Words of Advice:

"We have it totally under control. It's one person coming from China. It's going to be just fine." -- Donald Trump, 1/22/2020

“We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here..and isn't it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama."
-- Trump Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, 2/25/20

"I don't take responsibility for anything." --Donald Trump, 3/13/20

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

"There seems to be almost no problem that Congress cannot, by diligent efforts and careful legislative drafting, make ten times worse." -- Me

"What the hell is an `Aluminum Falcon'?" -- Emperor Palpatine

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Aircraft Businesses Cutting Their Throats; or, how Boeing caused the DC-3 to be made

I was surfing around for information about the Boeing Model 80, a three-engined biplane that was a contemporary of the Ford Trimotor. One thing I noted was that all of the Boeing 80s flew for Boeing Air Transport.

The significance of this comes into play when you look at the history of the Boeing 247, the first relatively fast airliner.

The problem for everyone was that the first 60 B-247s were sold to (no prizes for guessing) Boeing Air Transport (soon to be a part of United Airlines). The other airlines could not buy them and they had nothing to compete with them, as the 247s were 60-70mph faster than the tri-motors.

And so, Transcontinental and Western Air asked Douglas Aircraft if they could build a fast monoplane airliner. They did, the DC-1, of which one was built. TWA asked for some modifications, and Douglas produced the DC-2.

Over 150 DC-2s were produced, which was pretty impressive during the Depression.

American Airlines, however, was not completely satisfied with the DC-2. American's president, C.R. Smith, in a legendary 2-hour long distance call to Donald Douglas, Sr. (back when such calls were by no means inexpensive), ordered a larger aircraft that could accommodate sleeper bunks. The Douglas Sleeper Transport was born.

The DST could fly across the country with three or four stops and do it in 15 hours eastbound and under 18 hours westbound. The earlier transcontinental airline routes, even those with a Boeing 247, only flew during the day; the passengers continued overnight by rail. Think of the revolution that sparked in travel. Even a two or three day trip between rail and airliner was a major improvement over a seven day trip by train (and with no layover in Chicago, the Atlanta of the rail age). On a DST, one could leave Los Angeles in the afternoon and be in New York the next morning.

American also ordered a non-sleeper version of the aircraft, the DC-3. Douglas soon had orders for over 400 of them and their second customer was United Airlines, which recognized that their 247s were now obsolete.

Then came World War II. The DC-3 became the C-47 (and a host of variants) or the RD-4 in the Navy and over 10,000 were built. General Eisenhower reportedly said that the DC-3 was one of the three items most important towards winning the war (the other two were the Jeep and the M-1 rifle).

The Soviet Union purchased a license to build them and somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000 Li-2s were built.

Japan had purchased a license prior to the war and Showa Aircraft built about 500. You can imagine how much fun that was in the Pacific Theater with all of the combatants operating DC-3s.

After the war, other aircraft companies tried to build replacements for DC-3s, but even to this day, 70 years later, the best replacement for a DC-3 is still another DC-3 (although with better engines). DC-3s are truly the aviation counterpart to a M1911 Colt.

As for the Boeing 247, after Boeing satisfied its order by Boeing Air Transport/United Airlines for sixty aircraft, they made maybe fifteen more. If they had sold airplanes to TWA, we might not have had the wonderful DC-3.

(If you want to see a slideshow of American Airlines polishing Flagship Detroit, a restored DC-3, go here.)


LBJ said...

Very nice post Steph.

You know me. . raving conservative and you like me anyway. . but I love your posts on airplanes. . they're as detailed and good as anything in any flying magazine.

Still got this dang cold, so not going up again til my ears clear.

Comrade Misfit said...

I understand that, I've been OOC for almost four days now.