Copyright © A. Filippone (1996-2001). All Rights Reserved.

Douglas DC-3/C-47

Douglas DC-3
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The Douglas DC-3 is considered by some the most successful civil aircraft ever built. The chief engineer was Arthur Raymond (1900-1999). The technical innovations incorporated by the Douglas team included retractable landing gear, wing flaps, variable-pitch propellers, stressed-skin structure, and flush riveting. These innovations set many standards until the development of the jet engines (1950s).

The first airplane flew in 1935. The airplane was built in nearly 11,000 by the end of 1944. By then it accounted for over 90 % of the world commercial aircraft. In 1940 a revised version (designated C-47) was launched. 18,000 were built in all, many of them after the war in countries other than America (including the Soviet Union).

Legends still accompany the name of the DC-3, as being virtually indestructible (also due to the 500,000 rivets of its airframe). Stories are told of a DC-3 that lost part of its wing when the airplane scraped a mountain in Arizona, but managed to fly on.

A DC-3 was once dugged out of an Icelandic glacier months after being abandoned in a storm, and found to be in working order; during WW-II a Japanese fighter rammed a DC-3 and fell to earth, while the American pilot flew back home and was credited with a kill.

This adds to an incredible safety record, that made the aircraft useful for anything from commercial traffic (all the major airlines in America, and later elsewhere) to military deployment (WW-II, including D-day in Normandy, 1944; Berlin airlift, 1948, Korean war, 1950, Vietnam War, 1960s etc.)

President Eisenhauer said the DC-3 was one of the West’s four weapons, the other ones being the jeep, the bazooka, and the nuclear bomb.

Many DC-3s are still in service (about 2000 by some count). The photo above was taken at a small airfield in southern Arizona, Dec. 1997. The airplane was about to take off with a team of parachuters.

Technical Data (Model DC-3/C-47):

max speed 370 km/h ( 230 miles/h)
cruise speed 330 km/h ( 207 miles/h)
cruise ceiling 7000 m ( 23,000 ft)
maximum range 3400 km ( 2,100 miles)
wing span 28.96 m ( 64 ft, 5 in)
aircraft length 19.65 m ( 16 ft, 11 in)
powerplant 2 x 895 Kw PW R-1830 engines

Other Data

(L/D)max 14.7
CDv 0.0249
wing loading 25.3 lb/in²
wing aspect-ratio 9.1

Selected References

There are several dozen books on the DC-3 and its legacy. Here is a short list of aerodynamics-related items, plus some history.

  • Anderson JD. Aircraft Performance and Design, McGraw-Hill, 1998. (Chapter 8).

  • The Encyclopedia of World Aircraft, edited by D. Donald, Blitz Editions, London, 1997.

  • Holden HM. The Legacy of the DC-3, Wind Canyon Publ., 1996 (ISBN 1-879630-40-0)

  • Stevens JH. The Shape of the Aeroplane, Hutchinson Publishers Ltd, London, 1953

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Copyright © A. Filippone (1996-2001). All Rights Reserved.