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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedDC-2: Halfway to immortality
 

Photo by Laurie Goossens

“It’s eight-tenths of a DC-3.” That’s how Museum of Flight docent Eugene Vezzetti describes the very scarce 1935 Douglas DC-2 airliner displayed on AeroShell Square at AirVenture 2010. The DC-2 is here from California with a set of freshly installed R-1820 engines; later this year it will migrate to the museum’s home in Washington state. The new engines are a bit sportier than the ones the DC-2 used in 1935; horsepower is up from just over 700 to 1,000 in the gleaming radials now installed.

If the slightly beefier DC-3 flew into immortality as the most versatile and long-lived air transport of all time, the DC-2 set the tone.

The 1930s saw great strides in air transport development. Boeing ushered in the era of all-metal, low-wing cantilever designs with its modern Model 247 of 1933. But the 247’s 10-passenger cabin was soon bested by the one-off Douglas DC-1, capable of taking two more paying customers aloft. The DC-1 promised to give airlines like TWA a competitive new airplane. The prototype DC-1 was refined to become the DC-2 of 1934, now carrying 14 passengers.

Ultimate iteration of these tail-wheeled Douglas twins was the DC-3, whose slightly enlarged fuselage accommodated 28 passengers.
Eclipsed by their own sibling, the production run of only 195 DC-2s largely fell into disuse as war surplus C-47 conversions filled the DC-3 market in the late 1940s.

The Museum of Flight’s DC-2 was delivered to Pan American Airways in March 1935, bearing Douglas construction number 1368. Subsequent service with airlines south of the U.S. border culminated in acquisition by Johnson Flying Service in Missoula, Montana.

Johnson pioneered the use of aircraft such as the DC-2 for carrying smokejumpers to forest fire sites in the northwest. Into the early 1980s, Vezzetti recalls Johnson kept this DC-2 on the roster.

That longevity in Missoula probably saved the DC-2 from the scrapper; by the 1980s, appreciation of vintage airliners was growing in breadth and sophistication. The Douglas Historical Foundation, an employee-generated effort, obtained the DC-2 and restored it to airliner configuration, flying it occasionally.

Vezzetti says benefactors bought the DC-2 to donate it to the Museum of Flight where it joins the old Model 247 that it put out of business. The former Pan American airliner now gleams in the silver and red livery of TWA, an airline once associated with Charles Lindbergh; hence the slogan, “The Lindbergh Line” that TWA painted on the fuselages of its fleet in the 1930s. The logical next step came recently when Lindbergh’s grandson Erik Lindbergh, who retraced his father’s solo flight across the Atlantic, autographed the museum’s Lindbergh liner DC-2.

When the DC-2 shares ramp space with its famous DC-3 offspring at AeroShell Square, design differences can be discerned. Look for the unusual placement of a pair of “eyeball” landing lights in the nose of the DC-2 instead of the DC-3’s more traditional wing location. The DC-2’s slab-sided fuselage gives a clue why it carries fewer passengers than the DC-3. The vertical fins and rudders of both airliners are substantially different, and the DC-2’s wingspan of 85 feet grew 10 feet on the DC-3. This feature gave rise to a wartime expedient when one of the Douglas transports was damaged, and the only available wing was from the other type. With identical bolt patterns at the center-section joint, the odd wing was mated, creating a slightly asymmetrical airplane christened the DC-2-and-a-half.

The DC-2 is a famous, and rare, slice of American aviation on display at AirVenture 2010. And another American air icon is piloting it here: air racer, motion-picture film pilot, test pilot, and new inductee to the National Aviation Hall of Fame, Clay Lacy.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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