• Short Summary

    SANTA MONICA, Calif., Dec. 17 -- the famed DC-3 celebrated her 30th anniversary today while the newest Douglas twin-engine aircraft, the DC-9, blazed the first jet trails to communities once served by the venerable workhorse.

  • Description

    ML Air-to-air Navy Super DC-3 in flight

    ML Air-to-air Navy Super DC-3 in flight

    L DC-3 landing

    M Passengers load aboard DC-3

    ML Line of three Air Force DC-3's on ground

    ML C-47 takes off from combat area air field

    ML Hawaiian Airlines DC-3 in flight

    M DC-9 production line

    L High angle new DC-9 rolls out of hangar

    L DC-9 rolls out

    L Air-to-air DC-9 in flight

    ML DC-3 in flight

    L DC-9 in flight

    M DC-3 take-off

    ML DC-9 take-off

    ML DC-3 in flight

    M High angle DC-9 rolls by camera on ground

    M DC-9 rolls by

    M Low angle DC-9 in flight


    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: SANTA MONICA, Calif., Dec. 17 -- the famed DC-3 celebrated her 30th anniversary today while the newest Douglas twin-engine aircraft, the DC-9, blazed the first jet trails to communities once served by the venerable workhorse.

    It was on Dec. 17, 1935, that the Douglas Aircraft Company's "Grand Old Lady" of commercial aviation made her first flight. She soared into the sky from what was then Clover Field (now the Santa Monica Municipal Airport) here.

    Few, if any, of the onlookers could perceive the significance of that historic flight to commercial aviation. It revolutionized the concept of transportation and eventually touched the lives of people throughout the world.

    Another such revolution, perhaps just as important, is occurring today as airlines begin to inaugurate commercial service with the short-to-medium-range DC-9.

    For the first time, the comfort, speed and efficiency of jet power will reach hundreds of small cities previously served only by propeller driven transports, such as the DC-3.

    The DC-9, which made its first scheduled passenger flight only nine days ago, has been ordered by 24 airlines in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia and Australia. By the end of next year seven airlines will have begun DC-9 service.

    This expansion of the jet age to small communities only short hope apart is another phase in the astonishingly rapid growth of commercial aviation. And it was the whirring propellers of a DC-3 which 30 years ago today launched commercial aviation on its swift upward climb.

    Douglas turned out almost 11,000 of the durable airlines for air carriers and the military, who knew the DC-3 as the C-47 or R4D. The aircraft was an immediate success with airline operators, pilots and passengers.

    She was larger, faster and more luxurious than her predecessors. Airlines found her more economical to operate and safer. She was the first passenger airplane equipped with an automatic pilot, heated cabin and soundproofing.

    Coast-to-coast travel was reduced to 15 hours by the DC-3's cruising speed of 165 to 180 m.p.h., which, although far from supersonic, was an impressive pace in those days.

    But it is in military service, beginning with World War II and including the Korean hostilities and even the current conflict in Vietnam, that the DC-3 has become virtually a legend.

    Military pilots around the world have a number of affectionate names for her: the Gooney Bird, Dakota, Dak and, most recently, Puff The Magic Dragon.

    It was during World War II that she was called the Gooney Bird by Americans who knew her as a freighter, troop carrier, flying hospital, sometimes bomber and as the airplane that always got her crew safely back to base. The British dubbed her the Dakota or simply the Dak.

    Symbolic of her contribution to the Allied effort during World War II were the 1200 C-47s, comprising a column 200 miles long, which ferried paratroopers and towed gliders during the Normandy invasion.

    Latest chapter in the DC-3 story is her appearance in Vietnam as an aerial base for Air Force marksman manning rapid-firing Vulcan 20mm guns.

    Following World War II thousands of C-47s were converted to passenger service. The ubiquitous DC-3 seemed to be wherever there was a runway large enough to handle her, even in the most remote corners of the globe.

    During the decade ending in 1946, 93 per cent of all domestic airline passenger service was via the "Grand Old Lady". As late as 1960, 174 scheduled airlines in 70 nations operated the DC-3.

    In the 30 years of her existence she has hauled nearly 1 billion passengers 10 billion miles.

    Her reputation is strengthened by such durability as that of the North Central Airlines DC-3 (N21728) which has flown more hours than any other airplane in the history of aviation.

    When retired from scheduled service last May and remodelled by the airline as a corporate aircraft, this DC-3 had flown 83,032 hours, equivalent to almost nine years of air time.

    During this time she covered more than 12 million miles, burned nearly 8 million gallons of gasoline and wore out 25,000 spark plugs, 550 main gear tires and 68 pairs of engines. Still her air frame is about 90 per cent original.

    She was produced by Douglas here in 1939 for Eastern Air Lines which logged over 50,000 hours with her before North Central bought her.

    The many other chapters of the DC-3 saga are almost as incredible. Examples are the incident in 1957 when a DC-3 carrying 23 passengers clipped a mountain peak during a storm, knocking 12 feet off its left wing, but still made a safe landing at Phoenix, Ariz.

    Or the DC-3 which her pilot decided to ditch in the Pacific because she was so badly riddled with anti-aircraft fire. But when the transport bounced 50 feet after hitting the water, he changed his mind and landed her at a base.

    Other DC-3s have survived lightning bolts, kamikaze planes and chronic overloading. One served as a roadhouse in South Africa for 12 years and then was reconditioned and returned to flight status.

    The first 20 DC-3s sold for $110,000 each. In 1960 used DC-3s were selling for twice that sum, indicative of her utility and reliability.

    Probably no airplane has ever been as beloved as the DC-3. Tough but tender, she is known as a pilot's airplane and a passenger's airplane.

    The standards she set were high. The DC-9 twinjet taking over many of her old routes is in the same Douglas Commercial (DC) tradition.

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