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Posted 6/23/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
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Douglas XC-32
Douglas XC-32 3/4 front view. (U.S Air Force photo)
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In the spring of 1934, a policy review board -- dubbed the Baker Board after its chairman, Newton D. Baker, a former Secretary of War -- was formed to review Air Corps organization, aircraft procurement plans, areas of responsibility (with the U.S. Navy), missions, etc. The board was formed, in part, in response to the disastrous use of Air Corps aircraft and crews to fly the Air Mail. Several aircraft were lost and it became obvious that the aircraft, equipment and training of commercial airlines and pilots was far better than the Air Corps. One of the recommendations of the Baker Board was to encourage the Army to evaluate commercial cargo/transport aircraft for use in military missions rather than procure strictly military types which up to that point were greatly inferior to commercial aircraft. The Air Corps had a history of procuring commercial types in small numbers (i.e. Ford Trimotor and Lockheed Vega), but the Baker Board essentially directed the Army to buy commercial types adapted for military use as needed.

The first and perhaps most significant example of this policy was the Air Corps purchase of a Douglas DC-2 for evaluation. This plane, designated XC-32 and assigned the serial number 36-1, was the first in a long line of aircraft in the DC-2 and DC-3 series. The most famous of this series was the C-47 Skytrain, which was based on the DC-3.

The XC-32 was ordered in the spring of 1935 and accepted on Sept. 30, 1935. It was basically a stock DC-2 with a minor interior modification necessary to house a military radio set. The original Air Corps requirement called for a plane capable of carrying 1.5 tons of cargo at least 500 miles at a cruising speed of 125 mph. The DC-2 easily matched these requirements and greatly exceeded some of them. The DC-2's maximum range was about 900 miles and its cruising speed was about 170 miles per hour; far better than the maximum speed requirement on the original Air Corps specification.

One problem encountered in the XC-32 evaluation was the Air Corps desire for a single engine aircraft (like the XC-31) rather than a twin-engine type. Because the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression during the mid-1930s, the defense budget was very small and funding for procurement, spare parts, fuel, etc. was scarce. Bomber development was of prime importance during this period, pursuit and observation aircraft development were next in importance, followed by attack, cargo and other types of planes. As a result, the War Department General Staff (although not necessarily the Air Corps staff) felt a single engine plane built for reliability and ease of maintenance was the best policy to pursue. This policy would carry through into the early 1940s when it became apparent that the quality was more important than quantity when buying aircraft (i.e. XC-31 vs. XC-32 [one or two engines] and B-17 vs. B-18 [four or two engines]).

The XC-32 was tested and orders for a suitable military version (C-33) were soon placed. The XC-32 continued to serve as a VIP and staff transport throughout the mid to late 1930s. It was used between 1935 and 1937 as the personal transport for the General Headquarters Air Force (GHQ AF) senior staff including Lt. Gen. Andrews and Maj. Gen. Knerr.

In the early stages of World War II, almost all available civilian aircraft were impressed into military service. As a result in 1942, 24 commercial DC-2s were used (impressed) by the Army Air Corps for the duration of the war. These planes were designated C-32A, but were not follow-on purchases of the basic C-32.

Type Number built/
XC-32 1 Douglas DC-2
C-32 - Redesignated XC-32
C-32A 24 Impressed DC-2s

Engines: Wright R-1820-25 radials of 750 hp each
Maximum speed: 202 mph
Cruising speed: 171 mph
Range: 915 miles
Service ceiling: 20,000 ft.
Span: 85 ft. 0 in.
62 ft. 0 in.
Height: 16 ft. 4 in.
Weight: 18,575 lbs. maximum gross weight
Crew: Two (pilot and co-pilot)
Passenger Capacity: 14
Serial numbers: XC-32: 36-1; Impressed C-32A: 42-53527, 42-53528, 42-53529, 42-53530, 42-53531, 42-53532, 42-57154, 42-57155, 42-57156, 42-57227, 42-57228, 42-58071, 42-58072, 42-58073, 42-61095, 42-61096, 42-65577, 42-65578, 42-65579, 42-68857, 42-68858, 42-70863, 42-83226, 42-83227

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