Book Review
Douglas DC-3
Douglas DC-3: 80 Glorious Years
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Fonthill Media celebrates the incredible 80-year career of perhaps the most iconic airliner with Douglas DC-3: 80 Glorious Years. Authored by DC-3 pilot, writer and photographer Geoff Jones, over 170 pages and 250 photographs salute this extraordinary aircraft.

Douglas DC-3: 80 Glorious Years is particularly special to me as the highlight of my unspectacular flying career was spent as a freightdog droning across America in the "Douglas Racer," “Gooney Bird,” and "Doug,” to name a few nicknames of the DC-3/C-47. Two of my best friends and almost all of my most memorable airplane events came during that time when I was ensconced in "the Three," including taxiing VFR-On-Top! And reading this book also became extra exciting as I discovered that author Geoff Jones and I have some mutual friends.
    Like the P-51 Mustang and Supermarine Spitfire, the Douglas DC-3 is an iconic aircraft design. It has endured more than any other with several hundred still in use worldwide in locations as far apart as Africa, Antarctica and the US. Many of the current operators use turbine conversions of the DC-3 mainly using Basler, SAAF and Dodson International the main proponents. Just about every major post-war airline began their schedules with the DC-3. Many took advantage of post-war military surplus C-47s that had already written huge volumes of history with their roles with the US Army Air Corps in the Second World War such as the D-Day landings. Many enthusiast organisations still keep DC-3s airworthy and fly them for members. However, the days of DC-3 operations are now nearing an end thanks to spares unavailability, cost and the shortages of Avgas fuel in remote parts of the world. The Douglas DC-3 is to aviation what the Volkswagen and Ford were to motoring, and what the DC-3 operators started, the 21st century Airbus/Boeing operators continued thanks to the astonishing legacy of this remarkable aircraft. - Casemate

Seeing a DC-3/C-47 still creates a stir for me. And others, too - my aerospace engineer friend had an astronaut autograph a book for me and when he mentioned that I had time in the Douglas, the astronaut straightened up and proclaimed, "I had the honor of flying the DC-3."

Douglas DC-3: 80 Glorious Years is over 170 pages long and brought to us through 11 chapters;
    1. Before the Beginning: DC-1 and DC-2
    2. DC-3: The American Dream-Maker
    3. UK and European Airlines Embrace the DC-3
    4. Nazi and fascist DC-2s, DC-3s, and the DC-2 1/2
    5. Brazilian Adventures and Latin America
    6. DC-3 Conversions
    7. Missionary Flights International DC-3s
    8. Bugs Beware
    9. Antipodean and African Dakotas
    10. Survivors
    11. Best of the Rest

The book also contains an introduction and three appendices: DC-3 Variants; Basic Specializations and Performance; Dak Stats.

Mr. Jones wrote the text in a very enjoyable and easily read manner. His connection to flight in the ol' girl is obvious. He starts with the genesis of the DC-3, the DST (Douglas Sleeper Transport). He recounts the need for a revolutionary airliner, the competition - domestic and international - and the industry culture of the time. How the DC-3 was an evolution of the DC-2 (there was only one DC-1) yet surpassed that useful bird is related, too. Routes structures are mentioned. Also, airline procurement of the DC-3. This story could easily take more than 1,000 pages to tell in detail, yet he brings this massive potential of information to us with a conciseness echoing a pilot's radio phraseology. Regardless, he spotlights how the DC-3 revolutionized air travel and even became, as General Eisenhower stated, one of the four keys to Allied victory in WWII.

Okay, so I am happy with this insight to the DC-3's gestation and ascendance to dominance. Yet the book does not end there, it continues to explore the aircraft in an international light by comparing and contrasting it with European rivals of the era. This includes "Dizzy 3s" that fell into use with our enemies of the time.

As great as the DC-3 was, increasing enplanements dictated bigger and faster and higher-flying airliners with greater seating capacity. The idiom 'The only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3' did not survive consumer demands. The mighty “Gooney Bird” migrated south into Africa and South America and Asia. Those were the skies of some of the legends related by the late Ernest Gann. Brazilian Adventures and Latin America includes several excerpts from DC-3 pilot Italo Battioli; one lengthy recollection introduction sums up the DC-3 experience;
    The fun of flying in those days was not forgotten, and neither was the tradition of practical jokes played on the unsuspecting you neophyte airline pilots on their first flight.

As even those regions saw the arrival of jets and more sophisticated reciprocating aircraft, the legendary Douglas was tasked with more workaday assignments where 'disposable' airframes had their life wrung out of them, or the innate economy of the DC-3 allowed small operations to succeed. In many regards the DC-3 was responsible for making pestilent areas inhabitable with pesticides, and enhancing agriculture by spraying fertilizers.

Aeronautical engineering has the adage that an airframe is only as good as, but never better than, the engine that powers it. In the chapter DC-3 Conversions we find that the iconic DC-3 is thus iconoclastic when married to turbine powerplants. With turbine conversions the sturdy airframes have experienced great increases in performance. Other conversions have been well served by the versatile airframe and the load carrying ability of the old Douglas. Furthermore the chapter touches upon Soviet and Japanese conversions, the nearly dozen variants used by the US military, and the "DC-3 glider" and C-47C-DL floatplane. Further development and modifications lead to the Super DC-3 and the vicious AC-47 gunship, "Puff the Magic Dragon". Among other developments are the Basler and Wonder Air turbine power conversions.

