N18121 is a DC-3A built at the Douglas (Santa Monica) plant in 1937. She is one of the oldest DC-3’s still flying and the highest time example left in the world. The aircraft is now privately owned and flies regularly. The aircraft’s date of manufacture is recorded as October 25th 1937.
She was the 119th DC-3 built and was the 7th DC-3 built for Eastern Airlines. She was originally
certificated as a DC-3-G2 (powered by Wright GR-1820-G2 engines.) The aircraft was signed for by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker (the then vice president of Eastern airlines) at the Douglas plant on December 20th 1937. Captain Rickenbacker then flew this aircraft to Newark NJ to begin a long and unique career with some of the United States most prominent airlines that spanned almost 60 years.
The aircraft was requisitioned for war service in 1943 (as a C-49.) She served her country briefly (remaining stateside) for just over a year before being returned to Eastern Airlines in 1944. The aircraft then continued on in commercial service for another 40 years. She was operated by companies such as Trans-Texas airlines (TTA) and Provincetown Boston Airlines (PBA) until 1988 when she was finally retired. The aircraft was finally sold into private ownership in 1993 and delivered to the West Coast.
The aircraft, by this point, had accumulated over 91,400 hours total airframe time and was in need of major work and restoration. The aircraft changed hands three further times before the present owner completed the rebuild of the aircraft to flying condition in 2006.
The Mc Donnell Douglas company recognized this aircraft (S/N 1997) as the highest time DC-3 in the world in the late 1980’s. The aircraft, at this time, has accumulated just over 91,600 hours TTAF and subsequently sets a new world record every time she flies. In an attempt to try and add “scale” to this figure; 91,600 hours is roughly equivalent to:
- 3816.5 days in the air,
- or 10 years, 5 months with air under the tires,
- or 16,500,000 miles,
- or 660 times around the world,
- or 34 trips to the moon
She has consumed:
- Over 9,140,000 gallons of fuel
- Over 1,000,000 gallons of oil (that’s 20,000 barrels!)
- Over 220 engines,
- Over 30,000 spark plugs,
- Over 600 sets of tires (as she has taxied over 250,000 miles – that’s 10 times around the World!)
- She has probably made almost 80,000 landings (cycles.)