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Flagship Knoxville — an American Airlines Douglas DC-3

9 January 2013

Flagship Knoxville — an American Airlines Douglas DC-3

The American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum has many excellent exhibits as well as displays — as described in the previous post — but, perhaps, the showstopper is a pristine Douglas DC-3 which has been christened Flagship Knoxville. This particular DC-3 began service with American Airlines, which became prominent under C.R. Smith’s management and who prompted Douglas to upsize the DC-2 into the DC-3, served in the U.S. military during WW II as well as with another airline before purchase and restoration by retired American Airline flight crew. C.R. Smith named airline aircraft after cities and beginning with “Flagship” as a custom — hence, Flagship Knoxville.

C.R. Smith is especially noted for motivating Donald Douglas to design and build the DC-3. He wanted to build a transcontinental airline and his calculations indicated the need for an aircraft a bit larger and longer ranged than the successful DC-2. The DC-3 came to be the primary aircraft for American Airlines where it became the first transcontinental airliner in 1933.

This is a spectacular aircraft to see, not only because of the factory new condition but also because the interior can also be viewed — unusual to experience in a museum. Entry is through the main door on the right fuselage side. Once on the cabin floor the visitor can open the lavatory door on the left to see the lav is only slightly more modern than a primitive camp restroom, though a small skylight is a nice touch lost on today’s airliners, while ahead against the left side fuselage is the galley. Viewing into the aft baggage compartment is possible as well though entry is barred. Walking up a slight incline through the passenger cabin one sees two-on-the-left-one-on-the-right passenger seating as well as overhead shelves until reaching the cockpit bulkhead. Entry into the cockpit is not allowed but viewing is easy and satisfying as all the controls are well in view. Looking to the floor immediately below and on the left shows the emergency egress for the crew — a tight channel to a hatch and rope which would be used by the crew to gain immediate access to the ground.

— photo by Joseph May

Nose of the “Flagship Knoxville” — photo by Joseph May

Leaving no doubt that this is the Flagship Knoxsville of American Airlines — photo by Joseph May

Leaving no doubt that this is the Flagship Knoxville of American Airlines, note the emergency  hatch behind the cockpit — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

American Airlines “Flagship Knoxville”, a Douglas DC-3, in the American Airlines CR Smith Museum — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Radio antennae detail of this DC-3 — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Left side engine, a Wright R-1820 Cyclone radial — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Left aspect view showing the polished aluminum metal with orange trim livery of earlier American Airlines airliners — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The empennage of the Flagship Knoxville — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The cockpit, though the control wheels are hard left the ailerons are in their neutral positions, but this is a good look to better view the control panel (kudos) — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Looking to the rear of the passenger cabin from the cockpit bulkhead — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The interior of the Flagship Knoxville can be entered by the visitor, the galley is in view and the lav is immediately to the left against the right side — photo by Joseph May

The previous post, Monday’s, described the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum with photographs as well as text — and the next post, Friday’s, describes the architecturally significant hangar first used by American Airlines.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Marvin Findling permalink
    9 January 2013 08:16

    Outstanding site, fantastic photos;,refreshes memories of my last flight in USAF C-47 (DC-3) 1963,

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      11 January 2013 14:03

      We are so glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for the compliments 🙂

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    • travelforaircraft permalink
      11 May 2013 02:13

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  3. Kerry Freeman permalink
    31 October 2014 11:20

    I live near the CR Smith Museum, and The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (AKA The T) has a bus that goes right by the place. It departs from the Centreport/DFW Airport station; which is the midpoint on the TRE (Trinity Railway Express) commuter rail line, every hour on the hour I believe.

    TRE is a combined service, taking commuters back and forth from Dallas to Fort Worth (Which is where I currently live.) It’s run by DART (which stands for Dallas Area Rapid Transit) AND The T, with each managing their own side. (The T does the Fort Worth side; DART does the Dallas side.)

