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LIMA/American Airpower Museum

LIMA joins American Airpower Museum in celebrating
the 75th anniversary of the DC-3, the plane that changed the world

(Farmingdale, NY) - To mark the exact date and time the first DC-3 passenger plane took to the air 75 years ago, launching a revolution in air travel and changing how the world travels, Long Island MacArthur Airport officials saluted the aircraft during a celebratory taxi run loaded with Dowling College students, a pilot who flew DC-3 during World War II and Long Island aviation business leaders.

The American Airpower Museum’s military version of the DC-3 is the only operational one of its kind in the New York tri-state area and represents one of nearly 11,000 created by Douglas Aircraft Company and other manufacturers licensed to build it. It is based at Republic Airport and offers flight experiences through the year.

On Dec. 17, 1935, 32 years to the day after the Wright Brothers’ first flight, Douglas Aircraft Co. test pilots lifted the first DC-3 off the runway in Santa Monica, California. By 1936 it began transporting passengers between Chicago Municipal Airport (renamed Midway) and Newark, which like today served the New York market. Passengers paid $47.19 for the 4-hr. flight that was operated by Flagship Illinois. Within three years, 95% of all passengers in the US were flying on DC-2s or DC-3s. By December 1941, on the eve of war, Douglas had delivered 507 DC-3s of which 434 had gone to airlines. By the end of World War II production hit a high of one aircraft every 34 min or some 10,654 military models of the DC-3.

How the DC-3 changed America’s journey

Among those celebrating is Teresa Rizzuto, Long Island MacArthur Airport Commissioner who said every commercial flight departing an airport today must tip its hat to the DC-3. “The aircraft introduced a significant number of innovations that ranged from a hydraulic powered landing gear to reversible propellers to better cockpit instruments but passengers would be only dimly aware of those advances. What they would have first applauded was the introduction of sound proofing and hot meals. We know those in-flight hot dinners were first offered in Europe but it was American Airlines flying their DC-3’s where passengers were first offered Chicken Kiev and our own Long Island Duckling, eliminating cold boxed meals.”

Robert Reynolds, of Plainview, a C-47 pilot during World War II who went on to fly for Pan Am for over 30 years, explained that, “One the factors that led to the legendary DC-3 being the most successful aircraft ever built was its ability to be enormously cost effective for those airlines operating it, a reliability that was unprecedented and the means to offer aircraft standardization that today’s profitable airlines, such as Southwest, continue to use as a model.”

Michael Geiger, Republic Airport Director explained, “You simply cannot overstate the role of the DC-3 in how it changed air travel from a precarious death defying experience to a safe and reliable means of getting from here to there. Typically, in 1934 American Airlines was operating a service across the US that was taking 38 hr. 30 min. westward. Passengers took the overnight train from New York to Cleveland before boarding a Ford Tri-Motor for a six-stop trip to Dallas. Following that leg was a seven-stop trip in a Condor to Los Angeles. The DST/DC-3 did it in 17 hr. 45 min. from Newark with just three stops. It was as if Douglas Aircraft had created a time machine.”

Jim Vocell, Vice President of the American Airpower Museum and the pilot on the museum’s military version of the aircraft, concluded, “It has been said often but bears repeating. Seven five years later the only aircraft that can effectively replace a DC-3 is another DC-3.”