*Views from DC3
Without a doubt one of the best known
aircraft in the world today is still the venerable DC3. A legend in her own time, The
Douglas DC3 airliner ranks amongst man's greatest developments in this century. With
around 1500 to 2000 in service at the 65th anniversary of her first flight, she is one of
the most enduring. Our DC3 started life as a C47B. It is 65 years since the first flight.
The C47 had many names and countless functions. Known as the Skytrain, Skytrooper, Dak, Dakota, Tabby, Spooky, Puff the magic dragon, the Doug and the most endearing the Gooney Bird.
The Douglas designers were quick to realize that
the wider fuselage, compared to the DC2, permitted three or four abreast seating which
gave double the passenger capacity in a cabin length the same as a DC2. So the DC2 became
the DC 3 and before production ceased, over 800 had been built as commercial aircraft and
10,000 as military versions. Licensing agreements to produce DC3's outside the US had been
granted to Fokker in Holland, Mitsui Busson in Japan and Amtorg Trading Company in Russia.
Quantities were manufactured in the USSR and Japan but Fokker only assembled and serviced
Douglas built aircraft.
The first military derivative of the DC3 was a single C41 delivered to the US Army Corps in October 1938 for use as a staff transport. With the beginning of war production, military derivatives of the DC3 were designated C47 in the USAAC and R40 in the Navy and Marine Corps. Many civil DC3/DST aircraft were impressed by the US forces directly from the airlines, following the outbreak of war to help meet military transport demands. To make the DC3 passenger transport into the C47 cargo plane, Douglas designed modifications that included a large double cargo door with an integral passenger door, a beefed up floor with tie down fittings, folding bench type seating along the sides, a navigational astrodome aft of the flight compartment and stronger landing gear. Other changes were made as an aid to mass production to keep up with the military demand and additional assembly lines were set up at new factories At Long Beach in California and Oklahoma City. Production at the combined factories accelerated rapidly and reached 18.5 planes per day
The DC3 was popular for many reasons: she was larger, faster and more luxurious than previous planes, more economical to operate and safe. Stories of DC3 durability are legend around the world. Perhaps no other aircraft has been so historically abused and come off so well. Maybe the reasons the DC 3's are still flying as no-one has yet designed a better aircraft for the particular job being done. It is often said the only replacement for a DC3 is another DC3.
Operating in all battle zones and throughout WWII
the C47's performed a variety of supporting roles such as cargo hauling, staff transport,
training and communications, medic al evacuations- airlifting supplies and troops being
the principal jobs. The Skytrans and Skytroopers of Troop Carrier Squadrons took part in
all major airborne operations including Sicily, New Guinea, Normandy, Holland and Southern
France. She became just as familiar to the tribal villagers of Africa, Asia and the South
Pacific as she was to be the sophisticated pre war traveler. She was often the only link
between the isolated combat units and their supply bases- the legend of the Gooney Bird
grew on the exploits of overworked aircraft and their crew surmounting obstacles of
terrain, weather and the enemy fire to complete near impossible missions.
As the war ended in 1945, thousands of C47's became
surplus to military needs and sold to airlines or foreign governments and others were put
into storage. Scores returned to service a few years later to serve in the Berlin Airlift,
over 100 being used for the year long operation.
Larger faster aircraft were being produced, the
four engined DC4 and DC6/ DC3 production ended, the last off the assembly line was for
Sabena Airways of Belgium in 1946. Now the DC3's carried the smaller volume of less
traveled routes. Many found new duties as corporate aircraft, exploration work for mining
companies, fire fighting, crop dusting, scientific research and eco tourism.
More than 11,000 DC3s were built between 1935 and 1946 in the USA, Japan and Russia. The familiar streamlined profile heralded the jet age. After 1945 many entered service with fledgling commercial airlines. VH-TMQ is presented with the ambience of a bygone era and is one of the finest examples of a truly beloved aircraft, with approximately seventeen operating in Australia and only 800 left operating in the world today.
Many thousands of hours were expended in refurbishment, resulting in an
aircraft resplendent in lavish 1950s style livery, and surveyed by the CASA for
passenger charter operations. Our DC3 seats 28 passengers and is crewed by two
Captains and a Hostess, additional crew can be requested. The aircraft cruises
between 5000 and 8000 feet, flying at 150 knots. In 1940 a DC3 could be bought
new for US$80,000.