The Davis-Douglas Cloudster was developed to attempt a coast-to-coast journey across the United States during the early 1920s - it failed in its attempt and was retired as soon as 1926.
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Credit: Image from the Public Domain.
The Douglas Aircraft Company of World War 2 (1939-1945) fame got its humble start in July of 1920 through the joint-venture (and little-remembered) "Davis-Douglas Company" brand label. The label was established between investor David Davis and industrialist / engineer Donald Douglas (1892-1981) in an attempt to provide Douglas with the capability to design, develop, and construct a news-making specialized aircraft for a non-stop, coast-to-coast journey across the United States. The result of this partnership became the Douglas "Cloudster" of 1921 which existed as a sole example for its time in the air.
Douglas Cloudster Walk-Around
The aircraft was of typical biplane arrangement in which a wide-spanning upper wing assembly ran parallel to a lower wing assembly. The two members were to be joined by parallel struts and applicable support cabling where needed. The wings created a single bay design approach and were of equal-span in measurement. The engine was fitted to the nose in the usual way and drove a two-bladed propeller unit in tractor fashion. The fuselage was rounded for aerodynamic efficiency and the tail capped by a single, rounded vertical plane and low-mounted horizontal planes - these planes mounted on the fuselage proper. The undercarriage was wheeled at the main landing gear members and fixed in place. The crew of two would sit in tandem in open-air cockpits under, and aft, of the upper wing assembly.
Construction of the fuselage involved sheet metal skinning at the forward section of the aircraft and fabric covering at the middle and aft sections. Dimensions included an overall length of 36.8 feet, a wingspan of 55.10 feet and a height of 12 feet. Gross listed weight was 9,600lb.
Installed Power and Standard Day Performance
Power was served from a single Liberty L-12 V-12 piston engine outputting a hefty 400 horsepower. This engine was born in the fighting of World War 1 (1914-1918) during 1917 and appeared in several major iterations during its running life. Over 20,000 examples of the L-series engines were produced in all, showcasing their excellent and readily available nature.
This engine was used to drive a two-bladed wooden propeller at the nose and carried the biplane to speeds of 120 miles per hour. Cruising speeds were closer to 85 miles per hour and range was out to 2,800 miles, or 33 hours of flight time.
The Cloudster first took to the skies in a maiden flight on February 24th, 1921. As soon as June of that year the aircraft was being readied for its record-setting flight across America. However, the attempt was derailed when issues with the engine kept the bird out of contention for the foreseeable future. As soon as 1923, the airframe was sold off and its new owners refurbished it as a sight-seeing passenger transport with seating for five (at the expense of one of the internal fuel stores which reduced operational ranges some). Back in July 1921, Davis and Douglas had already parted ways and Douglas moved on to established the storied Douglas Aircraft Company and continue his work in the field of aeronautics.
The Cloudster did not last long in its new guise for, in 1925, it was sold off again to a new buyer and this owner (Irish-American aviator T. Claude Ryan) then reworked the aircraft once more, this time to feature a wholly-enclosed cabin seating as many as ten passengers. The Cloudster operated in this design form until December 1926 at which point it suffered from a forced landing in waters off of Baja California. The aircraft was deemed a total loss never to fly again - ending the Cloudster's time in the sky for good.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
[ 1 Units ] : Davis-Douglas Company - USA
United States (retired)
- Commercial Market
- X-Plane / Developmental
36.75 ft (11.2 m)
55.94 ft (17.05 m)
11.98 ft (3.65 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Davis-Douglas Cloudster production model)
9,601 lb (4,355 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Davis-Douglas Cloudster production model)
1 x Liberty L-12 V-12 piston engine developing 400 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller at the nose.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Davis-Douglas Cloudster production model)
121 mph (195 kph; 105 kts)
2,796 miles (4,500 km; 2,430 nm)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Davis-Douglas Cloudster production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Davis-Douglas Cloudster production model)
Cloudster - Base Series Name; single example built and lost to a crash in 1926.
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