised through its taller fin and undercarriage doors.
Their were numerous attempts to bring turboprop power to the aircraft, including one with Rolls Royce Darts by Specialised Aircraft. In the 1970s Specialised developed the Tri-Turbo 3, powered by three Pratt and Whitney PT6A engines, the thrid in the nose. Only one was built but Basler were to find more success by re-engining the aircraft with two PT67s, and the company is still converting aircraft into Basler Turbo BT67s at its base in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
The other major re-engining effort was by Aero Modifications with its 65TP Turbo DC3, with several of the aircraft converted for the South African Air Force now being passed on to other customers.
|Census:||Canada and Latin America||USA||Europe||Africa, Asia and Australasia|