The Army Air Service became particularly interested in ambulance aircraft during the vastly expanded pilot training program concurrent with the U.S. entry into World War I in 1917. The most pressing need was for an aircraft capable of landing at crash sites in remote areas to evacuate pilots injured during pilot training mishaps.
After the war, the need for air ambulance aircraft was reflected in the creation of the A- (Ambulance) designation. The A- designation was used between 1919 and 1924 and only two aircraft types were assigned, the Cox-Klemin A-1 and Fokker A-2. After 1924, the air ambulance was relegated to a secondary role; however, many early C- aircraft were equipped with fixtures to allow for quick conversion to an air ambulance when the need arose.
The Douglas C-1 was designed built-in equipment for easy conversion of the cargo compartment for carrying up to four litter patients. Additionally, two C-1s were temporarily assigned to McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio, for design, testing, and installation of a more complete medical compartment. The result had space for four litters, a flight surgeon or nurse, and a small supply cabinet. The wood floor was partially replaced with a metal floor for increased strength and durability.
The improved C-1Cs had many of the design changes tested on the C-1 ambulance aircraft including a metal floor and equipment for installation of four litters, a medical supply cabinet and a flight surgeon.
First plane using C designation
C-1 with engine change
Design study only
Improved, larger C-1
TECHNICAL NOTES: Engine:Liberty V-1650-1 of 435 hp Maximum speed: 116 mph Cruising speed: 85 mph Range: 385 miles Service ceiling: 14,850 ft. Span: 56 ft. 7 in. Length: 35 ft. 4 in. Height: 14 ft. 0 in. Weight: 6,445 lbs. loaded Cargo/passenger capacity: Four litter patients and one medical officer in ambulance configuration Crew: Two (pilot and flight mechanic)