DDA DC-3, reg. # PH-DDA, Courtesy Trev Morson, The DC-3 Hangar.
General description of the aircraft
Note: The descriptions that follow were excerpted from the Netherlands
Aviation Safety Board acident report 96-71/A-16 of the crash of a Dutch
Dakota Association (DDA) DC-3 on 25 September 1996. Aircraft registration
was PH-DDA and all 32 aboard perished. Go to
Aviation Safety Network for a summary of the report.
The DC-3 is a twin piston-engine, low wing monoplane of all metal, semi-monocoque
construction. It is equipped with a tail wheel undercarriage, of which the
main wheels are hydraulically retractable. It has hydraulically operated
split trailing edge flaps.
It is a twin-engined commercial aircraft manufactured by the Douglas
Aircraft Company, California, USA. DC stands for Douglas Commercial. The
fuselage is an almost circular shaped structure built up of frame and made
entirely of aluminium. The wings consist of three sections (left-wing,
right-wing and the wing's midsection). The left and right wing sections are
bolt-connected to the center wing section.
The ailerons, rudder and elevator are fabric covered. The trailing edge of
the center section wing and the inner trailing edge of the right and left
wing contains four hydraulically operated trailing edge flaps. The ailerons
are located outward of the trailing edge right and left wing flaps and are
just like the rudder and elevator, made from aluminium alloy frames covered
There are two main fuel tanks, 210 gallons each (794 liters), located
forward of the center section spar and two auxiliary tanks, 200 gallons each
(760 liters), located aft of the wing spar. Each engine nacelle contains one
33-gallon oil tank (126 liters).
The aircraft is equipped with two pilot seats, a foldable observer seat and
21 to 32 passenger seats. It is certified for two-pilot operation.
Two DC generators, one on each engine, and two batteries supply electrical
power for the aircraft electrical 24 volt system.
Two hydraulic pumps, one on each engine, supply hydraulic power. Hydraulic
pressure operates the retractable main undercarriage, the split flaps, the
wheel brakes, the engine cowl flaps and the windshield wipers.
The flight controls are manually operated via steel cables and are equipped
with manually operated trim tabs.
Weight and Balance
- Maximum Take Off Weight: 25,200 lb (11,431 kg) – Piedmont
- Maximum Landing Weight: 25,200 lb (11,431 kg) – Piedmont
- CG limits at MTOW: 11.0 to 28.0 % Mean Aerodynamic Chord, MAC.
The aircraft is equipped with two Pratt & Whitney double row, 14 cylinder
radial reciprocating engines, type R1830-92 Twin Wasp, rated at 1,200 BHP at
2,700 RPM each. Each engine is mounted on the aircraft forward of the main
landing gear nacelle by an engine support frame and is isolated from the
aircraft by a firewall. Each engine is enclosed by a nacelle with
hydraulically operated movable cowling flaps.
The 14 cylinders are radially positioned in two banks of seven cylinders
around the two crank cases, positioned in tandem; the front and the rear
crank case. The crank cases support a fly-weight balanced double-cranked
crankshaft. The crankshaft is driven by two master piston rods (cylinders
no. 5 and no. 12). The two master piston rod bearings on the crankshaft are
of the plain bearing type. Each master piston rod supports six piston rods.
Each cylinder is fitted with two spark plugs, an inlet and an outlet valve,
rocker arms and push rods. The push rods are operated by a crankshaft driven
cam disc through tappets with roller type cam followers. The crankshaft
drives the propeller via a reduction gear. This gear is enclosed by the
front casing which also supports the propeller thrust bearing.
Each engine has an independent oil system providing oil for internal
lubrication and cooling of the engine, oil for propeller governing and oil
for feathering and unfeathering of the propeller.
Each engine is equipped with a Hamilton Standard 23E50-473 Three Blade
Hydromatic Quick Feathering Constant Speed Propeller with light alloy metal
Propeller and engine speed (RPM) are maintained automatically throughout the
constant speed range (1,200 to 2,700 engine RPM) by varying the blade angle
of the propeller in order to meet changing conditions of airspeed, altitude,
attitude and power setting. The engine-driven propeller governor, which is
mounted on top of the engine front casing, controls the change in blade
angle. This governor boosts up engine oil pressure and uses centrifugal
weight forces balanced against a cockpit controlled spring force to regulate
this pressurized engine oil to the propeller blade change mechanism in the
Minimum blade angle is 16° (fine pitch stop) and maximum 88° (feathered).
