The DC-3 airliner was not only comfortable and reliable, it also made air transportation profitable. American Airlines’ C.R. Smith said the DC-3 was the first airplane that could make money just by hauling passengers, without relying on government subsidies for transporting U.S. Mail. As a result, by 1939, more than 90 percent of the nation’s airline passengers were flying on DC-2s and DC-3s.
“Flagship Orange County,” Lyon Air Museum’s own DC-3 in American Airlines livery, started life as a C-47A built during World War II. Prior to its conversion to airliner configuration, it flew with the USAAF’s famed 440th Troop Carrier Group. And just before midnight on June 5, 1944, this aircraft was positioned at Exeter Field in England, ready to fly across the Channel with hundreds of other Dakotas. Its assigned mission: Drop members of the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles, over Drop Zone DELTA, to support the D-Day invasion in Normandy at 1:40 AM, on the morning of June 6, 1944.