The Wright Stuff: 1941 DC-3

left front

It’s amazing what you can find listed on eBay! Here’s an airliner Jim S found for us! There’s one $70,000 bid and no reserve. The DC-3 revolutionized the airline industry, providing 200 MPH travel in comfort, yet is able to land on short, unpaved runways. These earlier aircraft were powered by Wright 1820s. Imagine crossing the country in 15 hours instead of taking days on the train. If this DC-3 can be made airworthy again it could be used for hauling freight, skydivers or even passengers. It will likely be an expensive process and the logbooks must be complete. The engines and props are very low time and it has new tires and tubes, but there is an AD (airworthiness directive) on the props that could be very expensive.

inside

It has an interior with 12 seats. This was really luxurious for its day. It actually looks nicer than some modern planes!

panel

The avionics are very dated and will need to be upgraded. Those radios and the transponder are way out of date. It’s very easy to spend $50,000 for a very basic upgrade.

left rear

This DC-3 is equipped with a cargo door. The control surfaces look like the covering is serviceable. If this old “Gooney Bird” could be made airworthy again for a reasonable pile of money, it would easily find a home. The owner has offered to do an annual inspection, but that could be very expensive. DC-3s in airworthy condition can be purchased for $250,000 or less. It would be wonderful to see this aircraft saved, but sadly, this old bird will most likely make its last flight to an aircraft boneyard and be broken up for parts.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. DrinkinGasoline

    A cool piece of aviation history…a “Hangar Find”.

  2. Mike

    On my “Bucket List” of airplanes I want to fly. Time is short.

  3. crazydave

    There are several “bush” airlines still using these. There is a TV show about one of them(Buffalo Airways, based out of Yellowknife NWT) that uses several DC-3s, a Curtis C 46, and a fleet of DC-6s, a couple of Electras and a couple of other older planes as well.

    A long time ago, when I was working in the NWT, I had many trips in DC-3’s (with different airlines) and one memorable flight in the co-pilot seat, of one that had been Eisenhower’s plane during WWII and was still OD inside.

    There is also another Canadian high arctic airline (Kenn Borek) that uses the turbo-prop conversion of the DC-3 as a mainstay, and has done recent work as a re-supply system in the Antarctic. The turboprop conversion, while expen$ive to perform, results in a powerful, fast and much cheaper to run aircraft that can do things virtually no other plane can do

    Hope this one finds the air under its wings again. It deserves to live again, not just sit somewhere as a curiosity.

    • skloon

      I flew in CF-CUE when Transport Canada owned it, very low hour plane, originally a US Navy plane then went to Canadian Pacific airlines, the Govt’ of Canada then Buffalo these old planes have a peculiar smell that brings back great memories to me

  4. Roger Owen

    Absolutely love it! Lottery win tonight???

  5. That Guy

    I don’t know a lot about airplanes, but I know a surprising number of these things are still in commercial use. I sold a couple of cars to a fellow from Texas who had a fleet of them (three, if I recall) which he used for cargo transport into the late 2000’s. They were destroyed in Hurricane Ike and were not repairable, otherwise I’m sure they would still be flying.

    There are no short-cuts when rebuilding an airplane. Getting an airworthiness certificate for something like this is a huge amount of work and money. But it sure looks like it would be worthwhile, though probably not profitable.

  6. Dan h

    My all time favorite plane!
    DC-3’s are the Mercedes W123’s of the sky!!

  7. Howard A Member

    Weren’t these used by drug runners years ago, because of their ability to land in remote areas? Not really into airplanes, except for travel now (it’s the airports I could do without) Wonder what the odometer sez?

    • David Frank David Member

      Drug runners? Imagine it’s the sixties, bouncing along at about 500 feet AGL over the Chihuahua desert, the ADF pointing north tuned to XERO in Juarez, listening to the roar of those big round Wrights and Steve Crosno doing his late night show on the ADF, stars above, dark below… Just imagining, not remembering of course.

      No odometer, by the way, Hobbs meters, engine and airframe times. Some of these DC-3s/C-47s have accumulated many thousands of hours.

      • Dave Wright

        Wonderful story………

      • rogerowen

        I feel a film coming on.