Each propeller is equipped with a quick feathering system. Feathering of the
blades to the maximum angle position of 88° gives a powerful braking effect
to stop a running engine, prevents windmilling of the propeller after the
engine has been stopped and reduces the aerodynamic drag to a minimum. The
feathering system also can be used for unfeathering of the propeller in case
an engine has to be restarted after it has been shut down in flight.
The feathering system is powered by an electrically driven gear type oil
pump controlled from the cockpit by momentarily pressing the feathering
button in the overhead panel. This action turns the blades from the actual
blade angle through the coarse blade angle range to a blade angle of 88°,
which is the feathered position in which the blades are streamlined in the
flight direction. Feathering takes approximately four seconds.
This forces the propeller blades towards the fine pitch blade angle.
Normally in flight the propeller will start to windmill as soon as it is out
of the feathered position. At about 800 RPM the feathering button must be
released to stop the feathering pump and the engine can be started. The
propeller governor will resume its normal automatic propeller speed control
as soon as the engine is running and engine oil pressure is normal.
Unfeathering takes approximately twelve seconds.
The cockpit layout is of the conventional type with an instrument panel in
front of each seat and a center pedestal with the engine controls, trim
controls and the press to talk buttons for the Receiver-Transmitter. The
flight controls comprise a control wheel and fully adjustable rudder pedals
at each pilot station. According to statements of DDA pilots, rudder pedal
adjustment is sufficient to allow adequate control in n-1 situations.
DC-3 aircraft are not equipped with an audio and/or visual stall warning
Extensive studies of visual scanning patterns of flight instrument panel
layouts have resulted in the adoption of a standard layout, called the
basic-T. This layout presents the best arrangement of instruments for fast
and accurate scanning of the four basic instruments (on top and horizontally
from left to right): air speed, attitude and altitude, and (vertically)
below the attitude indicator, the heading. The center of the scanning cycle
is the attitude indicator. Additional flight instruments such as turn and
bank and vertical speed indicator are positioned to the left and right of
the basic-T (see the figure below). The basic-T layout has been commonly
applied in most aircraft during many decades.
This screen shot of the Flight Sim R4D panel perfectly illustrates the
basic-T arrangement of the flight gauges.
To check the operation of the feathering system, a limited feathering
check and a full feathering check are used. The objective of a limited
feathering check is to check the operation of the feathering pump. The
feathering cycle is stopped by pulling the feathering button.
During the engine run-up by the pilots prior to a flight, a limited
feathering check is carried out. At 1,700 RPM the feathering button is
pressed. When an RPM drop is observed, the feathering button is pulled and
an RPM increase should be verified. By this procedure only the feathering
pump is checked.
Use of Derated Take-off Power versus Full Rated Take-off Power
In an Engine Operation Information Letter issued by Pratt & Whitney
Aircraft, January 15, 1951, several reasons are stated why derated take-off
power should not be used: engine-wise there is very little
to recommend in support of reduced power.
- Pressure loads in the combustion chambers oppose the RPM produced
loads on the reciprocating system because pressure cushions the
centrifugal and inertia forces. If the pressure load is reduced, the
wear due to high RPM is increased. This factor is further accentuated by
the increased time required to reach the RPM reduction point after
take-off. Sustained high RPM is a major factor in keeping engines from
staying young and it takes more "RPM minutes" and "piston ring miles"
along the cylinder walls to complete the first take-off phase if the
manifold pressure is reduced.
- It is also advantageous to reach an air speed that provides cooling
airflow as soon as possible.
- Reduced manifold pressure means less induction airflow which in
turns means a leaner mixture. As the impeller speed remains the same,
the mixture temperature is still at its maximum and the slight help from
lowered pressure is offset by the leaner mixture.
