The Douglas DC-3

"The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3” – The Douglas DC-3 (or C-47 military designation) is generally considered the greatest single commercial transport in history and certainly the most famous. The DC-3 revolutionized air travel to the extent not equalled until the arrival of the jet age. Much of that revolution involved safety, thanks to its over engineered design and reliability of the all metal, twin engine airliner. The technical innovations incorporated by the Douglas team included retractable landing gear, wing flaps, variable-pitch propellers, stressed-skin structure, and flush riveting. DC-3s are still flying seven decades after its début in December 1935 and are likely to continue flying well into the 21st century.

The Douglas DC-3, also affectionately known as ‘Dakota’, ‘Sky-train’, ‘Gooney Bird’, was developed from the earlier DC-1 and DC-2 model, which together with the Boeing 247 were the first model metal airliners. Designed as an all sleeper version of the DC-2, the DC-3 (Douglas Commercial model 3) – Douglas Sleeper Transport (DST) made its maiden flight on December 17th 1935. The DC-3 entered commercial service in May 1936. In the immediate pre-war years the DC-3 became the most widely used airliner in the USA with many others being exported. A total of 803 civil DC-3s were built during that period. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the DC-3 was quickly snatched up and converted to a military transport. To make the DC3 passenger liner into the C47 cargo plane, Douglas designed modifications that included a large double cargo door with an integral passenger door, a beefed up floor with tie down fittings, folding bench type seating along the sides, a navigational astrodome aft of the flight compartment and stronger landing gear. Other changes were made as an aid to mass production to keep up with the military demand and additional assembly lines were set up at new factories At Long Beach in California and Oklahoma City. Production at the combined factories accelerated rapidly and reached 18.5 planes per day!

During 1942, the first of the 1.895 C-47As supplied to the RAF were delivered in the RAF service and were also known as Dakota Mk1 and the C-53 the Dakota Mk11. All these aircraft were powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1830s Twin Wasp radial engines. The DC-3 military variants served on every war front with distinction, carrying passengers. One famous run being that from Lisbon to England operating ex KLM DC-3s under the BOAC guise. The C-47s were also widely used for carrying parachutists, towing gliders and delivering all manner of supplies. In these roles the Dakota must be remembered by all those involved in the attack on Arnhem in 1944 and for its role in supplying General Orde Wingate and his troops, during their action in Burma. Another highlight of the Dakota came with the Berlin Airlift in 1947 and 1948 when RAF used nine squadrons in the massive airlift flights into East Berlin Templehof airport. Indeed wherever the war was being fought you would find the Douglas C-47 giving invaluable service. The C-47 was still in active service with the USAF during the Vietnam conflict. After World War II, the US Navy modified 100 R4Ds to Super DC-3 standard, though other engines were used: Wright R-1820-80s. This aircraft, designated the R4D-8 had newly designed wings, an enlarged tail and added landing gear doors. The R4D-8 was designated the C-117D after 1962.
Other versions of the DC-3 were fitted with equipment for such roles as: aerial bug and crop spraying, navigation trainers, ice patrols, aerial mapping and geophysical surveying, fire bombing, and checking navigational beacons and instrument approach systems. From the warmest deserts, to the coldest, snow-covered north and south poles, the Grand Old Lady (DC-3) has been everywhere!
In order to improve de DC-3 performance it was re-engined with turbine engines. British European Airways installed turboprops on a Dakota in 1951. The late Jack Conroy converted several by attaching three PT-6A engines; he called his version the Tri-Turbo Three. Currently Basler Aviation has been converting old DC-3s and C-47 into there Basler BT-67 model which incorporated a Pratt & Whitney PT6A turbine with a five bladed prop. The South African AF converted a number of their C-47s to the PT6A turbine model, using the AMI conversion from Texas.
A total of 10.125 DC-3s were built plus 450 built by Japan under pre-war licence and 2000 built in Russia as Lusinov LI-2.

