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Tv Review : Dc-3 Got An Industry Off The Ground

December 17, 1985|LEE MARGULIES | Times Staff Writer

Fifty years ago today, the DC-3 made its first test flight above Santa Monica. It wasn't a particularly significant occasion; the new plane had simply been commissioned by American Airlines to carry more passengers than the DC-2 so that the airline could make more money per flight.

But that was history in the making, it turns out, and the event is celebrated in a "Nova" documentary on public television tonight, "The Plane That Changed the World" (airing at 8 p.m. on Channels 28 and 15 and at 9 p.m. on Channel 50). It was written, produced and directed by Marty Ostrow.

Through a choice selection of old film clips and an assortment of new interviews, the program affectionately traces the plane's evolution and explains its prominent role in history. The twin-engine aircraft, built by the Douglas Aircraft Co., is credited with getting the then-struggling commercial aviation industry off the ground and later, in a modified version known as the C-47, with helping propel the Allies to victory in World War II.

Although small and old-fashioned compared to today's huge jetliners, the DC-3 was revolutionary in its day, carrying up to 21 passengers in relative safety and comfort and serving them, for the first time, hot meals.

The best testimony to the excellence of its design, however, is the fact that even with the development of larger, faster planes, the DC-3 has not been reduced to a museum relic. According to the program, more than 1,000 of them are still flying today, continuing to provide efficient, economical transportation for both passengers and freight.

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