Guest post: The last DC-3 still in passenger service in North America

DC-3 Passenger Cabin

This post is brought to you by AAdvantage Geek while Jason is out with two broken wrists and a microphone. Keep an eye out at MilesQuest for future guest posts by other Boarding Area bloggers.

I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, riding as a passenger on a DC-3 would be one of my items.

The Douglas DC-3 aircraft was one of the most successful aircraft in aviation history.  It entered into passenger service back in 1936 when American Airlines introduced it on their Chicago – New York route, and its arrival came at an important time in the early years of commercial aviation, for the DC-3’s operational, safety, and financial performance had a big impact on the industry.

From the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s “America by Air” exhibit:

(The DC-3) was the first to fly profitably without government subsidy. More than 18,000 DC-3s, both civil and military versions, U.S. and foreign built…the 21-seat DC-3 was comfortable by the standards of its time and very safe, because of its strong, multiple-spar wing and all-metal construction. The airlines liked it because it was reliable, inexpensive to operate, and therefore profitable. Pilots liked its stability, ease of handling, and excellent single-engine performance.

Its impact went beyond commercial aviation. More than 10,000 DC-3s were built and put into service during World War II, and it played a critical role supplying troops, ammunition, and equipment to the effort in Europe.

It’s a beautiful plane. It looks fast. On the ground it resembles a bird ready to take flight.  And the streamline modern look is probably one of the most recognized and influential designs in industrial design history.

And though it’s been more than 75 years since it carried it’s first ticketed passenger, it’s still possible to find a DC-3 in regular, scheduled passenger air service in North America.

Tiny little Buffalo Airways, based in Hay River, Northwest Territories in Canada is still operating a DC-3 on their route between Yellowknife, NWT to Hay River, NWT.

The short 45 minute flight departs Hay River for Yellowknife each morning and then returns from Yellowknife in the early evening.  Round-trip fares are $327 through the week and $244 on the weekend.  Here’s a look at the schedule:

Yellowknife to Hay River
Mon-Fri departs at 5:00pm
Sat no flight
Sun departs at 4:30pm

Hay River to Yellowknife
Mon-Fri departs at 7:30am
Sat departs at 8:00am
Sun no flight

Buffalo also operates cargo flights on Lockheed L-188 Electra Freighters and Douglas DC-4 aircraft.

To take a ride on the DC-3, a person would first have to get to Yellowknife, a mining town of about 20,000 people, by traveling from Calgary, Edmonton on either Air Canada Express or WestJet.  From Yellowknife, they’d connect to the Buffalo Airways DC-3 for the short trip to Hay River (populations less than 4,000).

It’s possible to find charter companies that offer a one or two hour arial tour in a DC-3, but for me the idea of riding in one that’s being used in regular commercial air service has always been more appealing: it’s a “real” flight and not just an amusement ride.

I would love to do it, but there’s just never enough time…

So for now, a Buffalo Airways DC-3 t-shirt and this short video will have to do.

Photo: The Buffalo Airways DC-3 Passenger Cabin
Credit: Hugh Lee on Flickr


  1. Back in 1965-1967 I belirve one of these was store in North Pueblo, Co. off of Elizabeth street.

  2. Out of service…due to Canadian air safety regs infractions…according to what I’ve Googled as of winter spring 2016…..Not sure about a 2017 schedule for Buffalo’s DC-3. It may have come to the end for North Americas last DC-3 regular flight services. End of a long lived and world loved aviation story…

  3. Need to update this – all the links to the DC-3 are 404 not found, meaning probably the DC-3 is out of business.

    June 22, 2016

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