Manufacturer: Douglas (Antonov)

Model: DW-1 (An-2)

Name: Skywagon

Type: Transport

Date: 1933

Status: Evaluation

Country: United States of America

Service: U.S. Army Air Corps

Designation: unknown


So you thought that the Antonov An-2, the famous Soviet "Kolkhoznik", the ultimate workhorse, was a Russian design? Here is some evidence of the contrary. In 1933 Douglas was still hesitating between a biplane and a monoplane configuration, and considered marketing a biplane freight and mail carrier as the DW-1 « Skywagon » while developing the monoplane DC-1 for airline use. Of course we all know that eventually the use of the same monoplane aircraft for all transport purposes became the market's choice, but the Skywagon must have seemed like a good idea on paper since the U.S. Army Air Corps chose to evaluate it and even publicize some photos for the press.

Not only did the Air Corps not procure the Skywagon (nor the contemporary Curtiss YC-30 Condor) but the expected sales on the civilian market never materialized, and only two aircraft were shipped in crates for reassembly in Colombia but were never heard of after that, presumably lost and never built).

Dismayed but not beaten, Donald Douglas concentrated on the successful DC-2 and nonetheless tried to offer the Skywagon on the European market. A prototype was shipped to the Netherlands and reassembled by business partner Fokker. The aircraft was demonstrated in the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark between 1936 and 1939, but fell into the hands of the Soviet Army when stationed in Helsinki, Finland.

Russian engineer Oleg Antonov, who was developing transport gliders at the time, was shown the prototype and was thrilled by its possibilities. Such a rugged, sturdy, simple and relatively economical transport could be ideal for the postwar Soviet Union, both on the civilian and military markets. Antonov decided to set up a new business and in 1946, 13 years after the flight of the original prototype, he introduced to the world the An-2, an obviously dated design but which served its purpose well.

Don Douglas's vision was somehow right, but his DW-1 had come in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Ironically, private U.S. owners now cherish the "Colts" they have managed to import from the former Soviet block.


I always thought that the Antonov An-2 transport from 1946 looked a lot older than it was. I also liked the sturdy looks of it, and the fact it was a biplane inspired me to rework it as an early 1930s American prototype. The pitch here was as follows: what if the Antonov An-2 was not actually a Soviet design, but a pre-war U. S. aircraft copied by the Soviets? I know it's crazy, but HEY! Who ever said I was sane? LOL

It's a lot of fun to imagine, not just imaginary types, but also imaginary stories for real-life types. And once the plot is conceived, to create fake magazine clippings, fake company documents, fake articles...

The document here below right shows the various stages of the project. This could very well have been an April's Fool joke, but I guess the An-2 is too famous an aircraft for the plot to be believable at all...

The hardest bit is to find what treatment of the photo will result in a believable vintage document: the sepia photo had to look like was printed on cheap old paper, the cover art had to resemble the old photo-like artwork or colored-over pictures, so much so that the colors must NOT look to realistic.

Finally, I had to come up with a nice "what if story" for the aircraft, and a name that was believable. In the early 1930s, Douglas set up a two-letter system (DB- for bombers, DC- for airliners/transports, etc.) so I came up with "DW- for dedicated freight/cargo transports) and the name Skywagon since the company started using "Sky-" names at about that time.

Viewers' comments:
  • Cool! (Mimikios)
  • Yeah, definitely awesome :D Now that would certainly be interesting! :) :D (Roddy1990)
  • For those of you who saw "Indian Jones 4" they flew to South America in an An-2 in Pan Am markings, so this must be from the same universe... (David R. Townend)
  • Who knows? Maybe what you call "fake" is the top-secret truth... (in some parallel universe at least). (Tophe)
  • That plane is too russian as to be been imagined in the US!!! (Alejandro)

My comments:

Don't be so sure, Alejandro. After all, I have seen unbuilt project from major U.S. manufacturers that looked Soviet, so the contrary could be true, too!