Furthermore Engine Operation Letter number 25, January 23, 1952, states:
- Of the several individual forces comprising the resultant force that
determines the bearing load, the one produced by centrifugal action
predominates. If the other forces were absent the load on the bearing
would vary as the square of the RPM and would be applied constantly by
contact along an unchanging line;
- When the crankshaft is turning, the master piston rod bearing is
pressed against the crankpin by a force which is the resultant of the
separate centrifugal, inertia and gas load forces. The component of this
resultant force that is tangential to the path of crankpin travel
produces the torque output of the engine;
- The centrifugal load is opposed and diminished by the gas load which
varies with manifold pressure. Also, because of the varying connecting
rod angle, the gas load sweeps back and forth over an appreciable arc
with the result that the line of contact is constantly changing;
- High RPM with low manifold pressure approaches the condition of high
centrifugal load uncushioned by gas load. Also the line of contact
remains more nearly constant and local heating at this region becomes
serious. Temporary over-speeds can be tolerated only because there is
sufficient heat reserve in the surrounding material and oil to absorb,
temporarily, the increased rate of heat generation. If the full
stabilized local temperatures were reached, permanent damage would
- A recent rash of master piston rod bearing failures in one training
activity is an excellent illustration of the workings of these opposing
forces and how the engine suffers when one is absent.
Investigation of the cause of these failures disclosed that a power
setting requiring normal rated RPM with closed throttle was being used while
in the traffic pattern to simulate emergency conditions. Now, the bearing is
designed to take this condition – for a short interval. The acceptance of
the engine design and development assumes that this type of operation will
be very infrequent (perhaps once an overhaul period) and then, for only a
few seconds duration. When such a high RPM with such a low manifold pressure
is imposed for relatively long periods and with training program frequency,
the results are inevitably bearing failure.
DC-3 Asymmetric Performance
From a literature study the following flight handling characteristics of
the DC-3 were obtained:
In the clean configuration, with METO power, the aircraft is statically
unstable throughout the speed range with the CG at its rearward limit. This
implies that the aircraft does not return to its trimmed condition after a
disturbance, and therefore constant pilot activity is required to ensure
stable flight. The unstable characteristics increase with decreasing
airspeed. The stick force stability is essentially zero at lower speeds,
which degrades speed control (lack of "speed feel").
Lateral Directional Control
Rudder forces at large rudder deflections are in general very high. This
characteristic hampers the execution of coordinated turns. Rudder and
aileron forces in steady side slips tend to lighten for angles of side slip
larger than 10°. Rudder overbalance, resulting in aerodynamic rudder lock,
can occur at higher angles of side slip.
Aileron forces during steady side slips and in steady rolling manoeuvres are
qualified as moderate.
Single Engine Characteristics
According to the DC-3 AOM the minimum control speed in the air VMC is 76
kt DIAS, which corresponds with 82 kt CAS. VMC is the lowest airspeed at
which the aircraft can be flown on one engine, on a constant heading and
with a bank angle of 5° towards the live engine, with the propeller of the
shut down engine feathered in clean configuration and with maximum except
take-off power on the running engine. In general low weight is the critical
condition for determining VMC. In the case of the DC-3 this speed is not
limited by the maximum rudder deflection, but by the rudder force (max. 180
lb), which the average human is able to exert. Unfeathering of the stopped
propeller will significantly increase the actual minimum control speed.
Calculations by NLR indicate that this speed, depending on propeller blade
angle, can increase up to approximately 10 kt.
In general, power-off stalling characteristics of the DC-3 are qualified
as benign. However, in power-on conditions stalls are accompanied with
violent rolling (to the left) and a sharp drop of the nose, with
considerable loss of altitude before control can be regained. During n-1
stalls these effects increase considerably. An n-1 stall at low altitude may
therefore be expected to be unrecoverable.
In the performance section 4.4.2 of the DDA DC-3 AOM the following rates
of climb are listed in relation to aircraft AUW, with one engine at METO
power and the other engine shut down and the propeller feathered, wheels and
flaps up, at 1,000 ft and an airspeed of 88 kt DIAS (92 kt CAS):
Rate of climb
Note: deviations from the above mentioned speed seriously degrade climb
It should be taken into account that these single-engine performance figures
are based on the results of test flights, during the original certification
using aircraft in factory-new condition and flown by test pilots.
Single Engine Performance PH-DDA
According to the DDA AOM, it is required to cruise during single engine
operation with the so called Minimum Comfortable Airspeed (MCA), which is in
fact 1.05 V(L/D)n". For the clean configuration this is 106 kt DIAS, which
equals 111 kt CAS. Flying at lower speed than MCA has a negative influence
on aircraft performance and flight characteristics. Based on the AOM
performance data of the DC-3, the power required to sustain level flight at
constant speed during single engine operation has been calculated as a
function of airspeed. This has been done for the stopped propeller feathered
and unfeathered at the fine pitch stop (16°). Drag data of the unfeathered
propeller have been provided by Hamilton Standard. It is established that
the calculated required power to fly with MCA matches well with the value
given in the AOM, which is 920 BHP for the present configuration.
