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Douglas Dolphin at Santa Catalina Island, California
Role Flying boat
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
Introduced 1931
Primary users United States Navy
United States Coast Guard
Number built 58

The Douglas Dolphin was an amphibious flying boat. While only 58 were built, they served a wide variety of roles: private "yacht," airliner, military transport, and search and rescue.

The Dolphin originated in 1930 as the "Sinbad," a pure flying boat without wheels. The Sinbad was intended as a luxurious flying yacht. The Great Depression had curtailed demand for such extravagance, but Douglas managed to interest the United States Coast Guard who not only bought the Sinbad, but 12 Dolphins.

Undaunted by the lack of demand, Douglas improved the Sinbad in 1931 so that it was amphibious, and could land on water or land. The improved aircraft was named "Dolphin", however this did not represent the end of development, as many detail improvements were made, including an increase in the length of over a foot and several changes were made to the empennage, engine nacelles and wings.

The first two were purchased by Wilmington-Catalina Airlines to fly passengers between Los Angeles and Santa Catalina Island, becoming the first successful Douglas airliners. Subsequent examples were ordered by the United States Navy and US Coast Guard for use as transports and search and rescue craft. The US Army Air Corps ordered several under the designations C-21, C-26, and C-29. Many were eventually ordered for their original purpose as luxury transports. Owners included William Boeing, the founder of the Boeing Company, and Philip K. Wrigley, the son of the founder of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. William K. Vanderbilt bought two with custom interiors for use from the Vanderbilt yacht Alva as flying tenders.

One was procured by the US Navy as a transport for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although never used by Roosevelt, this was the first aircraft procured to provide transportation for the President of the United States.

Military operators

US Coast Guard RD2 in June, 1932
 United States

Specifications (Dolphin)

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two, pilot and co-pilot
  • Capacity: Six passengers
  • Length: 45 ft 1 in (13.74 m)
  • Wingspan: 60 ft 0 in (18.29 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 0 in (4.27 m)
  • Wing area: 592 ft² (55.0 m²)
  • Empty weight: 7,000 lb (3,175 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 9,530 lb (4,323 kg)
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney R-985 radial engines, 450 hp (336 kW) each


See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists



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