    I like both trains AND airplanes. At one point in my life; I dreamed of flying in the US Air Force, hopefully making it all the way to the Thunderbirds display team! But at an earlier point in my life; my dream was to become a steam locomotive engineer. (After all, there’s a song that says, “And the sons of Pullman porters and the sons of ENGINEERS ride their fathers’ magic carpet made of steel.” And trains do run in the family. I had a great-great-uncle who was a painter for the Pennsylvania Railroad. And he painted damn near everything you could think of.) So; being someone that loves both of those things, I’m rather lucky to be able to see two transport methods nearly side-by-side, connected by another transport method.

    And I’m luckier still that I have my favorite transport methods here.

    Though this bird may never fly again, and though the trip on the rails to get to her is rather short, the sound of a piston-engine prop-job is still a siren’s call to me, just as the locomotive’s whistle is to all of my fellow rail-fans.

    This bird has a legend to her. One I’m not sure I should tell you.

    It’s said, but never been confirmed; that the reason the cockpit of this bird is sealed off is because CR Smith’s ghost haunts the museum that was dedicated in his honor, and its’ grounds as well.

    In fact, it’s said that when the museum’s closed down on Sundays, you can see CR in the cockpit, trying to let the bird take to the skies once more.

    You can see him in the cockpit flipping switches, and you can see the plane respond readily to his touch, as if the old girl had just rolled off the assembly line.

    You can see him glancing down towards where his knee would be, as if he were checking a kneeboard and pre-flight checklist. Then as you continue to look on, he throws a toggle switch. One of the engines starts, sputtering into life as if fresh fuel had been just pumped into the old bird’s tanks. Then, the next switch is thrown and the other engine comes to life.

    Then, something… odd happens. The chocks seem to shatter. and the old bird, props whirling furiously and engines roaring loudly, jerks forward. CR’s ghost disappears from the cockpit.

    Then the strangest thing of all happens. At least, it did to me.

    The whole plane just seemed to… come alive. Becoming sentient, intelligent. A living aircraft.

    Maybe it was my imagination; maybe it was because I was a believer.

    But still, old Flagship Knoxville seemed to… call to me. The thing, she… WANTED me to get in her cockpit and fly her.

    Having no license or anything, no skills period even… I said no.

    That seemed to make her… sad, I guess. Hard to tell a feeling, without some way to communicate.

    But I can remember her saying something as she taxied (?) back to the hangar. It sounded like she said, “At least CR knows me well enough to feel like flying with me again.”

    I’m telling you, you can take the bird out of the air, but you can’t take the air out of the bird.

    The girl wants to have one last flight. And she wants one person and one person alone, at her controls: Me.

    If she ever comes to life like that for me again…

    Training or no, I’m going to accept her offer, and fly her one last time.

    C.R.; I hope I make her, and you; proud.

    I realize that DFW’s just a short hop away, and the flight pattern’s dangerous. Private pilots aren’t even allowed to land; or take off, from there. Nevertheless; as she’s old, she’ll be lucky to last that long. I’ll have to land. I only hope she and CR’s ghost will be satisfied.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      5 November 2014 20:30

      So nicely worded! Thanks so much 🙂

  4. Philip Price permalink
    8 June 2017 00:14

    My Dad loaded this aircraft many times his name was Joe E. Price.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      8 June 2017 22:16

      Thanks 🙂 The aircraft is beautifully preserved but the human aspect like your story is what makes it individual.

  5. Thomas G Heyward Jr permalink
    19 November 2019 14:16

    Love the photos of this plane. My father was the final owner of this airplane before it was purchased for the museum and I have so many great memories of flying in it. Am so very happy that this particular aircraft was chosen for restoration and display at the C.R. Smith Museum.

    • Thomas G Heyward Jr permalink
      19 November 2019 14:18

      And for anyone interested, its final tail number before going to the museum was N393SW

  6. Paul Dorn permalink
    19 January 2023 12:32

    My father flew this plane when he was with American in the early 40’s. His name was Wally Dorn. My mother was a stewardess at the same time also with American.

  7. Paul Dorn permalink
    19 January 2023 12:40

    I still have his logbooks going back to when he flew this aircraft until he retired from American in 1977.

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