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So much has been written about the Douglas DC-3 since it first flew back in 1935 that it has become the most publicized, as well as the most popular and successful, transport aircraft--in both its commercial and military versions--in the entire history of aviation. There have been books written about it, songs written about it, and even poems been written about the DC-3.
The twin-engine craft became so popular that it was carrying 90 percent of the world's commercial air traffic by 1939. And with the outbreak of World War II, the DC-3 became the flying workhorse of the allied nations.
The DC-3 was originally built as the Douglas Sleeper Transport (DST)--an enlarged "night coach" version of the successful DC-2. American Airlines President C.R. Smith ordered major changes on 20 DC-2s to provide his passengers with sleeper service, and Donald Douglas, head of the famed aircraft manufacturing firm, reluctantly agreed to start production of the DST.
While the DST looked like a DC-2, it was structurally different. It had a fuselage wider by two feet, two inches; a greater wingspan; and a restyled fin and rudder assembly. The sleeper service was short-lived, but the superiority of the enlarged DC-2 was soon recognized and the true DC-3 emerged. Able to carry 24 passengers at a cruising speed of 180 miles per hour for a maximum distance of 2,150 miles, the DC-3 represented a real breakthrough and quickly became the favorite of all major airlines. By 1938 it carried 95 percent of the air passengers in the United States.
The age of an airplane is normally measured in terms of its total number of flying hours, and many DC-3s have flown 60,000 hours or more. In fact, at least two of these aircraft are known to have logged over 90,000 hours--or more than ten years--of flying time.
The saga of the DC-3 seems far from over. Because
they were built under license by both Japan and the Soviet Union, no one
really knows for certain just how many were produced, but the best guess is about 13,000.
Of these, some 1,000 or more were believed to be still flying in 1978-and the newest
of these had been around for more than 30 years!
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
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Updated: March 12, 2004