Douglas DC-3

Douglas DC-3 VH-AES at Avalon in . On  , VH-AES made the first scheduled flight for , from  to .
Douglas DC-3 VH-AES at Avalon in 2003. On 9 September 1946, VH-AES made the first scheduled flight for TAA, from Melbourne to Sydney.

The Douglas DC-3 (also known as the Dakota, C-47 and Skytrain) was a fixed-wing, propeller-driven aircraft which revolutionised air transport in the 1930s and 1940s, and is generally regarded as one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made (also see Boeing 707 and Boeing 747).



The DC-3 was engineered by a team led by chief engineer Arthur E. Raymond and first flew on December 17,1935 (the 32nd. anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk). The plane was the result of a marathon phone call from American Airlines CEO C.R. Smith demanding improvements in the design of the DC-2. The amenities of the DC-3 (including sleeping berths on early models and an in-flight kitchen) popularized air travel in the United States. With just one refuelling stop, transcontinental flights across America became possible. Before the DC-3, such a trip would entail short hops in commuter aircraft during the day coupled with train travel overnight.

Missing image
A Douglas DC-3 of the Air Atlantique Historic Flight taking off at Hullavington airfield, England

Early American airlines like United, American, TWA, and Eastern ordered over 400 DC-3s. These fleets paved the way for the modern American air travel industry, quickly replacing trains as the favored means of long-distance travel across the United States.

During World War II the armed forces of many countries used the DC-3 for the transport of troops, cargo and wounded. Over 10,000 aircraft were produced (some as unlicensed copies in Japan as Showa L2D, and as licensed copies in the USSR as Lisunov Li-2) and the DC-3 was vital to the success of many Allied campaigns, in particular those in the jungles of New Guinea and Burma where the DC-3 (in service as the C-47/R4D) alone made it possible for Allied troops to counter the mobility of the light-travelling Japanese army. In Europe, the DC-3 was used in vast numbers in the later stages of the war, particularly to tow gliders and drop paratroops. In the Pacific, with careful use of the island landing strips of the Pacific Ocean, DC-3s were even used for ferrying soldiers serving in the Pacific theater back to the US.

After the war, thousands of surplus C-47s were converted to civil service, and became the standard equipment of almost all the world's airlines, remaining in front-line service for many years. The ready availability of ex-military examples of this cheap, easily maintained aircraft (it was both large and fast by the standards of the day) jump-started the worldwide post-war air transport industry.

After World War II the U.S. Navy also structurally modified a number of the early Navy R4D aircraft and re-designated the modified aircraft as R4D-8. The Air Force also continued to use the C-47 for various roles, including the AC-47 gunships - code named 'Puff the Magic Dragon' or 'Spooky' - used during the Vietnam War.

Numerous attempts were made to design a "DC-3 replacement" over the next three decades (including the very successful Fokker Friendship) but no single type could match the versatility, rugged reliability, and economy of the DC-3, and it remained a significant part of air transport systems well into the 1970s. Even today, almost 70 years after the DC-3 first flew, there are still small operators with DC-3s in revenue service. The common saying among aviation buffs and pilots is that "The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3."

A Swedish DC-3 was shot down over the Baltic Sea in June 1952, see the Catalina affair.


  • Powerplants: 2 895 kW (1200 hp) Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp 14 cylinder twin row radial piston engines, or 2 895 kW (1200 hp) Wright Cyclone nine cylinder radials.
  • Performance:
    • Max speed 346 km/h (187 kt), economical cruising speed 266 km/h (143 kt). Initial rate of climb 1130 ft/min.
    • Max range 2420 km (1307 nautical miles), range with max payload 563 km (305 nautical miles).
  • Weights: empty 8030 kg (17,720 lb), max takeoff 12,700 kg (28,000 lb).
  • Dimensions: Wing span 28.96 m (95 ft 0 in), length 19.66m (64 ft 6 in), height 5.16 m (16 ft 12 in). Wing area 91.7 m² (987 ft²).
  • Capacity: Flight crew of two. Seating for between 28 and 32 passengers at four abreast or 21 three abreast.
  • Production: 10,655 built, 2000 or so built in Russia under licence. More than 400 remained in commercial service in 1998

Specifications (variant described)

General characteristics

  • Crew:
  • Capacity:
  • Length: m ( ft)
  • Wingspan: m ( ft)
  • Height: m ( ft)
  • Wing area: m² ( ft²)
  • Empty: kg ( lb)
  • Loaded: kg ( lb)
  • Maximum takeoff: kg ( lb)
  • Powerplant: Engine type(s), kN (lbf) thrust or
  • Powerplant: Engine type(s), kW ( hp)


  • Maximum speed: km/h ( mph)
  • Range: km ( miles)
  • Service ceiling: m ( ft)
  • Rate of climb: m/min ( ft/min)
  • Wing loading: kg/m² ( lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: or
  • Power/mass:

Units using the Dakota

United States Army Air Force

Missing image
C-47A USAAF Serial #43-48052

Royal Air Force

South African Air Force

External Links

Related content
Related Development C-47 Dakota
Similar Aircraft

Boeing 247 - Curtiss C-46

Designation Series

DC-1 - DC-2 - DC-3 - DC-4 - DC-5 - DC-6

Related Lists

List of airliners-List of civil aircraft

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation


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