Douglas DC-1


The Douglas DC-1 was the first model of the famous American DC (Douglas Commercial) commercial transport aircraft series. Although only one example of the DC-1 was produced, the design was the basis for the DC-2 and DC-3, the latter of which being one of the most successful aircraft in the history of aviation.

Douglas DC-1.jpg
Douglas DC-1 on its handover to Trans World Airlines in December 1933
Role Prototype airliner
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight July 1, 1933
Introduction December 1933
Status Destroyed
Primary user Transcontinental & Western Air
Number built 1
Developed into Douglas DC-2

Design and developmentEdit

Development of the DC-1 can be traced back to the 1931 crash of a TWA airliner, a Fokker F.10 Trimotor in which a wing failed, probably because water had seeped between the layers of the wood laminate and dissolved the glue holding the layers together. Following the accident, the Aeronautics Branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce placed stringent restrictions on the use of wooden wings on passenger airliners.[1][2] Boeing developed an answer, the 247, a twin-engined all-metal monoplane with a retractable undercarriage, but their production capacity was reserved to meet the needs of United Airlines, part of United Aircraft and Transport Corporation which also owned Boeing. TWA needed a similar aircraft to respond to competition from the Boeing 247 and they asked five manufacturers to bid for construction of a three-engined, 12-seat aircraft of all-metal construction, capable of flying 1,080 mi (1,740 km) at 150 mph (242 km/h). The most demanding part of the specification was that the airliner would have to be capable of safely taking off from any airport on TWA's main routes (and in particular Albuquerque, at high altitude and with severe summer temperatures) with one engine non-functioning.[3][4]

Donald Douglas was initially reluctant to participate in the invitation from TWA. He doubted that there would be a market for 100 aircraft, the number of sales necessary to cover development costs. Nevertheless, he submitted a design consisting of an all-metal, low-wing, twin-engined aircraft seating 12 passengers, a crew of two and a flight attendant. The aircraft exceeded the specifications of TWA even with only two engines, principally through the use of controllable pitch propellers.[5] It was insulated against noise, heated, and fully capable of both flying and performing a controlled takeoff or landing on one engine.

Don Douglas stated in a 1935 article on the DC-2 that the first DC-1 cost $325,000 to design and build.[6]

Operational historyEdit

DC-1 in TWA markings

Only one aircraft was produced. The prototype made its maiden flight on July 1, 1933,[7] flown by Carl Cover. It was given the model name DC-1, or Douglas Commercial Model 1.[8] During a half-year of testing, it performed more than 200 test flights and demonstrated its superiority over the most-used airliners at that time, the Ford Trimotor and Fokker Trimotor. It was flown across the United States on February 19, 1934, making the journey in the record time of 13 hours 5 minutes.[9]

TWA accepted the aircraft on 15 September 1933 with a few modifications (mainly increasing seating to 14 passengers and adding more powerful engines) and subsequently ordered 20 examples of the developed production model which was named the Douglas DC-2.[10]

The DC-1 was sold to Lord Forbes in the United Kingdom in May 1938, who operated it for a few months before selling it in France in October 1938. It was then sold to Líneas Aéreas Postales Españolas (L.A.P.E.) in Spain in November 1938 and was also used by the Spanish Republican Air Force as a transport aircraft.[11] Later operated by Iberia Airlines from July 1939 with the name Negron, it force-landed at Málaga, Spain, on October 4, 1940 and was damaged beyond repair.[10]

Specifications (DC-1)Edit

Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920[12]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2 pilots
  • Capacity: 12 passengers
  • Length: 60 ft 0 in (18.29 m)
  • Wingspan: 85 ft 0 in (25.91 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 0 in (4.88 m)
  • Wing area: 942 sq ft (87.5 m2)
  • Airfoil: root: NACA 2215; tip: NACA 2209[13]
  • Empty weight: 11,780 lb (5,343 kg)
  • Gross weight: 17,500 lb (7,938 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Wright SGR-1820F3 Cyclone 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 690 hp (510 kW) each
  • Propellers: 3-bladed variable-pitch metal propellers


  • Maximum speed: 210 mph (340 km/h, 180 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 190 mph (310 km/h, 170 kn) at 8,000 ft (2,400 m)
  • Range: 1,000 mi (1,600 km, 870 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 23,000 ft (7,000 m)

See alsoEdit

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ Friedman and Friedman Aeroplane Monthly May 2001, pp. 34–40.
  2. ^ O'Leary Aeroplane Monthly February 2007, p. 71.
  3. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 166.
  4. ^ Pearcy Air Enthusiast 1982, p. 60.
  5. ^ Smith (1998), p. 10
  6. ^ "Douglas Tells Secrets of Speed", Popular Mechanics, February 1935.
  7. ^ Gradidge 2006, p. 9.
  8. ^ "Historical Snapshot: DC-1 Commercial Transport". Boeing. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  9. ^ Air Power History, Spring 2010, Vol. 57, No. 1, page 12.
  10. ^ a b Gradidge 2006, p. 299.
  11. ^ "Aircraft that took part in the Spanish Civil War." Archived 2015-02-05 at the Wayback Machine Aircraft of the Spanish Civil War (zi.ku). Retrieved: February 4, 2011.
  12. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 173.
  13. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.


  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.
  • Freidman, Herbert M. and Ada Kera Friedman. "The Legacy of the Rockne Crash". Aeroplane, Vol. 29, No. 5, Issue 337, May 2001, pp. 34–40. London: IPC. ISSN 0143-7240.
  • Gradidge, Jennifer M., ed. DC-1, DC-2, DC-3: The First Seventy Years. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians), Two volumes, 2006. ISBN 0-85130-332-3.
  • O'Leary, Michael. "Database: Douglas DC-1 & DC-2". Aeroplane, Vol. 35, No. 2, Issue 406, February 2007, pp. 70–89. London: IPC. ISSN 0143-7240.
  • Pearcy, Arthur. "Douglas Commercial Two". Air Enthusiast, Nineteen, August–November 1982, pp. 60–77. Bromley, UK: Fine Scroll. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Serrano, José Luis González (March–April 1999). "Fifty Years of DC Service: Douglas Transports Used by the Spanish Air Force". Air Enthusiast (80): 61–71. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Smith, Richard K. (1998). Seventy-Five Years of Inflight Refueling: Highlights 1923–1998[permanent dead link] Air Force History and Museums, Air University, Maxwell AFB

External linksEdit

  • "Inside the Douglas Transport". Popular Aviation. XIV (2): 86–88. February 1934. A contemporary, somewhat technical article on the Douglas DC-1.
  • Douglas DC-1, 2, and 3
  • Douglas DC-1 Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine
  • The DC-1 story
  • Photo: The DC-1 before sale to Howard Hughes
  • Photo: Lord Forbes inspecting the DC-1 in London Docks on arrival in 1938
  • Photo: The DC-1 in Spain