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Wednesday, August 29, 2007 Cloud Hopping

At the end of a brutally hot and painfully cloudless day in Hollywood, the view west from the front door finally, evening clouds move in off the cooler Pacific.  There will be marine layer murk at dawn.  At seven in the evening it had yet to drop below ninety.  One thinks of cloud-hopping.

Clouds at sunset over Sunset Boulevard

People used to do that cloud-hopping in the old Douglas DC-3 10,655 of these were built our here in Santa Monica and Long Beach, the first of them in 1935.  The Proud Bird Restaurant is on Aviation Boulevard in El Segundo right at the Los Angeles International Airport, and it has a collection of vintage aircraft, some real, but most replicas, and this is real, a DC-3 undergoing restoration there now. It has seen better days.  It's not ready for cloud-hopping just yet.

Douglas DC-3 undergoing restoration at  The Proud Bird  on Aviation Boulevard in El Segundo
Douglas DC-3 undergoing restoration at  The Proud Bird  on Aviation Boulevard in El Segundo
Douglas DC-3 undergoing restoration at  The Proud Bird  on Aviation Boulevard in El Segundo


    The DC-3 was engineered by a team led by chief engineer Arthur E. Raymond, and first flew on December 17, 1935 (the 32nd anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk). The plane was the result of a marathon phone call from American Airlines CEO Cyrus Smith to Donald Douglas requesting the design of an improved successor to the DC-2. The amenities of the DC-3 (including sleeping berths on early "DST" - Douglas Sleeper Transport - models and an in-flight kitchen) popularized air travel in the United States. With only three refueling stops, eastbound transcontinental flights across America taking approximately 15 hours became possible. Westbound trips took 17 hours 30 minutes due to typical prevailing headwinds - still a significant improvement over the competing Boeing 247. Before the arrival of the DC-3, such a trip would entail short hops in commuter aircraft, during the day, coupled with train travel overnight.


    Early U.S. airlines like United, American, TWA and Eastern ordered over 400 DC-3's. 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. Piedmont Airlines operated DC-3s from 1948 to 1963. One of Piedmont's DC-3's, operated by the Carolinas Aviation Museum, continues to fly to air shows today and has been used in various movies. Both Delta and Continental Airlines operate "commemorative" DC-3 's.


    During World War II, many civilian DC-3's were drafted for the war effort and nearly 10,000 military versions of the DC-3 were built, under the designations C-47, C-53, R4D and Dakota. Peak production of the type was reached in 1944 with 4,853 being delivered. The armed forces of many countries used the DC-3 and its military variants for the transport of troops, cargo and wounded. Licensed copies were built in Japan as Showa L2D (487 aircraft) and in the USSR as the Lisunov Li-2 (between 2,200 and 4,900 aircraft, per varying sources).


    Maximum speed: 237 mph (206 knots, 381 km/h)

    Cruise speed: 170 mph (147 knots, 274 km/h)

    Range: 1,025 mi (890 nm, 1,650 km)

    Service ceiling: 24,000 ft (7,300 m)

    Rate of climb: 1,130 ft/min (5.73 m/s) initial

Nearby a P-47 Thunderbolt from WWII makes a nice abstract, as does this pair of "enemy" planes, a Messerschmitt 109 and a MIG 15 from the Korean War.

P-47 Thunderbolt - detail
Messerschmitt 109 and MIG 15

Almost dark above Sunset

Clouds at sunset over Sunset Boulevard

If you wish to use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me. And should you choose to download any of these images and use them invoking the "fair use" provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976, please provide credit, and, on the web, a link back this site.

Technical Note:

Most of these photographs were shot with a Nikon D70 - using lens (1) AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or (2) AF Nikkor 70-300mm telephoto, or after 5 June 2006, (3) AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED. They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0.  Earlier photography was done with a Sony Mavica digital still camera (MVC-FD-88) with built-in digital zoom.

[Cloud Hopping]

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - Alan M. Pavlik