C47 Skytrain Transport
The DC-3 did not go unnoticed by one of Douglas's oldest customers -- the U.S. Army.
The military career of the Douglas DC series began in 1936 when the Army Air Corps ordered a
pair of DC-2s under the designation C-32. A contract followed for 18 DC-2s in the C-33 freighter configuration
and two more as C-34 staff transports. Then, in 1937, the Army ordered a plane built to its own specifications. It was a hybrid
design that combined the fuselage of the DC-2 with a DC-3 tail. This was the sole C-38 prototype and it led to 35 production
versions called the C-39. The C-39 represented the first serious effort by the Army to establish an airlift capability.
By 1941 the old Air Corps had been transformed into the Army Air Forces, and it selected a modified
version of the DC-3 -- the C-47 Skytrain -- to become its standard transport aircraft. A reinforced fuselage floor
and the addition of a large cargo door were the only major modifications. Other changes included the fitting of cargo hooks
beneath the center wing section and the removal of the tail cone to mount a hook for towing gliders.
As a supply plane, the C-47 could carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo. It could also hold a fully
assembled jeep or a 37 mm cannon. As a troop transport, it carried 28 soldiers in full combat gear. As a medical airlift plane,
it could accommodate 14 stretcher patients and three nurses. Seven basic versions were built, and the aircraft was given at
least 22 designations, including the AC-47D gunship, the EC-47 electronic reconnaissance aircraft, the EC-47Q antiaircraft
systems evaluation aircraft and the C-53 Skytrooper.
Every branch of the U.S military and all the major allied powers flew it. The U.S. Navy version
was the R4D. The British and the Australians designated it the Dakota (a clever acronym composed of the letters DACoTA for
Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft). The aircraft operated from every continent in the world and participated in
every major battle. By the end of World War II, more than 10,000 had been built. For all of its official and unofficial names,
it came to be known universally as the "Gooney Bird." General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in
Europe, termed it one of the most vital pieces of military equipment used in winning the war.
C-47s remained in active military service long after the end of World War II. They played a
critical role in the 1948 Berlin Airlift and saw action in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
||Dec. 23, 1941|
||95 feet 6 inches|
||63 feet 9 inches|
||Two 1,200 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial engines|
||Three crew and 6,000 pounds of cargo, or 28 airborne troops, or 14 stretcher
patients and three attendants|
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remained in front line operations through the 1950s with a few remaining in operation to this
Design and development
The C-47 differed from the civilian DC-3 in being fitted with a cargo door and strengthened
During World War II, the armed forces of many countries used the C-47 and modified DC-3s for
the transport of troops, cargo and wounded. The US Naval designation was R4D. Over 10,000 aircraft were produced in Long Beach and Santa Monica, California and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City plant produced 5,354 C-47s from March 1943 until August 1945.
Super DC-3 (R4D-8)
In response to proposed changes to the airworthiness requirements that would limit the continuing
use of the large numbers of DC-3s and surplus C-47s in commercial use in the United States, Douglas offered a late 1940s conversion
of the DC-3 modified to improve takeoff and single-engined performance to meet the new Civil Air Regulations, and with increased speed to compete with newer airliners. The new model, the DC-3S or "Super
DC-3", was 39 in (0.99 m) longer, allowing 30 passengers to be carried. It also had larger tail surfaces and new outer
wings with a greater sweep back at the trailing edge to accommodate a rearward shift in the center of gravity. More powerful
engines, either 1,475 hp (1,100 kW) Wright R-1820 Cyclones or 2,000 hp (1,490 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2000s incorporated into larger engine nacelles, were installed along with shorter, jet ejection-type
exhaust stacks. Minor changes included wheel well doors and a partially retractable tail wheel along with flush rivets and
low drag antennas, that all contributed to a top speed of 250 mph. With over 75% of the original DC-3/C-47 configuration
changed, the modified design ended up virtually as a new aircraft. The first DC-3S made its maiden flight on 23 June 1949.
Although the changes fully met the new FAR 4B airworthiness requirements, and significantly
improved performance, there was little interest from commercial operators in the DC-3S, which was too-expensive for the smaller
operators who were its main target, with only three being sold to Capital Airlines. The US Navy, however, had 100 of its R4D aircraft modified to Super DC-3 standard as the R4D-8,
these later being redesignated C-117D.
The C-47 was vital to the success of many Allied campaigns, in particular those at Guadalcanal and in the jungles of New Guinea and Burma where the C-47 (and its naval version, the R4D) made it possible for Allied troops to counter
the mobility of the light-traveling Japanese army. Additionally, C-47s were used to airlift supplies to the embattled American
forces during the Battle of Bastogne. But possibly its most influential role in military aviation was flying "The Hump" from India into China. The expertise gained flying "The Hump" would later be used in the Berlin Airlift, in which the C-47 would play a major role, until being replaced by the C-54.
In Europe, the C-47 and a specialized paratroop variant, the C-53 Skytrooper, were used in vast numbers in the later stages of the war,
particularly to tow gliders and drop paratroops. In the Pacific, with careful use of the island landing strips of the Pacific Ocean, C-47s were even used for
ferrying soldiers serving in the Pacific theater back to the United States.
C-47s in British and Commonwealth service took the name Dakota, from the acronym
"DACoTA" for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft. The C-47 also earned the informal nickname Gooney Bird in the European theater of operations.
The USAF Strategic Air Command had C-47 Skytrains in service from 1946 through 1967.
Several C-47 variations were used in the Vietnam War by the United States Air Force, including three advanced electronic warfare variations which were
sometimes called "Electric Gooneys" designated EC-47N, EC-47P, or EC-47Qs depending on the engine used. EC-47s were also operated
by the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian Air Forces. A gunship variation, utilizing three 7.62mm miniguns, designated AC-47 "Spooky" often nicknamed "Puff the Magic Dragon" was also deployed.
The Royal Canadian Air Force and later, the Canadian Armed Forces employed the C-47 for transportation, navigation and radar training, and search & rescue operations
from the 1940s to the 1980s.
After World War II thousands of surplus C-47s were converted to civil airline use, some remaining
in operation in 2010.
Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920
- Crew: 3
- Capacity: 28 troops
- Payload: 6,000 lb (2,700 kg)
- Length: 63 ft 9 in (19.43 m)
- Wingspan: 95 ft 6 in (29.41 m)
- Height: 17 ft 0 in (5.18 m)
- Wing area: 987 ft² (91.70 m²)
- Empty weight: 18,135 lb (8,226 kg)
- Loaded weight: 26,000 lb (11,793 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 31,000 lb (14,061 kg)
- Powerplant: 2× Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90C Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 224 mph (195 kn, 360 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
- Cruise speed: 160 mph (139 kn, 257 km/h)
- Range: 1,600 mi (1,391 nmi, 2,575 km)
- Ferry range: 3,600 mi (3,130 nmi, 5,795 km)
- Service ceiling: 26,400 ft (8,045 m)
- Climb to 10,000 ft (3,050 m): 9.5 min