Buffalo Airways still operates a daily scheduled DC-3 passenger service for residents in Canada’s Northwest Territories and is likely the last airline to do so.
December 17, 2010, marked the 75th anniversary of the DC-3’s first flight, and there are still small operators with DC-3s in revenue service and as cargo aircraft. The common saying among aviation buffs and pilots is that “the only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3.” The aircraft’s legendary ruggedness is enshrined in the lighthearted description of the DC-3 as “a collection of parts flying in loose formation.” Its ability to take off and land on grass or dirt runways makes it popular in developing countries, where runways are not always paved.
A number of aircraft companies attempted to design a “DC-3 replacement” over the next three decades (including the very successful Fokker F27 Friendship), but no single type could match the versatility, rugged reliability, and economy of the DC-3. It remained a significant part of air transport systems well into the 1970s.
Production of DC-3s ceased in 1942, military versions were produced until the end of the war in 1945. In 1949, a larger, more powerful Super DC-3 was launched to positive reviews; however, the civilian market was flooded with second-hand C-47s, many of which were converted to passenger and cargo versions of DC-3s, and only three were built and delivered the following year. The prototype Super DC-3 served the US Navy with the designation YC-129 alongside 100 C-47s that had been upgraded to the Super DC-3 specification.
Total production of the DC-3 was 16,079. More than 400 remained in commercial service in 1998.
American Airlines inaugurated passenger service on June 26, 1936, with simultaneous flights from Newark, N.J. and Chicago, IL. Early U.S. airlines like American, United, TWA and Eastern ordered over 400 DC-3s. These fleets paved the way for the modern American air travel industry, quickly replacing trains as the favored means of long-distance travel across the United States.
The oldest surviving DC-3 is N133D, the sixth Douglas Sleeper Transport built-in 1936. This aircraft was delivered to American Airlines on 12 July 1936 as NC16005. The aircraft was at Griffin-Spaulding County Airport, Griffin, Georgia as of November 2010, where it was being prepared for a ferry flight to Charlotte County Airport, Punta Gorda, Florida. The aircraft will be restored back to Douglas Sleeper Transport standards, and full air worthiness.