An enthusiast group called the Historical Flight Foundation owns a DC-7B airliner that it has restored. Like the Lockheed Constellation, the DC-7 was one of the ultimate piston-engined airliners whose production run (early to late 1950s) overlapped the first few years of jets. It soon became obsolete. Jets used more fuel but were faster and could fly above weather, so airlines could get more use out of them to outweigh the higher capital and operating costs, and they were more pleasant for passengers. Nonetheless the old prop liners are beautiful and impressive in flight. The video below makes me think of this famous photo. Wouldn’t it be a kick to fly down the Florida coast or up the Hudson at 500 feet in your own DC-7? But, of course, the operating costs are probably huge, and the systems are so complex that you need a flight engineer in addition to two pilots, so operating such a machine is no casual activity.
You could see such aircraft flying out of Miami into the 1990s. I assume they were carrying freight to Caribbean and Central American destinations. At some point the operating costs must have become prohibitive. (Each of the engines in a DC-7B has
28 18 cylinders and they haven’t made them in decades; parts availability is no doubt an issue. It would need much more maintenance than a comparable jet engine, and it was designed to use high-octane leaded gasoline that is no longer available. Another YouTube video mentions that they have to restrict engine power on this plane in order to use modern gas.)
You don’t see many of these old planes any more, not even the ones (like DC-6s and DC-3s) that have more reliable engines. It’s a treat to see one that’s been restored to flying condition and is actually flown.
(There’s another video below the fold.)