I ask "How fast does it go?" and he said "Fast enough". On further questioning I found that it went 6 knots. "One hundred and forty four nautical miles in a day" he said "during which time I sleep, read and eat. I also do repairs and keep watch. In 21 days I can be more than 3000 N miles from here". I had never thought of it that way. Breathing in and out, sleeping, reading and just living and letting the wind take me away. I fell for it and went sailing. -Tom Swaim-

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Old Fools Journal: The Douglas Racer

This is not a DC 3 but it is me and it is a DC 10 somewhere in the sky.

Today being the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the DC-3 and seeing that most of my working life has been involved with flying I just can't let this birthday of my favorite airliner/cargo airplane of all time go without mention.

I titled this because in my youth I flew with men who flew airplanes of this vintage commercially and in the military. Many of them referred to the DC-3 as the Douglas racer because it wasn't.

When I was a Young Fool working as flight engineer on a Boeing 720 (short version of a 707) one captain once told me that the DC-3 was the prettiest of the swept wing airplanes.

There was only a little over 600 of them built but I've read that there were in excess of 15000 variants built. Many are still in service today. The reason for that is summed up in this statement I heard when I was a young pilot "the only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3". So far that has held to be true.

DC 3- A Legend In Her Time by Bruce McAllister has just been released and I'm looking forward to seeing it. I've only heard about it so I don't yet know where to find it. As soon as "Books A Million" has it you can bet I'll be in there spilling coffee and dog earing the pages.

We have a working DC-3 at the airport here and I see it flying at least every 90 days. I can hear it coming, I know what it is before I see it and I always look up. Most of these ground pounders around here don't. Some time I'll tell you about how it feels for a flyer to be unseated. I have seen it be the death of a those who didn't have an alternative plan.

When you see one flying you will have plenty of time to observe it as it moves pretty slow by todays standards. It's way fast enough for me.

After I finished this post I found this.
DC-3: A Legend in Her Time: A 75th Anniversary Photographic Tribute
Out of my price range I'm afraid.


Big Oak said...

There is one in NE Indiana I see every once in a while. The DNR here rents the plane to dump bacteria on unsuspecting Gypsy Moth larvae each May. I don't know what it's used for other months of the year. But it's like the return of an old friend whenever I see it.

Gwen Buchanan said...

well that certainly proves it... you spent a lot of time up there in that great blue yonder... I try to imagine... as I have never flown.. yes probably the last person on earth who hasn't.

you loved it didn't you?

Gunnar Berg said...

Love them.

John Romeo Alpha said...

Ozark Airlines DC-3s taking off and landing at the airport near my house when I was a kid were among my first impressions of what airplane travel meant. If I see one today, that's still what I think of.

Lord Wellbourne said...

I have a photograph of my father and his flight group (Army Air Corps) standing in front of a DC-3. He used to say that in the air it moved as slow as he did on the ground.

And might I just add, in reference to the photo of yourself.....insert wolf whistle here....you are certainly a credit to the uniform.

Ed said...

The second second airplane flight of my life was in a DC-3. Trans-Texas Airways, also known as Tree Top Airways, flew me from Houston to Leesville, La or Fort Polk for Army Basic Training in September 1965.

Oldfool said...

I seldom talk about flying as it is a very personnel thing for me. I never did it as a hobby or for pleasure either for that matter but jumped right in to make a living. At least that's what I've said over the years. I knew from the beginning that was a lie but it kept me from being obligated to reveal my feelings. I find now that I can't reveal something that there are no words for. I can tell stories and maybe some of those feelings will be revealed. I like telling the stories because it brings back that old light feeling in my chest that I got when the dopamine (don't you just love that word) was released by my brain. I get the reward before I even post.
"Gunner Berg" (see comment above) sent me these links that I find interesting and I think you will too.


I never flew the Aeronca Sedan but I did fly the chief. I used to give flight insturction to a lad in Corpus Christi back in the mid '60's. I wish I had photos.
In my dreams I fly. Sometimes with an airplane sometimes not.
If I could fly quietly like a bird there would be no keeping me on the ground.
That photo is over 30 years old back when I still looked good nekkid.

Lord Wellbourne said...

No comment in response to the last sentence as I am wearing colours that would clash with blush.

Steve A said...

American Airlines certainly has a soft spot for the DC-3, with their employees continuing to keep "Flagship Detroit" in the air.

f said...

I've ever only flown one full-scale, an ultra-light named 'Beaver,' (and no rude comments because my favourite plane to fly 'in' is a DHC Beaver) and that was the 'introductory lesson' dodge to bring a bit of money for the owner. But the rush you get, that endorphin hit, I'm certainly familiar with. Just let me stand on the ramp as a Sea Fury fires up, or an engine I've built struggles in to life the first time, almost bring tears to my eyes. My partner, my own SWMBO, thinks I'm loopy... even, if only once, a bit of writing once got that feeling.

Steven Cain said...

Ahhh... that was back in the day when we... the U.S. of Americans... still considered style in our designs. That plane is a work of art... beautiful.

Ben in Texas said...

I've always said that When I hit the lottery, I'd buy me an outfitted DC 3 or the like and hire a pilot. Take off and land almost anywhere, and fly low enough to actually see the World as you go by. PLUS the pilot would be cheaper cause he won't have to be jet rated.

Love em. good post , thanks.

Chandra said...

I learned something new today from your post. Thank you, Richard!
Peace :)

Anonymous said...

Dang! You're a hottie!

Dizzy-Dick said...

I have been in them (on the ground), they are quite the work horse. An acquaintance of mine used to fly one for an engineering company. They installed larger engines from the original.

Allegheny Airlines used to land them right over our school back in the '50s at a County ariport next to my then to be father-in-law's house. You may be interested in my blog post today about him and some of his small planes. He was a civilian instructor during WW2 for the Army Air Corps. He also knew a lot of people who made aviation history.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your comments and insights. This might be a bit off topic, but why do modern aircraft have their wing tips bent at a right angle pointing upwards?

Oldfool said...

Those are winglets and they reduce the drag from wingtip vortices. Google it there is tons of info.

Rat Trap Press said...

I took lessons and got my private pilot license in the 80's when I was a teenager in McAllen, Texas (down south on the border). There was a company that kept a fleet of DC-3s and other old cargo planes on the south end of the airport. I liked watching those old planes take off and land. My instructor warned me that one of the people that owned those planes would soon come around and ask if I would be interested in making money by flying into Mexico. Air smuggling was really big at that time.

2whls3spds said...

DC-3's and Dash-8's where would be without them?

IIRC there is a small freight company out of CLT that still rosters and flies a couple of DC-3's. My BIL flew for them for a bit, now is a FE on the C130 for the government.

Piedmont Airlines had the distinction of using the DC-3 for 15 years of passenger service.