The forgotten Douglas

Those who visited the forums in the past might recognise my old avatar in the picture on the left. This aircraft is (one of) my favorite aircraft and as it is a little unknown I was thinking about writing a blog post about it for a while already. So here is that blog post.

For those that have not yet recognised hte aircraft from this little avatar, I am talking about the Douglas DC-5. Ever since I once borrowed the book “De Douglas DC-5” from Piet Kok from the library, I have liked this aircraft a lot. Currently I own the book as well, but I think it is only available in Dutch.

Why has such an book been published in Dutch? This is probably best explained by the fact that only 12 DC-5 aircraft have been build, of which 4 have been used the the KLM, the Dutch airline. Due to the outbrake of the second world war these aircraft have never been used in the Netherlands itself, they have been used in the Dutch West Indies (Curacao) and the Dutch East Indies (Java, Indonesia). The other 8 have been used by the US Navy as R3D. A funny note is that one of the aircraft has been the personal aircraft of William Boeing for a while, before it went to the US Navy as well. At that moment William Boeing was no longer working for the Boeing Company though.

Unlike most other civil Douglas aircraft of that time, the DC-5 was designed by the El Sequndo division of Douglas (this division also build the SBD Dauntless for example). For its time the DC-5 was a quite advanced aircraft, having a nose landing gear for example. It still had a tailwheel as well, but that was mainly mounted to prevent damage in case the pilot was not really used to flying with a nosewheel. The aircraft has been designed as a feeder aircraft to be used on smaller lines, it could carry a maximum of 22 passengers.

So what went wrong for this aircraft? It must be called the forgotten Douglas now because it never really became a success. This is mainly due to the outbrake of the second world war. At the time the DC-5 was still a very new aircraft (first flight 20 february 1939) and some time would be needed to perfect the design. Due to the war this time was not there and it was decided that the DC-3 would become the standard transport aircraft. Besides that the El Sequndo division needed to be produce the Dauntless as well. So after only 12 aircraft had been build, the program was cancelled.

A last funny fact is that the DC-5 flew before the DC-4 as we know it know flew. This is because before the current design of the DC-4, Douglas was also working on a DC-4E. But as this aircraft proved to be too complex, it never went into production.


15 thoughts on “The forgotten Douglas

  1. beste Arno,
    toevallig heb ik de DC-5 (PH-AIW) gedownload om mee te vliegen. Heb er alleeen het panel van de DC-3 op zitten. De AIW vloog in de WEST en ik ben nu op zoek naar een die in de OOST vloog, bijvoorbeeld de ADD, die naar Sidney ontsnapte. Het lijkt mij leuk omk die vlucht op onze KLM site te zetten.
    Gerard (Stadskanaal)

  2. Arno,
    Found your interesting blog on the DC-5 / R3D while searching for information and photographs of this aircraft. Only wish the book you mentioned on the DC-5 by Piet Kok was availalble and in English. Ed Stoltz in Arizona

  3. Hello Ed,

    It is a great book by Piet Kok indeed, but as far as I know it is only available in Dutch. It contains a lot of photos and drawings.

    The first time I read it, I had borrowed it from the library. After that it took me some time to find it here in the Netherlands so that I could buy it as well.


  4. The DC-5 in the photo at the bottom of your web page is a prototype — whose horizontal stabilizer has no dihedral. Production aircraft horizontal stabls all had pronounced dihedral.

  5. Hello John,

    Yes, you are right. The photo must indeed be the prototype.

    Funny fact is that Douglas got help from the Dutch Aerospace Laboratory, as KLM was one of their first customers for the DC-5, in improving the stability of the prototype. This lead to the modified horizontal stabilizer.

  6. Hallo Arno,
    wanneer je wat meer wil weten over de DC-5. Op het Aviodrome is in de bibliotheek nog wel wat te vinden.

  7. Bedankt voor de tip, Gerard. Ik ga zeker zoeken in de bibliotheek in Lelystad. Weet iemand waar ik het boek van Piet Kok op de kop kan tikken?

    Groeten uit België

    Hans (

  8. Hallo Hans,

    Ik heb laatst nog geprobeerd om het te kopen voor iemand anders, maar de boekhandel kon het nergens meer vinden. Dus ik vermoed dat ergens tweedehands proberen te kopen het beste is.

  9. Derelict DC-5 is located at Akop airstrip in Sudan. I will send photos. UN World Food Program pilot. Does anyone know if there are any DC-5s still in existance?

  10. I have contacted some acquaintances flying with the UN in Africa and they told me there is no DC-5 present at the mentioned airstrip in Sudan.

    There is a wreckage of a DHC-5 (de Havilland Buffalo), which crashed years ago, present at this airstrip. That might have led to the message above.

    Obviously no DC-5, although it would have been very nice!

  11. Er zijn een paar DC-5-511 geweest in het voormalig Nederlands Indië bij de KNILM
    Het waren de:
    PK-ADA nr430 00-07-1940 Damaged Kemayoran 09-02-1942 taken to Japan
    PK-ADB nr428 00-09-1940 Written off Parafield .1942
    PK-ADC nr424 00-06-1941 Broken up 1946
    KP-ADD nr462 00-09-1941 Broken up Israel 1955
    3 DC-5’s vluchtten in 1942 naar Australië.
    PK-ADB met “Fiets” van Messel als piloot
    PK-ADC met Dick Rab
    PK-ADD met Peter Deenik

    Dat was het even wat betreft de DC-5

  12. Nice to see some facts about the DC-5. I have several photos, but no comments from my father’s memoirs plus a lapel pin of the DC-5. My father worked with PAA, 1929-1967 arriving in Mexico City in Ford Trimotor #31 (X-ABCE) from the Ford Aircraft factory in Dearborn, Mich.

    He was on the PAA evaluation team for the DC-$E

  13. Hi Bob,

    Would you be willing to share those pictures with us? Besides the book I have about the DC-5, there are not so many pictures available. Would love to see some more.


  14. Looking for pictures of the cabin and cockpit should anyone have such. Also in search of a pilot’s manual/NATOPS. Thanks

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