DC-7 at Epic Flight Academy

This decommissioned DC-7 is a landmark at Epic Flight Academy in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Epic Flight Academy is proud to house a unique landmark at our flight school: a decommissioned 1957 DC-7, tail number N381AA. The tail identification is a clue to this aircraft’s history: it was once a member of the American Airlines fleet.

What is the history of the DC-7 aircraft?

The Douglas DC-7 was a transport aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1953 to 1958. The last major piston engine-powered transport made by Douglas, it was developed right after the earliest jet airliner (de Havilland Comet) and just a few years before the jet-powered Douglas DC-8. Only a few DC-7s remain in service today, far fewer than the more popular DC-3 and DC-6.

Was there only one model built?

No, the original DC-7 model was followed by the DC-7B and DC-7C (the “Seven Seas”), which was built for overseas flying. In 1959, Douglas began converting DC-7s and DC-7Cs into DC-7Fs, which were freighters. Epic’s DC-7 was the last production passenger plane made in 1956. Decommissioned in 2005, it had logged more than 33,000 hours flying passengers and freight.

Why was the DC-7 built?

Douglas built the DC-7 at the request of American Airlines. American Airlines wanted a passenger aircraft that could fly coast-to-coast without stopping in 8 hours. This was because flight crews were restricted to 8 hours of flight time during a 24-hour period. Douglas was hesitant about building the aircraft, because they weren’t convinced there would be a market for such a plane.

DC-7 Interior
This postcard depicts a full flight of happy DC-7 passengers being attended by a happy American Airlines flight crew who knew the flight would be less than 8 hours.

How much did the DC-7 cost?

Douglas finally agreed to build the plane when C.R. Smith, the president of American Airlines, ordered 25 of the aircraft for the American Airlines fleet. The price tag was $40 million for these planes. This would more than cover Douglas’s development costs, so they agreed to build the planes. The prototype flew in May 1953, and American Airlines took delivery of its first DC-7 in November 1953. Fewer than 400 DC-7s were built by Douglas, although American Airlines was successful in its efforts to fly nonstop coast-to-coast in less than 8 hours.

DC-7 American Airlines

Why is there a DC-7 displayed at Epic Flight Academy?

In 2012, Epic CEO Danny Perna learned of the decommissioned plane, which was then in Miami. Knowing what a beautiful and massive aircraft this was, he hated the idea of seeing it languish in a field where no one would ever see it. The original idea was to bring it to Epic, restore it, and turn it into a restaurant. During that period, enrollment at the flight school increased significantly, and the DC-7 restoration project had to be put on hold. Originally, the plan was to create the DC-7 Grille, but in the following years staff at the flight school have just been too busy to undertake such a massive project. The plane has become a popular tourist destination for aviation enthusiasts, people who have flown in a DC-7, and people who are simply curious about a giant aircraft parked in front of the flight school.

How did the DC-7 get to Epic?

The DC-7 was brought from Miami to Epic in June of 2012 on a trailer. The challenge of moving a 109′ aircraft on a trailer attracted the attention of the popular A&E show Shipping Wars. After all, the DC-7 was meant to fly to its destinations, not arrive by trailer. Shipping Wars filmed an episode about the move, which required the wings, tail, and engine to be removed.

DC-7 postcard

Can the public see the DC-7 at Epic?

Yes, the plane has become a local landmark with visitors stopping daily to take selfies next to this American classic. Tourists often tell us stories about their first airplane ride, which was in an American Airlines DC-7. We love hearing these stories and are happy to see so many people stopping by to take pictures and reminisce about their travels. Our DC-7 provides a bit of nostalgia from the pre-jet days of commercial air travel.

DC-7 ad for nonstop flight
The DC-7 is a nostalgic reminder of a time when flying commercial was a bit more glamorous, and everyone felt like they were in first class!

What are the future plans for the DC-7?

We would still love to restore it, not to fly, but to make it a functional space of some sort. For now, it is one of the area’s most popular conversation pieces providing shade for picnic tables where our flight students sit and study or have lunch. Stop by and see it if you’re in the neighborhood! We’re located at the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport (KEVB)! And, if you take a selfie, be sure to tag us! #EpicFlightAcademyDC7

Epic DC-7
Epic’s decommissioned DC-7 is displayed in public view.
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