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Prop Airliners of the Past

Boarding a United Air Lines propliner in earlier times of the airline industry

Today we are accustomed to travel in "the jet age" ... but prior to the 1950s all of the airlines of world depended on propliners as the mainstays of their fleets.

A series of improvements over the years led the industry from the DC-3 to the DC-7, Electra, Constellation and other propeller-based airliners.

Seen on this page are images of those early propliners, and airlines that still exist, such as American, Delta and United.

Also included are images from airlines that have been engulfed in takeovers, and victims of bankruptcy and changing times: Northwest, Eastern, National, Pan American and Trans Texas.

Enjoy our Propliners of the Past !

Douglas DC-3

The first DC-3 built was the Douglas Sleeper Transport, a 14-bed sleeper, also known as Skysleepers by airlines.

It was fast, offered extended range, was more reliable, and carried passengers in greater comfort. In the pre-WWII years, the DC-3 pioneered many air travel routes. It was able to cross the continental U.S. from New York to Los Angeles in 18 hours and with only 3 stops.

The plane could accommodate 14 overnight passengers or 28 for shorter daytime flights. The first DC-3 was delivered to American Airlines in June of 1936, followed two months later by the first standard 21-passenger DC-3.

Read more about the Douglas DC-3

DC-3-227B "Breitling", Registration HB-IRJ, in Cherbourg, France, June 2014. It was delivered to American Airlines in March of 1940 and christened the “Flagship Cleveland”. It was leased to the U.S. Army between 1942 and 1944. After the war, it served with Trans Texas Airways and other carriers. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
DC-3-227B "Breitling", Registration HB-IRJ, in Cherbourg, France

 

Built as Douglas DC-3A-453, C/N 6346, "Air Veteran", Registration OH-LCH, is operated by the DC Association in Helsinki, Finland. Seen here in Cherbourg, France, June 2014, in the markings of Finnish Airlines. The aircraft was built for Pan American Grace Airways as NC34953, but was transferred to military service in 1942 as a C-53C-DO, S/N 43-2033. (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
Built as Douglas DC-3A-453, C/N 6346, "Air Veteran", Registration OH-LCH, is operated by the DC Association in Helsinki, Finland.

 

C-47 "Prinses Amalia", Registration PH-PBA, in the markings of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, seen here at Cherbourg, France, in June of 2014 (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
C-47 "Prinses Amalia", Registration PH-PBA, in the markings of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

 

Douglas C-53D-DO Sky Trooper, S/N 11750, Registration LN-WND (Photo by DELEHELLE Eric)
Douglas C-53D-DO Sky Trooper, S/N 11750, Registration LN-WND, at Cherbourg, France

 

American Airlines Douglas DC-3 Flagships
American Airlines Douglas DC-3 Flagship American Airlines Douglas DC-3 Flagship
Eastern Airlines Douglas DC-3
Eastern Airlines Douglas DC-3
Eastern DC-3 at Jacksonville, FL
Eastern DC-3 at Jacksonville, FL
Pan Am Douglas DC-3
Pan Am Douglas DC-3
DC-3 of Trans Texas Airways
DC-3 of Trans Texas Airways

 

 

Douglas DC-6 and DC-7: Four Engines and More Capacity

Douglas DC-6B "Red Bull", Registration N996DM, seen here in Pau, France in 2009 (Photos by DELEHELLE Eric)
Douglas DC-6B "Red Bull", Registration N996DM, seen here in Pau, France
Douglas DC-6B "Red Bull", Registration N996DM, seen here in Pau, France Douglas DC-6B "Red Bull", Registration N996DM, seen here in Pau, France

 

DC-6B of Western Airlines
DC-6B of Western Airlines
DC-7 of National Airlines
DC-7 of National Airlines
DC-7B of Eastern Airlines
DC-7B of Eastern Airlines
United DC-7 Mainliner N6302C
United DC-7 Mainliner N6302C
Delta Air Lines DC-7 Airliner
Delta Air Lines DC-7 Airliner

 

Lockheed Electra

Lockheed Electra - National Airlines
Lockheed Electra - National Airlines
Lockheed Electra - American Airlines
Lockheed Electra - American Airline

Boeing Stratocruiser

Boeing Stratocruiser - Northwest
Boeing Stratocruiser - Northwest
Boeing Stratocruiser - Pan American
Boeing Stratocruiser - Pan American

 

 

Lockheed Constellation

Trans World Airlines Super-G Constellation
Trans World Airlines Super-G Constellation
Lockheed Constellation - TWA
Lockheed Constellation - TWA
Lockheed Constellation - Pan Am
Lockheed Constellation - Pan Am
Trans World Airlines "Star of Switzerland" at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson AZ (Staff Photo)
Trans World Airlines "Star of Switzerland" at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson AZ

 

Martin 4-0-4

Eastern Airlines Martin 4-0-4 airliner
Eastern Airlines Martin 404 airliner

The Convairs: 240, 440 and More

Convair 440 of the Scandinavian Airlines System
Convair 440 of the Scandinavian Airlines System

Sikorsky VS-44A Excambian at the New England Air Museum
Sikorsky VS-44A Excambian at the New England Air Museum

Convair Model 37: The Commercial Variant of the XC-99 and B-36

Convair Model 37 airliner
Convair Model 37

Convair also considered developing a commercial airliner based on the B-36 and XC-99, but ultimately scrapped the idea in favor of pursuing the Convair 880 jetliner.

The Convair Model 37 was to have a wing span of 230 feet, 182 feet in length, and a double-deck fuselage.

Passenger capacity of the plane was planned at 204. Cruising speeds were projected to be between 310-342 mph, and be able to operate at altitudes up to 30,000 feet, with a range of 4,200 miles.

Fifteen (15) aircraft were ordered by Pan American World Airways for transatlantic service. However, fuel and oil consumption of the six 3,500 hp Wasp Major radials led to the decision that the Model 37 was not economically feasible. With only orders for 15 Model 37s, Convair cancelled the plane.