Specifications: Douglas DC-3
Wing Span:95 ft 6 in (29.1 m)
Length:64 ft 5 n (19.6 m)
Height:16 ft 11 in (5.2 m)
Weight (Empty):18,300 lb (8,300 kg)
Weight (Gross):25,200 lb (11,430 kg)
Cruising Speed:170 mph (274 km/h)
Maximum Speed:237 mph (381 km/h)
Rate of Climb:1,100 ft (335 m)/min
Service Ceiling:23,000 ft (7,010 m)
Range:1,025 mi (1,650 km)
Power:two Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp, 1,200 hp, engines


DC-3 Fly In Meeting 27/28 May 2006 Aviodrome Lelystad

HA-LIX LI-2 (18433209) Sunflower                  
This particular plane was manufactured in 1949 in Taskent, USSR. HA-LIX is the only airworthy Li-2's in the world. It was built in 1949 in Airframe Factory Nr.84 of Taskent, serial number 18433209. This plane was delivered to the Hungarian military Transport Wing, which was then in the process of being organized at Szekesfehervar, on the 17th September 1949. She flew with the 16th Independent Transport Company until 1957, when her unit was disbanded and she was transferred to MALEV. Before being handed over she received a ‘general maintenance’ inspection at the Military Repair Workshop at Szekesfehervar. She was given a civilian identification sign of HA-LIX. Until MALEV withdrew the LI-2 type from regular service and returned HA-LIX to the Air Force, she was flying passengers on internal routes. During her service with MALEV she was given an extensive general inspection at the company’s workshop. On her return to the Air Force she was permanently transferred to the Kecskemet Air Base, where she was used as a military transport and a parachute trainer. During this time she was a frequent visitor of Budaors Air Base. Her next major refurbishing was done at Mineralnaja Vodi (Soviet Union) during 1968-69. At the end of 1973 she was withdrawn from service. She was flown to Szolnok, to be displayed in the museum of the Air Force Academy as’MN209’. It was from there that she was dismantled (July 1996) and transported to MEM Rsz (Air Service Budaors in the autumn of 1997. That year an agreement was successfully concluded with the Aviation History Museum of Szolnok about the rebuilding of the LI-2. During the early part of 2001 the Sun Flower Airline Company joined the restoration and continued the work (nearly 45,000 man-hours). After a complete rebuilt the aircraft first flight was made on 21st September 2001.Full test flying was conducted during the following winter and spring season. HA-LIX received her Certificate of Airworthiness on the 15th April 2002. Now it flies hired charter and sightseeing flights, and can also be used for Para-jumping. HA-LIX, named in honor of Theodore Kármán (Kármán Tódor), one of the pioneers of aerodynamics, is equipped with modern-time navigation aids like VOR/ILS and GPS so it can participate in normal air traffic. The GTF facilities are located at Budaörs airport (LHBS) near Budapest, Hungary.

OY-BPB DC-3 (20019) Vennerne                        

Built by Douglas Aircraft Company as a C-47A-DL model and delivered to the USAAF April 1944. The following year it was delivered to the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNAF) under the “lend - leased” program, until 1946 when it was leased by The Norwegian Air Lines. Registered as LN-IAT and named Nordtind. Painted in Scandinavian Airlines System colours during 1948. Last flight for SAS was in July 1953 and was deleted from the Norwegian register. Bought by the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) in October and received a new serial RDAF 68-682 and flew with Esk 721 squadron. Re-registered to K-682 in December 1960. Last flight for the RDAF was in July 1982 and she was put into storage soon after. In 1985 she was bought by Bohnsted-Petersen A/S as OY-BPB and was used as a company plane but also used at air shows. In 1992 she was taken over by The Association for Flying Museum Planes/Danish Friends and kept airworthy.

LN-WND DC-3 (11750) Dakota Norway                      
Built by Douglas Aircraft Company as a C-53D-DO model and delivered to the USAAF 8th Air Force in June 1942. The following year it went to the UK. The full history of this a/c is a little sketchy but the a/c is believed to have taken part in the D-Day operations in the spring of 1944! It was purchased by the Finnish authorities in 1948 and flew scheduled passenger operations for Finnair throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. From 1969 to 1985 it was operated by the Finnish Air Force as a VIP plane for the president Urho Kekkonen. After decommissioned by the Fin AF she was purchased by Captain Thore Virik (1986) and registered LN-WND with total hours of 38.600 flying. The Foundation Dakota Norway has taken over the operation of LN-WND with the intention of preserving the DC-3 in flying condition. The Norwegian aviation authorities have aloud the Dakota Norway to carry up to 19 passengers.

