The Douglas R3D was the Navy’s version of the commercially unsuccessful DC-5 short haul passenger transport. This was developed in 1938-39 to fill a potential gap in the market, for an aircraft smaller and cheaper than the DC-3, but with a similar performance. This aircraft had a similar configuration to the Douglas 7B, which would evolve into the A-20/ Boston/ Havoc, and was designed by the same team at El Segundo. The DC-5 was a high-wing twin-engined monoplane, with nose wheel landing gear and a fully retractable undercarriage, capable of carrying sixteen passengers in comfort, or twenty-two in a more cramped configuration.
The prototype made its maiden flight in February 1939, and the first orders first followed – KLM ordered four, Pennsylvania-Central airlines ordered six, the Columbian airline SCADTA ordered two, British Airways ordered nine and the US Navy ordered seven. Of these aircraft only the KLM and US Navy aircraft would ever be built.
The DC-5 ran into problems during its flight tests, and by the time they had been fixed the outbreak of the Second World War had forced Pennsylvania-Central, SCADTA and British Airways to cancel their orders, as large parts of the world became closed to airline traffic. The KLM and Naval aircraft were delivered during 1940, and no more aircraft were produced. Even the KLM aircraft would eventually be called up. Having found their way to Australia, in 1944 they were impressed by the USAAF as the C-110, and used by the 374th Troop Carrier Group.
Three DC-5s were ordered for the US Navy and given the designation R3D-1. These aircraft were powered by two 1,000hp Wright R-1820-44 radial engines, and were used as sixteen-seat personnel transports. The first of the three crashed before delivery, but the other two reached the Navy in the second half of 1940, and remained in use until January 1946.
A further four aircraft were ordered for the Marine Corps as cargo transports. Like the C-47 they had a reinforced cabin floor and a larger cargo door, and could carry complete aircraft engines. They could also be used to carry twenty-two paratroopers. The four aircraft were delivered in September-October 1940. Two were on Hawaii at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but survived, while one was shot down by a Japanese submarine operating off the Australian coast. The three surviving aircraft remained in use until October 1946.
Even the prototype DC-5 eventually ended up in US Navy service. In April 1940 it had been sold to William E. Boeing, the founder of Boeing. In 1942 it was impressed by the US Navy, and operated alongside the two R3D-1s.
Engines: Wright R-1820-44 x2
Power: 1,000hp each
Wing span: 78ft
Length: 62ft 2in
Height: 19ft 10in
Empty weight: 13,674lb (13,863lb on R3D-2)
Loaded weight: 20,000lb
Maximum speed: 221mph at 5,800ft
Service ceiling: 19,000ft
Maximum range: 1,400 miles (934 miles on R3D-2)