  8. James HGF

    The Dare Devil pilots of Columbia – the vintage Douglas DC-3 plane.

    Twenty five minutes and one second film that is definitely worth your time. The film may be 5 or more years old, but oh, how I’d love to fly with Captain Raoul and Co-Pilot Maria. Or (today) with Captain Maria and Co-Pilot…TBD.

    If you wince at traveling by way of Airbus A320 or Boeing 757 this is not for you. But for all others what a flat out wonderful aviation/cultural time machine merging yesterday and today:

    Risking in all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-F-cBF5ZbQ

    • Roger Owen

      Thanks James – this film is BRILL!

    • D. King

      Cool video–thanks so much for posting!

  9. Chris A.

    I love the cockpit picture. Glass cockpit? the only glass there is on the instrument faces and the windscreen. The instruments are now referred to as “steam gauges”.
    There is a restored WWII C47 that flies out of Geneseo NY. My late best friend, a USAF transport pilot flew one back to the US from Vietnam that had been rigged out with a Mareng flexible fuel tank in the cabin. The plane was at max weight on the takeoff from Guam and had to wait for a late night air cooling to gain sufficient air density. The crew were all non-smokers and small men. It took forever for the plane to burn off enough fuel to get off the runway and be able to climb to cruise altitude. He said the takeoff roll was about the same as a loaded WWII B 29.

  10. piper62j

    I received my 5-level aircraft technician certificate on these planes.. By todays’ standards, they are extremely expensive to maintain and service. If you can find the parts..

    At Fort Bragg in NC, we would take the paratroopers up for jumps and do “round robins” down to Langley for dinner.. That base had the best mess hall food of all time while I was in the Air Force.

    Then, I clocked 7 hours in the a Puff the Magic Dragon in Nam with night flights.. What an aircraft.. Serious contender until the C-130s’ came along and out gunned it.. Those were the days..

    This aircraft may still be worth the investment if you can use it to make money. Best bet would be to have it converted to turbo prop and extend the airframe life span.

    All in all, these “Gooney Birds” are fascinating and still around, just looking great..

    Fabulous find and a great, great aircraft..

  11. Chris in Nashville

    Would make a great house! I would lay it flat and build a first story mostly of glass under the wings and body on some hill top somewhere. Cabin would be the bed rooms and decks out on top of the wings!

  12. Ed P

    There are stories about dc3/c47’s sustaining serious damage and still landing safely. What a tough old bird these planes are.

  13. DREW V.

    A few years ago I had the privilage of flying in a fully restored DC-3 “The Rose” . The plane had been to several airshows out East and was on its way back home in Cali. It was painted up advertisig Turner Classic Movies. Any hoo, the plane made a stop at my hometown for fuel and to spend the night, Several of us noticed the plane sitting at the airport and stopped to admire… The owner and pilot and his wife and a cpl others talked to us for along time about the plane… Eventually the owner said if we wanted to meet them back at the airport the next day he would take us up for an hr or so flight… Man it was a blast, as those engines roared to life and the plane shook like an earthquake had struck…. Once in the air, it smoothed out some what… It was great to experience flight the way my grand Dad did and not just be smooth as silk… Kinda like driving a Model T compared to a new Cadillac…

    • DREW V.

      Interstate 55 from 1500 ft…

    • Andrew

      That’s quite the experience. Not many say they have been on a DC-3, and then for a free joy ride! I’m jealous now. Thumbs up.

      • D. King

        A number of years ago there was a “dinner flight” from Orlando (I think) to Key West. Everything was ’40s on the flight, including uniforms, music–even a recording of the Pearl Harbor announcements. I always wanted to fly on a DC-3, and this was a memorable evening. Alas, the “airline” no longer exists…

  14. charlie Member

    One at Moosehead Lake in Maine a few years ago with pontoons for landing on the lake, wheels for the paved runway, some in Alaska with skis, and wheels that could be lowered below the skis as well. There is a great book about the DC 3 during the Berlin Airlift, when the Russians cut off the western powers from using the roadway through Russian occupied Germany to Berlin which was an open city.

  15. Shilo

    I love this old planes. There is a story that a DC-3 crash landed on an island in the Pacific and they put a DC-2 wing on it to fly off the island. And….. It worked. An amazing old plane.

