DC-3 in the Movies

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Our DC-3 was a movie "Extra"

An alert friend of Massey Aerodrome recently called Jim Douglass to tell him that he saw our DC-3 in a movie on TV. Sure enough, our DC-3 NC18111, had a bit part in the 1938 film "Test Pilot" starring Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Lionel Barrymore.


On screen for perhaps 25 seconds, it's a static shot of Spencer Tracy exiting the right side passenger door as the propeller stops rotating, then Tracy & Gable have a short conversation with our plane in the background. As the scene ends the camera pans across the right wing revealing the startlingly large number: NCI8III. This film was Released April 16, 1938 but it was shot in 1937, our plane was delivered to United Air Lines on September 1, 1937. I suspect this movie could have been it's first job.


Ever since we got NC18111 we have been stumbling upon old photos and details about our plane (see DC-3 Photo Archive in the Photo Library). Keep your eye out and tell us about any reference to NC18111 which we may have missed.



"Test Pilot" Theatre Poster



"Test Pilot" Theatre Poster


Test Pilot Is a 1938 film directed by Victor Fleming and featuring Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Lionel Barrymore. It tells the story of a daredevil test pilot, his wife and his best friend.

Test Pilot was written by Howard Hawks, Vincent Lawrence, John Lee Mahin, Frank Wead and Waldemar Young. The screenplay was largely based on an original story written by Wead (a naval aviator and writer later portrayed by John Wayne in John Ford's The Wings of Eagles).

The movie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture; Best Writing, Original Story for Wead; and Best Film Editing for Tom Held.


Reckless test pilot Jim Lane (Clark Gable) is forced to land on a Kansas farm in his plane, the "Drake Bullet" (P-35), where he meets Ann Barton (Myrna Loy). Despite already having a fiancé, Ann quickly marries Jim. Though she soon finds out how dangerous her husband's occupation is, Ann promises Jim's best friend and mechanic, Gunner Morris (Spencer Tracy), that she will stick to her man. She and Gunner resign themselves to the inevitable.

One day, Gunner has to accompany Jim on a test flight of a new bomber. Something goes wrong; the plane goes into a tailspin, and sandbags (substituting for the weight of bombs) break loose, pinning Gunner. Unwilling to bail out without his buddy, Jim manages to land, but it is too late for Gunner. When Jim realizes the toll his job has taken on his wife, he gives it up.

Other Aircraft Featured: Actual airframes that appear on screen, or their final military designation. In brackets is what they are meant to be.

USAAC- Drama of test pilots. Seversky SEV-S2 (P-35, as "Drake Bullet"), Harlow PJC-2, Marcoux-Bromberg R-3 Racer, Ryan ST.DC 2 hulk (as YB-17 crash).

The USAAC supplied a lot of hardware: all 12 of 20 BS, 2 BG Boeing YB-17's Flying Fortresses. About 100 (?) Douglas B-18 Bolos and Northrop A-17's from the 7 AG and 19 BG.

The military footage was shot at March AAF. Civilian stuff was shot at Lindbergh Field, Van Nuys, and on location at the Cleveland Air Races in 1937. The Douglas B-18 Bolo was a military adaptation of the DC-2 commercial transport to the long-range bombing role. Noted air racing & movie stunt pilot, Paul Mantz flew the Lockheed Sirius camera planes.

Massey Air Museum