Celebrating Irish Aviation History with the DC-3

This weekend the crowds at the Foynes Air Show and Bray Air Display were treated to a sight not seen in the skies over Ireland for many years – that of a Douglas DC-3 flying in the unmistakable green of Aer Lingus.

We were recently honoured to welcome to this aircraft to our headquarters in Dublin’s Hangar 6. Hailing from the 1940s and 50s and freshly painted in the Aer Lingus livery of that era, the aircraft returned to Ireland at the invitation of The Irish Historic Flight Foundation (IHFF) who are eager to celebrate the DC-3 and its contribution to Irish aviation.

Aer Lingus DC-3 flying over Ireland

We marked the arrival of the DC-3 into our hangar last week with a short flight over Dublin and welcomed a special guest, Margaret McLoone from Rush, Co Dublin, who was a former Aer Lingus ‘air hostess’ from 1952-1955. Then known as Margaret Bergin, she operated her first flight on a DC-3 and even met her late husband Dinny on board who at that time was an Aer Lingus Second Officer.

Margaret McLoone
Margaret McLoone former Aer Lingus cabin crew who flew on the Douglas DC-3

The DC-3 is a fixed-wing propeller-driven airliner which played a huge part in Irish aviation history. Its lasting effect on the airline industry and World War II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made.

Cabin Crew Aer Lingus DC-3
Cabin Crew wearing vintage Aer Lingus uniforms

We took delivery of our first Douglas DC-3 way back in April 1940, and the first scheduled flight was a Dublin to Liverpool service on 7th May 1940. A total of 19 DC-3 were in use by Aer Lingus until 1964, flying from Dublin to UK destinations such as London, Manchester and Birmingham. The aircraft type operated its first Aer Lingus European service to Paris in 1946, with Amsterdam following in 1947.

The aircraft played an extremely important part in the development of Aer Lingus and was the backbone of the fleet from 1946 until 1958 – indeed it was the only type operated by Aer Lingus on scheduled services from 1948 until 1952.  Its efficiency enabled Aer Lingus to become a viable, profitable airline, and placed it in a position to be able to invest in the latest technology with the introduction of Viscounts in 1954.

Douglas DC3

It is estimated that over the years (1940-1964) the airline’s DC-3 fleet flew over 34 million miles, accumulated more than 268,000 revenue flying hours and earned about £18 million in revenue.

While 32 passengers was the maximum capacity of a DC-3 aircraft, today, more than half a century later, we carry as many as 317 passengers across the Atlantic on a single Airbus A330 aircraft. What was a fleet of a five aircraft in 1940 is today a fleet of 63 aircraft, flying to more than 100 routes across the UK and Europe, including 13 direct routes to North America.