First flight: 1935
Role: Airliner/ transportation aircraft
Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
Regarded as one of the best transport planes in American history, the DC-3 took the aviation industry by storm. The DC-3’s never before seen speed and range revolutionized the industry in the 1930s and ‘40s. Taking to the skies of December 17, 1935, the DC-3 became known as the plane that “chased the sun.”
Engineered by Chief Engineer Arthur E. Raymond and a team of Douglas engineers, the DC-3 is the direct result of Douglas Aircraft Company trying to improve upon their design of the DC-2. Taking innovative approaches to retractable landing gear, wing flaps, variable-pitch propellers, stressed-skin structure and flush riveting helped make the plane something the industry had never seen. Most DC-3’s were outfitted with the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engines. This allowed the plane to have a better high-altitude and single engine performance, doubling that of the Boeing 247.
However, don’t think that the DC-3 is all performance. Luxury was a major factor to the design of the civilian airliners. Many amenities such as sleeping berths and an in-flight kitchen helped popularize air travel in the United States. With improvements to both luxury and performance, the DC-3 was the first plane able to fly non-stop from New York to Chicago and the first to fly from New York to Los Angeles at all. This quickly made the DC-3 the airliner of choice for American Airlines, United Airlines, and TWA.
World War II saw great use of the DC-3 by the Allies due to its ability to take-off and land on short, rough runways. President Eisenhower claimed that the plane was among the equipment most vital to the Allied success during the war. When production of the DC-3 came to an end in 1944, over 10,000 planes had been produced. To this day there is an estimated 2,000 DC-3’s still chasing the sun.