Life and times of the DC-3 with the most flying hours

Aeroplane published this article from Jay Selman in its December 2015 issue about the highest-time Douglas DC-3

In an age of superlatives, it is easy to grow desensitised to them. But there are some unarguable absolutes, and N18121 (c/n 1997) is the indisputable winner when it comes to being the highest-time Douglas DC-3 in the world.

As of the morning of 21 August 2015, this machine had 91,578.1 total hours on its airframe. Aircraft 121, as it is referred to by its present custodians, is being well looked-after by a team headed by Paul Bazeley, owner and manager of Aerometal International LLC at Aurora State Airport in Oregon.

This gorgeous aircraft was the 119th DC-3 to roll off the Douglas Aircraft production line in Santa Monica, California. Officially designated as a DC-3-201, NC18121 was completed on 25 October 1937, powered by a pair of Wright GR-1820-G2s. On 20 December that year, Eastern Air Lines vice-president Capt Eddie Rickenbacker signed for the airframe and flew it back to Newark, New Jersey.

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