OH-LCH DC-3 (6346) Finnish Airlines                                  > 

Built by Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, California and completed on Christmas Eve 1942 as DC-3A-453 C/N 6346. Intended for Pan American Grace Airways as NC34953, she was promptly taken to military service on 27Dec42 and became C-53C-DO s/n 43-2033. She served in the US Air Transport Command, North Atlantic Wing and was probably based at Presque Isle, Maine until transferred in November 1943 to the European Wing, where she is believed to have served in personnel transport duties. In October 1944 she was transferred to the 8thAAF until the end of war in Europe. From storage in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, she was bought by the State of Finland and registered on 19Jun48 as OH-LCH and made her first commercial flight for Aero Oy on 21Jul48. She logged a total of 22137 hours until dismantled for spare parts on 15Dec60, but was rebuilt as a freighter with a large cargo door and re-registered as OH-LCH on 25Jun63 for Finnair Oy (ex-Aero Oy). On 1Apr 1967 she made Finnair’s last scheduled DC-3 passenger flight. Having logged 28826 hours she was sold to the Finnish Air Force on 5Mar70 and received call sign DO-11. The Air Force retired DC-3s in 1985 and DO-11 was sold to Airveteran Oy on 15Jan86 to become OH-LCH once again. She is flown regularly during summer season and currently her log shows about 33700 hours.

SE-CFP DC-3 (13883) SAS                             
Built by Douglas Aircraft Company as a C-47A-DL model and delivered as 43-30732 (October 1943) and was taken up by the 9th AF on the 20th February 1944. Returned to the USA in September 1945 and went to the RFC Canadair Ltd. Started flying with DNL as LN-IAF from September 1946. Then flew for SAS as "Fridtjof Viking" and changed to SE-CFP. Also flew with Linieflyg and Swedish AF. In 1984 she was sold to Stiftelsen Flygande Veteraner. She now flies in SAS colors as ‘Fridtjof Viking', and is used for pleasure flights for Flygande Veteraner members. (SE-CFP has data plate giving C-47A-60-DL, a block number not previously quoted, but it fits the next batch, starting at 18899).

N473DC DC-3 (19345) Dragg-Em-Oot                           
Built by Douglas Aircraft Company as a C-47 model and delivered to the USAAF on December 28th 1943 as 42-100882 and later transferred to the RAF as TS422 in September 1943. As a Dakota Mk 3, she was assigned to No.1 Heavy Glider Servicing Unit, attached to No.38 Group RAF at Netheravon, Wiltshire. In 1946 she was transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). In 1967 it was registered CF-KAZ for Keir Air Transport Ltd in Edmonton, Canada. It went through a series of owners, starting with Trans Provincial Airlines in July 1970, followed by Laurentian Air Services in 1975, but was returned to Trans Provincial that same year. According to the new system in tail-numbers, it was reregistered as C-FKAZ in 1976. In July 1978 it started operations with Pacific Coastal Airlines, moving on to Airwest Airlines in May 1980, ever onwards a few months later (September 1980) to Superior Airways and to Ontario Central Airlines in Gimli, Ontario in April 1981. Ever restless, it appears, it changed again ownership in December 1981; this time Ilford Riverton became the proud owner, but only till December 1982 as we see Bearskin Lake Air Services taking over the ownership then. It was registered N5831B for Air Siesta Inc. at McAllen,TX; Air Siesta bought it on 26Feb85. After a few months this changed: Jimmie H. Falls of McAllen,TX bought it 06Jun85;January 24th, 1995 when it was registered to McNeely Charter Service Inc., in West Memphis, Arkansas. It was bought and registered on 27Sep02 to John J.Johnson of Wasilla, AK. He based N5831B at Avra Valley, AZ N5831B was sold to a British owner and was registered on 30Jun04 to Dakota Heritage (Incorporated in Wilmington, Delaware) and left Arizona almost a year later, on May31st 2005 and arrived a few days later in Liverpool, UK

For online DC-3/C-47 photo’s and a/c histories check Ian Nell excellent database website at:

DC-3/C-47 Line drawings: Scale Models International/Joop Wenstedt traced by Peter Holland

DC-3 PhotoAlbum

More info on the N473DC check out Ruud Leeuw excellent website at:

The Douglas DC-3 and its Predecessors", by JMG Gradidge (Air-Britain, 1984) "The Douglas DC-3 and its Predecessors", update 2 & World Survey