In 1933 the Boeing 247 revolutionized air transport. It is said to be the first modern airliner and it demonstrated what the future of air transport could be like. It immediately drew the attention of America’s airliners who wanted them, but the production of 247 was reserved for United Airlines, which was part of the same company that owned Boeing. Needing something similar TWA approached the Douglas Aircraft Company to design an airliner that would allow it to compete with the 247. Douglas was not keen but in the end gave in to persuasion and invested $350,000 in developing the Douglas Commercial in direct competition to the Boeing 247.
The first Douglas Commercial 1, the DC-1, made its first flight in July 1933 and it’s performance was so good that TWA ordered twenty more of them. For the production model Douglas made several modifications, the major one being addition of two seats to bring the passenger capacity up to 14, and renamed this version the DC-2; which began the revolution in air transport that the larger DC-3 continued.
There was only one DC-1, it made its maiden flight on I July 1933, entered service with TWA in September that year and was later sold to a Lord in Britain before being sold on to an airline in Spain where it was damaged beyond repair in 1940.
In my research into the DC-2 I realized that it would not be too difficult to convert a DC-2 kit into a DC-1. The major part of the exercise would be to remove a row of seats from the fuselage and to make some minor modifications to the engines. The main challenges would really be in finding decals for this new model. As it turned out, one version of the CMR 1/144 DC-2 kit included decals for a TWA DC-2 which looked as though they might by appropriate for the TWA DC-1 as well. It turned out that there were no kits of the CMR TWA DC-2 kit available anywhere (not even on ebay) but I mentioned this on the Airliners and Civil Aircraft forum and one of the members said that he had the kit with those decals and kindly offered to give them to me. The project was on!
Converting the DC-2 kit into a DC-1 was not terribly difficult. I did the calculations (always a risky business given my lack of arithmetic skills) and eventually found that if I removed a slice of fuselage from the leading edge of one window to the next everything would come out alright, just doing the opposite to what Douglas had done in adding two seats to turn the DC-1 into the DC-2. So that the one piece lower wing would fit into the shortened fuselage some major surgery was required to the lower fuselage, which was preferable to messing around with the wings themselves. By my calculation, the wings should be set back a millimeter or two to be completely accurate, but that would have entailed some life threatening surgery on the kit so I decided to pretend I never knew of that little challenge.
The job was achieved with lots of hacking away at defenseless resin and then the application of more than several coats of filler before everything looked smooth and whole enough to proceed with painting. For some reason – the hot and humid weather I suspect – the first attempt to achieve a decent polished aluminum finish failed miserably and I had to strip the whole thing back and try again, this time with more success. The nice shiny finish was achieved by scrupulously smoothing the surface of the model for any imperfections and then painting it all over with the Tamiya Black and then TS-83, which gives that nice polished looking finish.
The decals came partly from friendly Graeme in far north Queensland and the rest from my trusty computer printer. The major registration on the upper starboard wing went hideously wrong and so badly effected the wing surface so I had to be stripped off again, which did not end entirely happily. Something also went wrong with a little blemish on the top of the fuselage which my attempts to put right only made worse. Then there was the problem with the broken propeller blade that was eaten by the carpet monster which I finally resolved by raiding a rather nasty DC-3 kit in which the propellers were about the only useful parts. It wasn’t the perfect solution but by then I was getting exasperated by the entire process. I decided to finish the model as best I could even with its various problems and hope nobody noticed.
When I declared it finished I took it out for some photos, it doesn’t look too bad. Then I thought it might be interesting to compare the DC-1 to its children, the DC-2 and the DC-3. Now I can feel some more Douglas airliners coming on to make a complete set of them. Arrrrgh!