The Douglas DC-3 is a fixed-wing propeller-driven airliner. Its cruise speed (207 mph or 333 km/h) and range (1,500 mi or 2,400 km) revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting effect on the airline industry and World War II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made.
The DC-3 was a twin-engine metal monoplane, developed as a larger, improved 14-bed sleeper version of the Douglas DC-2. It had many exceptional qualities compared to previous aircraft. It was fast, had a good range and could operate from short runways. It was reliable and easy to maintain and carried passengers in greater comfort. Before the war it pioneered many air travel routes. It was able to cross the continental United States, making transcontinental flights and worldwide flights possible, and is considered the first airliner that could make money by carrying passengers alone.
Civil DC-3 production ended in 1942 with 607 aircraft being produced. However, together with its military derivative, the C-47 Skytrain (designated the Dakota in British Royal Air Force (RAF) service), and with Russian- and Japanese-built versions, over 16,000 were built. Following the Second World War, the airliner market was flooded with surplus C-47s and other ex-military transport aircraft, and Douglas’ attempts to produce an upgraded DC-3 were a failure due to cost.
While the DC-3 was soon made redundant on main routes by more advanced types such as the Douglas DC-6 and Lockheed Constellation, the design continued to prove exceptionally adaptable and useful. Large numbers continue to see service in a wide variety of niche roles well into the 21st century. In 2013 it was estimated that approximately 2,000 DC-3s and military derivatives were still flying, a testament to the durability of the design