Douglas DC-3 – the most produced airliner in the History of Air Travel
The American Douglas DC-3 airliner flew its maiden flight in 1935. It was originally designed by an order placed by American Airlines. It could fit either 14 sleeper beds for overnight flights, or 21 regular seats – making it 50 % larger than its predecessors. The DC-3 became immensely successful, and by the time of the Second World War Douglas had by far became the leading aircraft manufacturer in the World.
The success of the DC-3 airliner was, however, only the beginning. In 1941, the United States Air Force elected the DC-3 as its main transport aircraft. After the attack on Pearl Harbour, the United States entered the Second World War – which meant an increasing need for transport aircraft. Over 10 000 of the military versions of the DC-3 (C-47 and C-53) were manufactured. After the War, thousands of aircraft were sold to airlines all over the world.
The DC-3 planes were also manufactured on license in the Soviet Union and Japan. Altogether, over 16 000 aircraft have been manufactured, making the DC-3 by far the most produced aircraft type in the history of air travel. The DC-3’s still fly as cargo planes and museum aircraft around the world.
The Plane that lifted the Finnish Post-War Air Traffic to the Skies
Aero Ltd had operated during the War Years as a Civil Squadron under the Finnish Air Force. After the Wars, Aero’s entire fleet was worn out. The State of Finland bought eight military versions of the DC-3 from the U.S. Army Depot, which were transformed into airliners. Aero’s (later Finnair’s) DC-3 aircraft flew until the 1970’s, and lifted the Finnish Post-War air traffic to the skies. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, relations between Finnair and the manufacturer Douglas (later McDonnell-Douglas) deepened, as Finnair ordered DC-8 and DC-9 jet airliners and DC-10 wide-body airliners to its fleet.
Aero’s domestic competitor, Kar-Air (Karhumäki Airways, later Karair) also operated DC-3 aircraft. The last organization in Finland to operate the type was the Finnish Air Force, which acquired DC-3’s as transport aircraft in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Air Force operated DC-3’s until 1984.
OH-LCH – the Longest-Operating DC-3 Airliner in Finland
The DC-3 (originally C-53) airliner performing in the Kaivopuisto Air Show was manufactured in Santa Monica. It came out of the factory on Christmas Eve 1942, was flown to the European Theatre, and ended up in the U.S. Army Depot. The State of Finland purchased the aircraft, and it was handed over in June 1948. The aircraft was registered in Finland as OH-LCH, and handed over to Aero Ltd.
OH-LCH flew under Aero’s colours until 1967 (although being stored in parts for a few years during the period). It flew Aero’s last scheduled DC-3 route 1.4.1967. In 1970, the aircraft was sold to the Finnish Air Force and re-registered DO-11. The Air Force used the plane as transport aircraft and jump plane, flying its last flight in December 1984.
In 1986, Airveteran Ltd, founded by private owners purchased two former Air Force DC-3’s, the DO-11 and DO-8 (former OH-LCD “Gull”). The DO-11 was restored in airworthy condition, and re-registered in 12.5.1987 with its old registration OH-LCH. The aircraft, nicknamed “Hotel”, is still owned by Airveteran Ltd, and operated by the DC-Association. The aircraft spends its winters in Vaasa, and operates member flights of the Association during the summers from the Helsinki-Malmi Airport.
“Hotel’s” sister plane, the OH-LCD “Gull” was kept for spare parts, and spent years stored at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport area. In October 2014, the aircraft was moved to the Finnish Aviation Museum, where it was renovated and placed as an attraction to the Vantaa Housing Fair, held in summer 2015. Nowadays, the “Gull” is located outside the Finnish Aviation Museum as a monument.