  16. Dave Wright

    I have been tempted by these aircraft several times, I did own and operate a HU16 Gruman for a couple of years. It is basically the flying boat version of these with a stronger fuselage and the same engines. I used it for a contract I had with NOAA and the FAA. It was profitable but when the contract ended it was too expensive to operate for fun so we sold the bird. A buddy of mine had one that he converted to an RV and flew up the Amazon…..I have owned and enjoyed several Beech D18’s that were economical and fun to fly, they are sort of a small version of the DC3 with Pratt and Whitney 450HP R985’s instead of these 600 HP R1620’s. I think the FAA still has one or two DC3’s in service. The turbine upgrade is huge, extends airframe life and makes a very smooth running powerful bird. This old girl would require an extensive inspection of both the bird and paperwork before laying down the asking price.

  17. Andrew

    I would turn it into a coffee shop / lunch room or great for a business promotion and thus an eye catcher.

  18. MSG Bob

    As Robert A. Heinlein wrote, some things are so well-made that the only way to get a better one is a major redesign. Besides the Gooney Bird, he also mentioned the Model 1903 Springfield rifle as an example.

  19. John Kirkland

    I’ve a few 1903s but I’m more of a Krag guy. Second choice: Swedish mauser. Then the 03’s

  20. Rob

    I saw one operated by the Alphabet boys (Other Government Agencies) while I was in Afghanistan in 09-10. Still getting the job done

  21. david

    200 mph is a stretch. 180 cruise is more realistic

  22. Doug Towsley

    My Dad was a Radio operator/navigator in C46s mostly and a few C47s late in the war flying from What is now Pakistan into KunMing and other locations supplying Chaing Kai Cheks (Sp?) nationalist army. Originally he was supposed to be a belly gunner on B24s or B17s but because of bad depth perception washed out of the Gunner program (luckily, casualty rate was very high) So he ended up in Cargo. Many wild adventures & Close calls. The mountains saw so many crashes it was known as the Aluminum highway. Many regrets too. He said in order to save their skins they pushed cargo and drums of fuel out the doors and many landed on a village. Other wartime regrets. So years later at Incirlik Airbase in Turkey. There was a C47 like this plane on the transit ramp belonged to the Turkish AF. One of our US planes was running up engines and the C47 was pointed the wrong way. Our jet wash blew off the vertical stab (Rudder) and damaged the flaps. Our unit had to repair it and it was interesting to pull off. My dad really enjoyed hearing about it. He did actually come over and visited me in Turkey and we had many wild adventures. While he is now gone. I plan to visit India soon and see some of the places he was in during WW2. He was embarassed when visiting the Taj Mahal someone wrote Graffitti in the mens room “Kilroy was here”

  23. Charles

    A few years back there was a company who was refurbishing DC3’s and installing Turbo-prop engines on them. It seems that the planes are so well made that it makes sense to update them and keep them in the air as long as possible.

  24. Van

    These are cool.
    Mom was a stewardess on DC3S for Eastern back in the 40s.

    • Charles

      Great history Van!

  25. Howard A Member

    If anybody is flying through Milwaukee, or waiting for someone, you must visit
    “The Gallery of Flights” exhibit. In it are photos and scale models of vintage airlines, including several DC-3’s and views of Mitchell Field when it was just a converted 2 story farm house. Fascinating history lesson there, and is very well done.

  26. Roger Owen

    Not surprisingly, it looks as if this particular aircraft had a military background.

  27. Jubjub

    One of these was abandoned at Standiford Field back in the early eighties…and it’s still there! Was full of contraband but the crew got away. Part of the Bluegrass Conspiracy.

  28. Peregrine Lance

    Delighted to see there are as many people out there who love the DC-3/C-47 as much as I do! I forget which one, but some reputable agency voted the DC-3 the BEST DESIGNED AIRPLANE–EVER! I couldn’t agree more….I’ve only been in one one time, but it was a connector flight between Oklahoma and Tennessee, and only required a small critter to do the hauling–but it was a REGULAR SERVICE FLIGHT! That was in 2000; wonder if they still are in service….What a lovely memory! (For the record: I’ve also crossed the Atlantic in a British Airways Convair–a prop plane which the Brits had converted from old B-29’s! (It was the first commercial plane to have a lower deck–a 360-degree pod which was made into the bar!) Took 12 hours to do the ocean leg…all with prop drone zapping one’s consciousness.

