1997 32¢ Douglas DC-3
Classic American Aircraft
Issue Date: July 19, 1997
City: Dayton, OH
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
When the first DC-3 rolled down the runway in 1934, few knew it was destined to become the most famous commercial airplane ever built. Though not the first low-wing monoplane in a world still dominated by biplanes, it was immediately popular with airlines in America and Europe. It was easy to fly and had the passenger comforts so lacking in the Tri-Motor.
With the outbreak of World War II, the Douglas Aircraft Corporation went into immediate mass-production. Altogether, 10,000 DC-3s ferried thousands of U.S. and British servicemen as C-47 Skytrains, and Dakotas respectively. Converted to civilian use after the war, the DC-3 became the world’s principal airliner and biggest moneymaker in its class. As late as 1965, DC-3s still outnumbered all other types of airliners.
More than anything else, the DC-3 was an indestructible workhorse because it was a stress-skinned “fail-safe” airplane. Prior to DC-3s, airplanes had a lifespan of about 6,000 hours and had a tendency to come apart at the seams when a structural member broke. When a wing spar in the DC-3 broke, the weight was picked up by alternate spars. This type of construction eliminated catastrophic chain reactions and reduced fatigue, which in turn, enormously increased its safety and its lifespan.