Spotlight on the McDonnell Douglas DC-3

The DC-3 is one of the most significant transport airliners in aviation history. Used for both military and civilian purposes, the DC-3 was first flown in 1935. “DC” stands for Douglas Commercial, as this aircraft was originally designed at the request of American Airlines in place of the Boeing 247, which Boeing refused to sell to American until an order for airline rival United was filled.

Roughly 430 DC-3 aircraft were built for civil use before WWII. During the war,  over 10,000 units of the military versions of the DC-3 (C-47, C-53, and the Dakota) were manufactured. These aircraft were used mainly to transport troops, cargo, and the wounded.

Today, there are still select cargo airlines which feature the DC-3. Additionally, they are used for aerial spraying, freight transport, passenger service, military transport, missionary flying, and sightseeing.


  • Low, tapered wing
  • Semi-retractable landing gear with tailwheel
  • Two P&W Twin Wasp piston engines
  • Rounded tail fin with low-set tailplane


Range: 1,500 miles (2414 km) on normal fuel. Range of 2,125 miles (3420 km) with maximum fuel.

Weight: Empty 16,970 lbs (7698 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 26,000 lbs (11793 kg); useful load 8,600 lbs (3904 kg); wing loading 25.3 lbs/sq ft (123.5 kg/sq m); power loading 12 lbs/hp (5.45 kg/hp).

Dimensions: Span 95 ft 0 in (28.96 m); length 64 ft 2 1/2 in (19.57 m); height 16 ft 11 in (5.16 m); wing area 987.0 sq ft (91.69 sq m).

Armament: (AC-47D) The 1965 designation for gunship conversions with three 7.62 mm (0.30 in) General Electric Miniguns firing through the fourth and fifth windows and from the open door on the port side of the fuselage. Some of the Soviet aircraft were armed as well. Apart from the above exceptions all other aircraft had no armament.

Equipment/Avionics: Full radio equipment includes radio compass, marker beacon receiver and receivers for localised and glide-path reception for the instrument-landing equipment. Glider-towing cleat in tail. De-icing equipment includes airscrew anti-icing system, rubber de-icer shoes on outer wings, tailplane and fin leading edges and alcohol-type windscreen de-icer. Oxygen equipment. Some aircraft were equipped with H2S radar for training purposes and others had “Rebecca” navigational radar for use as pathfinders.

Fuselage/Cargo Area: Main cargo hold equipped with snatch block, idler pulley and tie-down fittings for cargo handling. Large freight door on port side. Cargo load of 6,000 lbs (2725 kg) that may include three aero-engines on transport cradles, or two light trucks. Folding seats down sides of cabin for 28 fully-armed airborne or parachute troops. Alternatively fittings for eighteen stretchers together with provision for a medical crew of three. Racks and release mechanism for six parachute pack containers under fuselage. Also under the fuselage are fittings for carrying two three-bladed airscrews.

Wings/Fuselage/Tail Unit: The wings were of a low-wing cantilever monoplane design with a rectangular centre-section and tapering out sections with detachable wing-tips and Douglas cellular multi-web construction. The ailerons were fabric covered with controllable trim-tabs in the starboard aileron. Hydraulically operated all-metal split trailing-edge flaps. The fuselage was an almost circular-section structure built up of transverse frames of formed sheet longitudinal members of extruded bulb angles, with a covering of smooth sheet metal. The Tail Unit was of the cantilever monoplane type with The tail-plane and fin of multi-cellular construction. The rudder and elevators have aluminium-alloy frames and fabric covering and are aerodynamically and statically balanced. There are trim-tabs in all the control surfaces.

These specifications were provided by PilotFriend and can be found here.  Aircraft features provided by Jane’s Aircraft Recognition Guide.

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