In Missionary Flights International DC-3s the reader learns just how the old Gooney earned its keep while serving humanity into the Twenty-First Century. This is also the chapter in which the author and I peripherally cross paths. He writes about taking a flight as a cabin attendant to Haiti and further recounts when and from where small airlines like MFI gain their aircraft. It also explains how turbine conversions extend the life of the glorious Gooney!

Bugs Beware is abuzz with the "Doug's" role in killing pests and helping with agriculture. Antipodean and African Dakotas relate the role of the aircraft in the skies "Down Under" and over Africa. Considering the role of C-47 transports in both areas during WWII, it is no wonder that DC-3s had such a presence after the war. Survivors looks at the museum and airshow circuit and where DC-3s are still used commercially, as made famous by the series Ice Pilots and Canada's Buffalo Airways. Finally, Best of the Rest recounts those used for displays and a few for demonstration, preserved around the world.

With airframes still robust it is perceived that DC-3s will be the first aircraft to still be flying for revenue service on its 100 anniversary!

Photos and Graphics
Modelers may be disappointed that there is not any artwork in this book. Yet photos abound. Period photos and modern exposures of DC-3s of all sorts, from gate guards to income-earners, fill the pages in color and black-and-white. Many are remarkable, such as the DC-3 parked next to Zeppelin Hindenburg at NAS Lakehurst, and a Nazi DC-3 parked at Lisbon surrounded by Allied aircraft in 1943-44. Modelers can find a riot of liveries to inspire a new and unique model. As can artists for new canvases. DC-3 fans can be mesmerized at all of the exotic looks of the "Gooney". Each photo has detailed captions.

The author includes some lavish lists of of airframes and registration numbers. Historians of airlines and airframes should find this immensely useful.

Tables and data lists include:
    Production Figures (DC-3 Military): US totals by plant; Japanese and Soviet numbers; World Total

    Main European Airliner Types Contemporary to the DC-2 and DC-3 (1930s): Type; Seats; Engines; Wing Type; First Flight. For Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, and Holland.

    The 1932-1933 US Rivals: Boeing 247, DC-1, DC-2 and Curtiss Condor by 1st Flight, Engines, dimensional data, gross wight, seats, cruise speed, numbers sold.

    Douglas DC-2 Civil Customers Total production of 193 aircraft, 141 civil and 52 military

    US Airlines Flying the DC-3 on Domestic US Schedules in 1942

    UK Airlines (Scheduled and Charter) Operating DC-3s/C-47s post-1945 Most of these airlines and operators were limited companies: airline names and registration codes, and notes.

    Douslas DC-3s in German Wartime Service: Type, s/n, c/n; Previous Identity; German reg.; Notes.

    Main Military Variants and Production of the C-41 and C-47 by Build Location.

    Current MFI Fleet: N500MF, N200MF, N145RD, N911MF.

    LCMCD DC-3 Fleet (Piston and Turbine)

    European-based Enthusiast-operated DC-2/DC-3s
    by organization, with registration and serial numbers, history and notes.

Those tables and lists are important for research and authentic modeling.

It was common to have people queue up along the perimeter fence or on the ramp to gaze upon our DC-3 (Okay, they were all C-47s) wherever we landed. The DC-3 has a place in the imagination of the public and in the heart of the worldwide aviation community, and 80 years have not closed that interest. Mr. Jones has written a very interesting book that could easily take more than 1,000 pages to tell in detail, yet he has done so in an informative concise manner. It has revealed more sides of "the Three" than I knew. I think it is like an affectionate letter or an heirloom to the family of DC-3 enthusiasts.

The book is full of amazing and beautiful photos and captivating text. Modelers, historians and artists of the DC-3 subject should find great inspiration and enjoyment in this book. I have no meaningful criticism of this book except, perhaps, a few more first-hand pilot accounts would be welcome; those by Italo Battioli merely whet one's appetite for more!

Douglas DC-3: 80 Glorious Years should be a must-have for DC-3 admirers in particular, and aviation historians in general. What better way to pay homage to the revolutionary DC-3? Recommended.

We thank Fonthill Media and Casemate for providing this book for review here - on AeroScale.
Highs: The book is full of amazing and beautiful photos and captivating text. Modelers, historians and artists of the DC-3 subject should find great inspiration and enjoyment in this book.
Lows: More first-hand pilot accounts would be welcome, those by Italo Battioli merely whet one's appetite for more!
Verdict: This book should be a must-have for DC-3 admirers in particular, and aviation historians in general.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781781551035
  Suggested Retail: $34.95
  PUBLISHED: Jan 22, 2016
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Casemate Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


It seems only yesterday that The Legendary DC-3 came out on the occasion of the 50th anniversary. Only 20 more years and they'll be writing 100 Glorious Years and no doubt there'll be a DC-3 taking off in revenue service somewhere...
JAN 21, 2016 - 10:44 PM