Today (18 May) is the 65th anniversary of the maiden flight of the Douglas DC-7, the last piston-powered Douglas airliner. The origins of the DC-7 stemmed from an American Airlines specification for an transcontinental airliner that could do the trip in 8 hours- Douglas was at first reluctant to develop the DC-7 but was prodded into action when the head of American, C.R. Smith, ordered 25 aircraft for $40 million, which covered Douglas’ development costs.

An evolution of the DC-6, the DC-7 used the same wing but had a longer fuselage and more powerful Wright R-3350 Duplex Cyclone Turbo-Compound engines instead of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engines used on the DC-6. American was the first airline to announce nonstop transcon services pending delivery of its DC-7s but were beat to the launch of actual services by Howard Hughes who launched TWA’s Ambassador services on the Lockheed Super Constellation one month ahead of American in October 1953.

The first DC-7 variant was used exclusively by US airlines with the largest fleet belonging to United Air Lines. The next DC-7 variant was the DC-7B which was an increased gross weight variant with more fuel for long range services. Eastern Air Lines was the biggest user of he DC-7B with 49 aircraft. The ultimate variant was the DC-7C “Seven Seas” which competed with the Lockheed Starliner. The Seven Seas had longer wings and more powerful engines. Pan American was the biggest operator of the DC-7C with 27. Most of the foreign operators of the DC-7 used the DC-7C like SAS pictured here which pioneered the over the pole routes with their aircraft.

Only 338 DC-7s were built 1953-1958, the type rapidly superseded by the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8.

(Photo: Boeing)

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The one I got to fly in.