In 1934, Compagnie Aérienne
SABENA (Société Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la
Navigation Aérienne), ordered from the Dewoitine Company,
an aircraft for its airlines in the Congo. Dewoitine responds with
what should have been the D335B, which is an enlarged version of
the D332. But following the accident of the latter in January 1934,
the design of the new aircraft is reviewed: the structural strength
of the aircraft is strengthened, and it becomes the D338. This redesign,
however, led to significant delays for the project, and SABENA canceled
its order. The assembly of the prototype is however too advanced
for Dewoitine to abandon it, and the construction continues on private
bottom with the hope to interest other airlines like Air France
The aircraft is an all-metal,
low-wing, partially retractable monoplane: Wheels exceed nacelles
to protect the cell in case of landing brought in train. It is powered
by 3 9-cylinder, 9-cylinder, 650-hp Hispano-Suiza 9V air-cooled
engines on take-off, with in variable pitch, two-blade metal propellers.
The fuselage is of rectangular section allowing to accueuillir 3
passengers in front. The crew consists of 3 people, two pilots,
and a radio, with the addition of a mechanic for long haul trips.
The total number of passengers varies according to flights: 22 passengers
for European flights, 15 on Toulouse-Dakar routes, and 8 to 12 passengers
on Far East routes (2000 kms). The unit had a certain comfort with
a good soundproofing and efficient heating.
The prototype, registered
F-AOZA and nicknamed "Clémence Isaure", made its
first flight on August 9, 1935. Soon, problems of longitudinal instability
appear and different aerodynamic configurations are tested in the
wind tunnel before finding a compromise, the main modifications
concerning empennages and wing fittings.
As Dewoitine hoped, Air France
was indeed interested in the aircraft and first bought the prototype
in May 1936, before placing several orders for another 28 D338s.
The last copy delivered was the F-ARIH, "city of Karachi",
taken into account by Air France on July 18, 1939. The Air Force
also ordered 10 aircraft, but only two aircraft will be delivered
(Registration Nr. 244 and R-245). A total of 31 D 338 were built,
including the prototype.
The prototype made the first
commercial laison on the Paris-Lyon-Marseille line on July 13, 1936.
At the end of 1937, Air France had 4 Dewoitine D338 and 16 at the
end of August 1938.
In January 1938, the D.338
No. 1 F-AQBA opened the France-Indochina link with a Marseilles-Hanoi
flight, extended in August to Hong Kong by the D.338 No. 6 F-AQBF.
At the end of 1938, a Tunis,
Tripoli, Benghazi, Cairo, Lydda and Beirut link was set up. In the
summer of 1939, 9 D.338 will provide a weekly liaison.
These first flights confirmed the lack of longitudinal stability,
this defect being mainly related to the flat rectangular section
of the fuselage. The D.338 # 11 F-AQBK received 2 small fins on
the extrados of the fixed stabilizer and the fins are reinforced.
These evolutions will be integrated on the following aircraft.
In March 1939, the D-338
No. 18 F-AQBR and No. 20 F-AQBT went to Argentina to replace the
D.333 No. 1 F-ANQB "Cassiopée" and No. 2 F-ANQC
"Altaïr" assigned on the Natal-Buenos Aires line.
At the Armistice, the Argentine authorities, pushed by the United
States, seize the D.333 and D.338 which are stored on the spot.
The two D.338 will be sold at the end of 1943 to the Air Force Argentina,
and under the numbers the numbers T-170 and T-171, they integrate
the 2nd Transport Regiment, based in El Palomar, near Buenos Aires.
. They will remain in service probably until 1946, 1947.
At the declaration
of war, the Air Force requisitioned a dozen D.338 Air France, to
equip 5 Sections Long-Haul Airplane (SALC), each section is composed
of 3 devices. lack of practical use, many of them will quickly resume
their commercial flights. After the Armistice, the Germans allowed
Air France to continue its commercial flights; From May to July
1941, during the Syria campaign against the Allied forces, 18 D
338 of Air France, with their civilian crews are again requisitioned
by the Vichy Air Force to reinforce the WG II / 15 (Transport Group).
They will establish an air bridge between Metropolitan France and
Syria, to transport men and equipment day and night. Three D.338s
will be destroyed by Allied air strikes, and three more will be
seized by the Free French Air Force.
On February 1, 1943, Lufthansa signed a lease agreement covering
8 D-338. The Germans, skeptical about the flying qualities of Dewoitine
338, wanted to perform performance flights. It is the No. 13 D-AYWT
(then D-AUAN by Lufthansa) which is conveyed to Berlin on April
14, 1943 to be presented in flight. The French pilots make an unconvincing
demonstration on May 29, 1943 to dissuade the Germans from using
Dewoitine. Air France will never recover its aircrafts.