Which is the world’s most successful passenger aircraft so far?

It was DC-3, popularly known as Dakota, manufactured by Douglas Aircraft Company of USA. Powered by two 1,200 hp propeller engines, it had a cruising speed of 300 kilometers per hour and had accommodation for 28 passengers, with a flight crew of 2.

 It was introduced on commercial routes in 1936 and its first domestic flight in the USA took 13 hours, 4 minutes – a record at the time. Since then 10,655 Dakotas were built and sold to dozens of countries. No other passenger aircraft has proved to be so successful. After one year of starting service in US, it was stated by Smith the (President of American Airlines) about DC-3 that:

“It was the first airplane in the world that could make money just by hauling passengers.”

Douglas was developed at first in 1935 with model flying by the year end. After supply of 1st aircraft, the orders started coming in for the DC-3. This demand was not only from the American military which wanted a military version of the aircraft later known as C-47 or Dakota but also from the other airlines of the world. 

It had many uses, for instance, dropping supplies as well as troops, evacuating the wounded in critical conditions and transportation of goods. A total of around 10,000 aircrafts were manufactured for the American military.

During World War II, Dakotas became main aircrafts for transportation during war for Royal Air force. According to estimate, 1,930 aircrafts were sold to Royal air force during the World War –II. Similarly, Royal Canadian Air force received its first lot of Dakotas in 1943. Dakotas played a vital role in Burma and were used to drop lifesaving supplies to British Army who were at a war in jungle.

It is a matter of great reliability that since the first flight of DC-3s, around 13,000 Dakotas built are still operational after 75 years. This very fact makes it one of the greatest and most reliable aircraft of all the time.

Dakotas or DC-3 are designed and produced by a company named Douglas Aircraft. The company is a part of Boeing. The cruise speed of DC-3 Aircraft is 333 Kmph. Due to its speed, economy of operation and range, it captured almost 95% of all US commercial traffic soon after its launch. 

It is also considered to be one of the first aircrafts to gain profit without ownership of government contract or subsidies. By the end of 1940, Dakota was known to have captured 90% of the global market share.

After World War-II, an excess of DC-3 aircrafts was witnessed for obvious reasons. This was mitigated through purchase of these aircrafts by airlines from all over the world. Dakota was termed as “amiable cow” by pilots of India after being purchased by Air India.

There are a lot of titles which different countries gave to Dakota. England named it Dakota or Dak. During World War-II, the pilots from US entitled it with multiple names such as Skytrooper, Skytrain, Doug or Gooney Bird. There were also dedicated official US military titles associated such as C-47, C-53, C-117, and R4D. As far as the airlines are concerned, they called it The Three. Of all these titles the only one which stood the test of time is Gooney Bird.

The gross weight normally linked with Dakota was 25,200 Pounds, provided the number of passengers is Twenty-One. According to the demand and operating situation, these weights were exceeded as well. Although the normal range of DC-3 is 1500 miles, it’s range could be extended with the addition of fuel tanks.

The cruising speed of the aircraft depends on two main factors. One is the load it is carrying and the other one is fuel being used. Dakota held a better safety record as compared to other contemporary airplanes. The reason was mainly related to the efficiency of its single engine and the strength of its structure.

Since its inception, more than 10,000 military versions of DC-3 were manufactured. Some of these were also manufactured under license by Russia and Japan. 

The Dakotas remained part of global transport system for a long time until the jet engines became common in 1970s. Since 1936, the Dakota is still under service and remains the most successful passenger aircraft to date.