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Douglas DC-3: Queen of the Skies

Jeffrey Syken

For many, it’s an icon of the “Golden Age of Aviation” – that period in the mid-to-late 1930s when, after many fits and starts, the fledgling airline industry was coming-of-age. No longer would commercial transport passengers suffer from the noise, smell, cold, vibrations and nausea common to airliners of the late 1920s/early 1930s. Now, an airline passenger could travel in “Pullman-style” comfort and safety. To others, it’s a “Sentimental Journey” back to a bygone era, when air travel was something very special.

Introduced in 1935, the DC–3 was the third “Douglas Commercial” aircraft produced by the Douglas Aircraft Company of Santa Monica, California. Its immediate predecessor; the DC-2, had been a commercial success, but it lacked the ability to be converted to a “Sleeper Transport” for transcontinental/overnight flights. Try as they might, the talented Douglas engineers simply could not fit sleeping berths into its narrow fuselage. Thus was born the “DST” (Douglas Sleeper Transport), with a wider fuselage capable of incorporating 14 sleeping berths.

When the airlines realized that they could add seven additional revenue-generating seats if they eliminated the sleeping berths, the DC-3 was born. An instant hit with the airlines and flying public, by the late 1930s 90% of commercial transports worldwide were Douglas DC-3s. With the coming of WWII, the DC-3 would become the C-47 military transport; one of the keys to the allied victory. The science of aviation had advanced rapidly during WWII and in the immediate postwar years thus, it seemed the DC-3’s best days were behind it; replaced by planes that could fly higher, faster and further. But ask the pilots that flew them and they’ll tell you: “The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3.”

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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