The IHFF is delighted to be associated with the appearance of a flying Douglas DC-3 in Ireland during the summer of 2017. This project was initiated by IHFF board member Hugh Flynn and made possible by the support of Aer Lingus, which originally operated the DC-3 between 1940 and April 1964.
The DC-3 is an iconic commercial aircraft which paved the way for regular air travel during the 1930s. Boeing has provided the following concise history of the aircraft type;
“The Douglas DC-3, which made air travel popular and airline profits possible, is universally recognized as the greatest airplane of its time. Some would argue that it is the greatest of all time. Design work began in 1934 at the insistence of C.R. Smith, president of American Airlines. Smith wanted two new planes — a longer DC-2 that would carry more day passengers and another with railroad-type sleeping berths, to carry overnight passengers.
The first DC-3 built was the Douglas Sleeper Transport — also known as Skysleepers by airline customers — and it was the height of luxury. Fourteen plush seats in four main compartments could be folded in pairs to form seven berths, while seven more folded down from the cabin ceiling. The plane could accommodate 14 overnight passengers or 28 for shorter daytime flights. The first was delivered to American Airlines in June 1936, followed two months later by the first standard 21-passenger DC-3.
In November 1936, United Airlines, which had been a subsidiary of Boeing until 1934, became the second DC-3 customer. The DC-2 had proved more economical than the Model 247, and United assumed the DC-3 would continue that lead. Initial orders from American and United were soon followed by orders from more than 30 other airlines in the next two years.
The DC-3 was not only comfortable and reliable, it also made air transportation profitable. American’s C.R. Smith said the DC-3 was the first airplane that could make money just by hauling passengers, without relying on government subsidies. As a result, by 1939, more than 90 percent of the nation’s airline passengers were flying on DC-2s and DC-3s.
In addition to the 455 DC-3 commercial transports built for the airlines, 10,174 were produced as C-47 military transports during World War II. For both airline and military use, the DC-3 proved to be tough, flexible, and easy to operate and maintain. Its exploits during the war became the stuff of legend. Today, more than six decades after the last one was delivered, hundreds of DC-3s are still flying and still earning their keep by carrying passengers or cargo.”
The DC-3 appearing in Ireland was manufactured in September 1943 and is currently registered ZS-NTE. It served with the Royal Air Force until transfer to the South African Air Force in 1945. There it remained until retired in 1995. It was sold and registered ZS-NTE and after a period of 7 years in storage was restored to flying condition in 2009 and modified from a C47 cargo version to a DC3 passenger configuration.
The pilots who will be flying ZS-NTE while in Ireland are Flippie Vermeulen and Noel Flynn. Flippie is a retired Captain from South African Airways and the previous owner and current operator of the aircraft in his company, Springbok Safaris. Noel is a training Captain with Cargolux Airlines in Luxembourg and flies B747-8 and -400 series cargo aircraft.
Aer Lingus introduced the DC3 in April 1940 but World War 2 interfered with operations and the type became more relevant when nine former USAAF C-47s were purchased in 1945, seven of which were converted to DC-3 airliner standard and two were parted out. In addition, two new DC-3s were delivered off the Douglas production line in February 1946. These became core to the fleet in expanding services to cities including London, Amsterdam and Paris. The replacement aircraft was the Fokker F27 Friendship, but these did not replace all of the DC-3s, and five aircraft remained in service until 1963-1964.
Aer Lingus has funded and supported the arrival of the DC3 to Ireland in summer 2017. This includes the accurate painting of the DC3 in the livery deployed in 1956. Aer Lingus will showcase the aircraft at a number of events including the Bray Air Display on Sunday, July 23rd.
The DC3 can fly as a high as 20,800 feet, has a range of almost 1500 miles and a top speed of 192mph. Aer Lingus DC3s were powered by Pratt and Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp engines. However, the first Aer Lingus DC-3 delivered in April 1940 was powered by Wright Cyclone engines, all the others were Pratt & Whitney powered.
The photo shows an Aer Lingus DC3 at Dublin Airport in the 1940’s. This was built as a Douglas (Model DC-3A-456) C-47A-DL, msn 9140, USAAF serial number 42-32914, and delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces on March 4, 1943. After serving in North Africa and Europe, the aircraft was sold to Aer Lingus, registered EI-ACD, and delivered on 14th December 1945. After being converted to a commercial airline configuration, she flew for Aer Lingus until 1963. Initially, she was named “Padraig” (St. Patrick) but was renamed “St. Gall” from 1954 to 1957. In June 1963, she was sold to a Portugese airline based in the Azores.