For almost half a century my time and energies have been devoted to the design and manufacture of commercial and military aircraft; and, for approximately the last half of that period, our organization has also undertaken research and production of missiles, culminating in our present work in the highly technical field of space equipment.
In 1921 the Douglas Cloudster took to the air. None of us who watched our initial model's first flight would have predicted the Cloudster would be followed by scores of designs and variations that have rolled from our assembly lines ever since. Each succeeding model was built for a specific type of flight duty, and I believe it reasonable to say in all due modesty that all of them were well-designed and successful aircraft. .
A few of our designs attained some degree of fame, and one of them, the DC-3, has become almost legendary. It seems to go on forever. More than ten thousand of these transports were built, and several thousand remain in service today, representing a forty-year span of service. It is fairly safe to predict that a few of these hardy veterans will be flying at the half-century mark. .
There is a warm and permanent place in my affections and memories for this airplane, and an even warmer sense of respect for the airline operators, the technicians, and all the commercial and military pilots who have worked and lived with these ships in all corners of the world. To these men must go the largest measure of credit for the multiple exploits, the almost incredible ad ventures, and, even more important, the solid years of dependable and workaday accomplishment that combines to perpetuate the DC-3 legend. Donald W Douglas, (sr) .
During the last seven and one-half decades the world has seen literally thousands of different kinds of airplanes come and go. In this time, four big wars and scores of small ones have proven the airplane to be a valuable weapon. Between wars, the airplane has become an instrument of peace. It is now universally recognized that no more wars will be fought and no peace truly lasting without the airplane playing a dominant role as an instrument of power—either military or economy. In just the short span of a man's lifetime, the airplane has changed from a symbol of folly and daring to a symbol of strength and national vigour.
Of all the airplanes ever built that have contributed in some measure to aviation progress, there is one which has far sur-passed all others in faithful service, dependability, and achievement. It has been parked on the ramps of the world's air terminals for over forty years. It was born during the days of wooden propellers and is still flying as we pass from the jet age into an era of space flight. This book is about that airplane: its birth, its development, its adoption by the airlines and the military services, its uses in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, its conversion to civilian use after the wars, its innumerable feats as an angel of mercy, its employment as a jack-of-all-trades, and, finally, its future. .
This fabulous airplane has earned many names, set many records and scored innumerable aviation "firsts." It has flown more miles, piled up more flying time, carried more cargo and passengers, and performed more "impossible" feats than any other winged craft in the world. .
The manufacturer called it the Skytrain and designated it the "DC-3." The airlines call it simply, "the Three." The U.S. Air Force called it the "C-47." The U.S. Navy called it the "R4D." The British called it the Dakota. But these are official names. The men who fly this extraordinary machine have other names for it. Airline pilots call it the "Dizzy Three." Civilian pilots and passengers have given it such names as "Old Methuselah," "Placid Flodder," and "Dowager Duchess.".
Today, however, pilots everywhere refer to it with great affection as the "Gooney Bird" after the albatross, whose great powers of flight and ubiquity are legendary. We fell in love with the Gooney Bird when we were still teen-agers, while watching it come and go at our local air-ports. We dreamed of the day when we might fly one of these magnificent, stately birds. The great day came for both of us when we won our wings as pilots in the U.S. Army Air Forces. We early formed an attachment for this ingenious collection of aluminium, rivets, wires and gadgets as much as anyone can become attached to an inanimate object. .
This plane, of all the planes we have flown, doesn't seem inanimate, somehow. It has a distinct personality, warmth, an identity, and even nobility that is unlike anything else man-made we know of. It is dependable, forgiving, attentive, gracious and benevolent. The plane was here when we both entered the service nearly four decades ago. It is still here as good as new now that we have ended our military careers. We have flown it for thousands of hours. We have had our moments of doubt, but we have always come home safely and full of gratitude for the qualities that have been built into the Grand Old Lady of the Skies. .
We hope we can convey to the reader in the pages that follow what a remarkable flying machine Mr. Douglas built. If so, we will have partially repaid the kindly Gooney Bird for the years of progress it has brought to the flying art and the many hours of pleasure we have had when it was in our hands. But let no man think this book is a eulogy for the deceased. The Gooney Bird is still in the prime of life, and will outlive us all. .
Credit: The Legendary DC-3 by Carroll V Glines & Wendell F Moseley – Bantam Air and Space series No 18 1979 .
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