Douglas DC-3—Flying towards 100 Years

The Douglas DC-3 first flew in 1935 and entered airline service in 1936. With the entry of the U.S. into World War II, the design was adapted into the military C-47 Skytrain, of which more than ten thousand were built. Counting all variants and derivatives, a total of more than 16,000 DC-3 type aircraft were built, including versions built under license in the Soviet Union (Lisunov LI-2) and Japan (Showa/Nakajima L2D), the latter of which was the most numerous Japanese military transport in World War II.

With all metal construction (except for some fabric-covered control surfaces) and robustly designed to operate from short, rough fields, the plane is, with proper maintenance, essentially immortal. Hundreds remain in service today, and are expected to continue flying into the 2030s, a century after their introduction. As with many people my age, the first airliner on which I flew was a DC-3, and I last flew on a DC-3 (upgraded to turboprop engines and designated the Basler BT-67) in January 2013, to and from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The airworthiness certificate indicated that the airframe had been manufactured in 1942, and thus older than anybody on board.


Meanwhile, no Liberty ships are still in service:


Victims of the container revolution, I afraid. They were designed for break-bulk cargo, and that is uneconomical today,