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Your copy of the "Davis-Monthan Airfield Register" with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


This information comes from the listings of Non-Prefixed and Non-Suffixed aircraft reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC.


The web presence for NC14988 is short on technical and historic information and long on flight sim and modeling.  It is a popular subject for the latter.

Image of NC14988, right, from AAHS Journal Vol. 50:1. Spring, 2005 p. 35. Exhibited with permission.


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First Douglas Sleeper Transport

This airplane was the first DC-3 and was configured as the first Douglas Sleeper Transport (DST).  It was manufactured by Douglas Aircraft Company, Santa Monica, CA as NX-14988 in December 1935 under ATC# 607.  It was assigned S/N 1494 with two Wright Cyclone SGR-1820-G-5 engines (S/N R-22863; L-22862).  It was a 31-place airplane. It was test-flown by Register pilot Carl A. Cover.

After testing, it sold to American Air Lines, Chicago, IL on April 28, 1936 and was approved for “NC” registration on May 4, 1936 with 112.5 flight hours.  A note on the inspection report dated May 4th states, “The Douglas engineers inform me that this plane and succeeding planes will be changed to a 28 [passenger] day type, 14 [passenger] sleeper type, as soon as the airplane had completed its 100 hr test on the airline.  This should be a week to 10 days.” 

It is exactly this time we find NC14988 landing at Tucson.  It arrived May 4, 1936 at 11:21AM flown by Eyer L. “Slonny” Sloniger.  Dan Beard was Slonniger’s co-pilot and they carried eleven passengers.  They were eastbound from Glendale, CA to Ft. Worth, TX.  For posterity, I'll list the passengers here. They were: Bill Birnen, Hoot Ellis, Bunny Fuller, Bob Johnson, Mike McMichael (identified as “Stewardess”!), Roy Mitchell, E.M. Putney, George (Iron Mike) Tate, Jim Kinney and Messrs. Freeling and Savage.  If you have information about any of these passengers, please let me KNOW.  It was noted in the Remarks column of the Register, "American Airlines Coast to Coast.  Douglas Super Sleeper Transport.  First Flights" and, with huge understatement, "Nothing to say, much." Below, from the San Diego Aerospace Museum (SDAM), a right profile of the airplane, date and location unknown. Note the American Airlines logo on the fuselage.

Douglas NC14988, Date & Location Unknown (Source: SDAM)
Douglas NC14988, Date & Location Unknown (Source: SDAM)

Further paperwork, Form 446 (Repair & Alteration Form), dated June 30, 1936 indicated, as quoted above,  that this aircraft had been, “…altered to agree with the latest revised technical data …. and is now a 28 place sleeper transport and is the same as the other DST airplanes structurally….”  Image (cited in left sidebar) below shows it on the ground in American Airlines livery just three days before its Tuscon landing. 

NC14988, Glendale, CA, May 1, 1936 (Source: AAHS Journal)
NC14988, Glendale, CA, May 1, 1936

Through the rest of 1936-1937 the airplane received new engines twice and had changes made in avionics (AVR-8C compass installed in cockpit and loop bullet installed under fuselage).  Below, a photograph of NC14988 in an advertisement for aviation-grade twisted cable stock. These cables are used in aircraft mostly to connect flight controls to cockpit pedals and steering wheels that the pilot uses to control the airplane. The location of this image is unknown, but the background mountains look a lot like those in the photo above. Photograph shared with us by site visitor S.B. Sargent.

Douglas NC14988, Western Flying, December, 1937 (Source: Sargent)
Douglas NC14988, Western Flying, December, 1937 (Source: Sargent)

A couple of months after the magazine, above, appeared on the news stands, on February 18, 1938 it suffered an accident at Forrest City, AR when a propeller struck the ground.  The wings were replaced. 

It suffered another accident on December 5, 1938 when its captain, named Andrews, damaged the landing gear and right wing.  It was converted to a 32-place airplane in 1940 and had additional avionics changes.  It was sold to TWA on March 14, 1942 and flew cargo contracts for the Army. 

As WWII spooled up, on May 25, 1942 the airplane was sold to the Defense Supplies Corp., Washington, DC, then to the War Department, Washington, DC on July 21, 1942. Its Civil Aeronautics Administration registration was cancelled and it was given USAAF serial number 42-43619 and operated under U.S. Army insignia.  It was wrecked at Knobnoster, MO October 15, 1942.


THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 06/29/07 REVISED: 11/07/07, 01/18/08, 05/12/09, 06/27/11, 05/09/12

The Register
I'm looking for additional photographs of this airplane to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me. Also looking for information about or images of passengers.

---o0o--- Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.


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