    • James HGF

      Your comment about a civilian modified B29 led me to the BOAC Boeing B377 Stratocruiser SPEEDBIRD. Speedbird, what a wonderful name.

      Cutaway and interior service photos: http://b377.ovi.ch/cutaway/boac.html

    • James HGF

      From Aviation History OnLine Museum the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser specs. BOAC took delivery of its first 377 in 1949 and began transatlantic service in December. Had to be fantastic to make such a flight in ’49 or early ’50s:

      http://www.aviation-history.com/boeing/377.html

      • Dave Wright

        I cut up 2, KC97’s a few decades ago. They were the tanker version of this aircraft. They were so expensive to operate and maintain that there was just no practical use for them. At first, the job seemed pretty daunting but they came apart pretty easily when we got into it. We made really good money selling cockpit pieces to collectors and museums.

      • Peregrine Lance

        James–Thanks for running down the more detailed stats! It WAS, INDEED, fantastic!–to be making that journey, only my second flight. (This was in 1956.) That lower-deck bar with its 360-windows had the quality of the pod on the belly of a Zeppelin–as if one were suspended, hanging from clouds…..I also remember that–of my ultimately four trips crossing the Atlantic–this one (the only one by prop) had a jet-lag that was twice as fierce as when jets came in!….BTW, the third of those flights–jet, of course, it now being 1976–left from L.A. heading for London. We had to put down in Canada, before hitting the big water: An engine was out! Never happened while on BOAC, though….

  29. Chris A.

    Per Shilo, the DC3 with a DC2 starboard outer wing panel actually existed and there are pictures of it on line. Look under DC21/2. Ernest K. Gann’s book “Fate is the Hunter” has great stories of flying these in the 30’s. The DC3-C47 had at least three major versions; the DC3, the DC3S which was an overnight sleeper version, and the C47. The Japanese built them under license and they were ID named “Tabby”. Douglas attempted an update named the Super DC3 but that was the end of the line. Today I wonder how many pilots hold a multi-engine propeller, taildragger commercial license to fly these.

    • D. King

      I love Fate is the Hunter, Chris! Gann had a real talent to describe what must have been a tremendously interesting life. I highly recommend the book.

  30. van

    Charlie mentioned the Berlin Air lift. Dad was in the air force at the time. Dad was volunteered to aid in the loading and unloading of planes during the lift. On landing in Berlin on one flight a cargo trolley from another flight rolled into the prop. Shrapnel went through his plane injuring the crew badly. After helping to extract the pilot it was discovered that some of the blood all over dad was his own.
    I believe you can only earn a purple heart during war time. I would think the cold war should count.

  31. Roger Owen

    I’ve noticed several comments about replacing the engines with turbo props – but I just love the spluttering start up of those Wright radials!

    • D. King

      Agreed–nothing like a radial! I could always tell certain airplanes by sound, even though it was decades between hearing (or seeing) them. Constellations, for example–first plane I ever flew on. Some 30 years later I was sure I’d heard one–and was able to verify it by sight. And later, one made an emergency landing due to fire at our local county airport when I still lived north of Houston. I was at the airport about 15 minutes after I heard about it, and was able to crawl all over it while they worked on the #2 engine. Coolest thing was sitting in the captain’s seat! I guess not many women would be interested, but my hubby understood…he knows I’m nuts.

  32. Roger Owen

    Yes, Dac’s do have a special noise. I live on the flight path to Bournemouth Airport and we used to have a Lockheed Electra 188 fly over our cottage and I’d leap outside to watch it slowly and majestically turn finals – and every time it did you got 4 little trails of oil burn smoke – magic!

    Best of all though – is the sound of RR Merlin’s whether they are in Spits, Hurricanes or Lancs – the sound is just so distinctive.

  33. D. King

    Ah, yes–good times! I appreciate the modern jet airliner for what it does, but there’s nothing like the old airplanes.

  34. piper52j

    Excellent homework Phil.. thank you..

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