Available single engine METO power (1,050 BHP) is insufficient to sustain
level flight, in case the stopped propeller is fully unfeathered.
Standard Operating Procedures DDA (Single Engine Operations)
Commercial aviation companies routinely use standard practices and
procedures with regard to n-1 training on the actual aircraft or on the
simulator. The emphasis is put on the most critical situation, the
occurrence of an engine failure during takeoff. Procedures to cater for this
occurrence are incorporated in the relevant AOM's and training syllabi, as
well as for a n-1 approach and landing. Information for engine failure
during other phases of flight is usually limited to performance figures for
the one or multi engine-out conditions.
DDA closely follows these standard practices and procedures and has
incorporated these in the DDA Flight Training Curriculum of the DC-3.
Emphasis here is also given to the n-1 situation occurring during take-off.
All training is done on the actual aircraft as a DC-3 simulator does not
exist. For safety reasons the engine is not shut down and the propeller not
feathered. To simulate the n-1 condition the engine and the propeller are
set for zero drag. As a consequence hands on training for-in flight engine
shut down, propeller feathering and engine re-start is not practiced.
Relevant AOM Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are:
"The Pilot Flying (PF) always occupies the left seat, the Pilot Not
Flying (PNF) always the right seat. Under normal circumstances PNF handles
When an emergency occurs, such as an n-1, the AOM states that it is
considered of utmost importance, that one pilot is clearly charged with the
control of the aircraft. The main task of the PF is to fly the aircraft, he
must not be distracted by conversation or actions with respect to the
trouble shooting. The PNF performs the actions according to the Emergency
Check List (ECL). Which pilot is handling the Receiver-Transmitter during
the execution of the ECL by PNF, is not covered in a SOP. When performing
the emergency checklist procedures, in principle the PF will take over ATC
communications by calling: "My R/T". "Only the Pilot-in-Command is
authorized to declare an emergency, and it is up to him to decide, if and
when such an emergency is declared. If an emergency is declared, the only
appropriate manner is to give a "Mayday" call and to select 7700 on the ATC
transponder. ATC must be informed as soon as possible about the consequences
of an emergency and/or abnormal situation. Do not hesitate to call "Mayday"
to declare an emergency, when the safety of the aircraft and/or its
occupants is, or is likely to become, endangered. The captain considers all
operational consequences for the remainder of the flight, including abnormal
system procedures, airport facilities, landing weather, maintenance and
Overboosting will occur when the engine speed is low in relation to the
applied amount of power (Low propeller RPM/high manifold pressure). When
engine overboost occurs the reciprocating loads are high and will not be
sufficiently opposed and cushioned by the centrifugal loads. Overboost will
cause the master piston rod bearings to wear down quickly and may cause
ovalising of the piston pin holes.
This phenomenon has much in common with an engine overspeed. The engine
speed/applied power ratio is too high which causes the centrifugal forces to
be predominant. As it takes place in the lower RPM range valve/piston
striking will not take place, but damage to the master piston rod bearings
is usually more severe than with an overspeed. Underboost may be caused by
unintentional power decrease due to carburetor icing, or by a too low power
setting with high propeller RPM selected, such as during an emergency
descent or when reducing power too much during the approach. Underboost will
usually result in wear down of the bearing material of the master piston rod
bearings over a period of time, enabling the maintenance crew to detect
bearing damage when inspecting the oil filters.
According to Pratt & Whitney Aircraft the use of derated take-off power
is not supported. The use of derated take-off power increases the wear of
the master piston rod bearings. Derated take-off power was introduced by DDA
pilots, who were used to jet engine techniques. By using derated take-off
thrust the turbine inlet temperature is lowered. This diminishes creep and
increases engine durability. However this technique is not valid for piston
engines and may be a cause of master piston rod bearing failure.
In the AOM of the PH-DDA it is stated that for best performance and
flight characteristics during single engine operation, it is required to
cruise at the Minimum Comfortable Airspeed (MCA), which equals 111 kt CAS.
The calculated required power to maintain this airspeed is approximately 920
BHP (matching with the value given in the AOM).
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Power ratings of the engines are:
Take-off 1,200 BHP at 2,700 RPM
METO 1,050 BHP at 2,550 RPM