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C-47 Skytrain
C-53 Skytrooper
Douglas C-47 Skytrain.jpg
Role Military transport aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
Designer Douglas Aircraft
First flight 23 December 1941 [1]
Status In service in Colombia and El Salvador
Primary users United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
United States Navy
See operators
Number built >10,000
Developed from Douglas DC-3
Variants Douglas XCG-17
Douglas AC-47 Spooky

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota (RAF designation) 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 service with various military operators through the 1950s.

Design and developmentEdit

The C-47 differed from the civilian DC-3 in numerous modifications that included being fitted with a cargo door and a strengthened floor.[2]

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 U.S. Naval designation was R4D. More than 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.

Operational historyEdit

US Army Pathfinders June 1944

U.S. Army Pathfinders and USAAF flight crew prior to D-Day, June 1944, in front of a C-47 Skytrain at RAF North Witham

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. Possibly its most influential role in military aviation, however, was flying "The Hump" from India into China. The expertise gained flying "The Hump" was later be used in the Berlin Airlift, in which the C-47 played a major role, until the aircraft were replaced by Douglas C-54 Skymasters.

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 at Tempelhof Airport Berlin 1948

C-47s unloading at Tempelhof Airport during Berlin Airlift

C-47s (approx. 2,000 received under lend-lease) in British and Commonwealth service took the name Dakota, from the acronym "DACoTA" for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft.[3] The C-47 also earned the informal nickname Gooney Bird in the European theater of operations.[4]

Other sources (C-47/R4D Skytrain Units of the Pacific and CBI, David Isby, Osprey Combat Aircraft #66, Osprey Publishing Limited, 2007) attribute this name to the first plane, a USMC R2D - the military version of the DC-2 - being the first plane to land on Midway Island, previously home to the native long-winged albatross known as the Gooney Bird which was native to Midway.

The United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command had Skytrains in service from 1946 through 1967.

With all of the aircraft and pilots having been part of the Indian Air Force prior to Independence, both the Indian Air Force and Pakistan Air Force used C-47s to transport supplies to their soldiers fighting in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947.

Several C-47 variations were used in the Vietnam War by the United States Air Force, including three advanced electronic warfare variations, which sometimes were called "Electric Gooneys" designated EC-47N, EC-47P, or EC-47Qs depending on the engine used.[5] EC-47s were also operated by the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian Air Forces.[6] A gunship variation, using three 7.62mm miniguns, designated AC-47 "Spooky" often nicknamed "Puff the Magic Dragon" also was deployed.[4]

The Royal Canadian Air Force and later, the Canadian Armed Forces employed the C-47 for transportation, navigation, and radar training, as well as for search and rescue operations from the 1940s to the 1980s.[7]

After World War II thousands of surplus C-47s were converted to civil airline use, some remaining in operation in 2012 as well as being used as private aircraft.

Super DC-3 (R4D-8)Edit

C-117D Super Dakotas US Navy 1967

U.S. Navy C-117Ds at RAF Mildenhall in 1967

There were large numbers of DC-3s and surplus C-47s in commercial use in the United States in the 1940s. 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 DC-3 conversion. This was modified to improve takeoff and single-engined performance, to meet the new Civil Air Regulations. The new model, the DC-3S or "Super DC-3", was 39 in (0.99 m) longer. It allowed thirty passengers to be carried, with increased speed to compete with newer airliners. The rearward shift in the center of gravity led to larger tail surfaces and new outer, swept back wings. More powerful engines were installed along with shorter, jet ejection-type exhaust stacks. These were either 1,475 hp (1,100 kW) Wright R-1820 Cyclones or 2,000 hp (1,490 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2000s in larger engine nacelles. Minor changes included wheel well doors, a partially retractable tail wheel, flush rivets and low drag antenna. These all contributed to an increased top speed of 250 mph. With greater than 75% of the original DC-3/C-47 configuration changed, the modified design was virtually a new aircraft.[8] The first DC-3S made its maiden flight on 23 June 1949.[9]

The changes fully met the new FAR 4B airworthiness requirements, with significantly improved performance. However, there was little interest from commercial operators in the DC-3S. It was too expensive for the smaller operators who were its main target: only three were sold to Capital Airlines. The U.S. Navy had 100 of its R4D aircraft modified to Super DC-3 standard as the R4D-8, later redesignated C-117D.[10]


Two USAAF C-47A Skytrains

Paratroop C-47, 12th Air Force Troop Carrier Wing, invasion of southern France, 15 August 1944


Interior view of Douglas C-47, Hendon Aerodrome, England

6th Special Operations Squadron and aircraft

Aircraft of the 6th Special Operations Squadron including a C-47T in use by the U.S. Air Force

C-47B Skytrain -serial 43-49942 Bluebonnet Belle-26Oct2008

C-47B Skytrain -serial 43-49942

Douglas c47-a skytrain n1944a cotswoldairshow 2010 arp

An ex-USAAC C-47A Skytrain which was displayed at Cotswold Airport, Gloucestershire, England was recently purchased by Kermit Weeks and returned to the U.S. in August 2011. This aircraft flew from a base in Devon, England, during the D-Day Normandy invasion and shows "invasion stripes" on her wings and fuselage.

C47 and DC3

N1944A parked on ramp near a C-47 in Icelandair colors in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2011. The C-47 in army colors is en route to the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin from its previous home at Cotswold.

Initial military version of the DC-3 with seats for 27 troops, 965 built including 12 to the United States Navy as R4D-1
C-47 with a 24-volt electrical system, 5,254 built including USN aircraft designated R4D-5
C-47A equipped for photographic reconnaissance and ELINT missions
C-47A equipped for Search Air Rescue; redesignated HC-47A in 1962
C-47A equipped for VIP transport role
Powered by R-1830-90 engines with superchargers and extra fuel capacity to cover the China-Burma-India routes, 3,364 built
C-47B equipped for VIP transport role
C-47 tested with Edo Model 78 floats for possible use as a seaplane [11][12]
C-47B with superchargers removed after the war
Gunship aircraft with three side-firing .30 in (7.62 mm) Minigun machine guns
C-47D with equipment for the Electronics Calibration, of which 26 were so converted by Hayes in 1953; prior to 1962 was designated AC-47D
C-47D modified for test roles
C-47D equipped for photographic reconnaissance and ELINT missions
C-47D equipped for Search Air Rescue; redesignated HC-47D in 1962
C-47D equipped for VIP transport role
Modified cargo variant with space for 27–28 passengers or 18–24 litters
YC-129 re-designated, Super DC-3 prototype for evaluation by USAF later passed to USN as XR4D-8
C-47H/Js equipped for the support of American Legation United States Naval Attache (ALUSNA) and Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) missions
C-47A and D aircraft modified for ELINT/ARDF mission, N and P differ in radio bands covered, while Q replaces analog equipment found on the N and P with a digital suite, redesigned antenna equipment and uprated engines
One C-47M modified for high altitude work, specifically for missions in Ecuador
Designation applied to aircraft modified to a Basler BT-67 standard
C-47TP Turbo Dakota
Refit with modern turboprop engines and fuselage stretch for the South African Air Force
C-53 Skytrooper
Troop transport version of the C-47
XC-53A Skytrooper
One aircraft with full-span slotted flaps and hot-air leading edge deicing
C-53B Skytrooper
Winterised version of C-53 with extra fuel capacity and separate navigator's station, eight built
C-53C Skytrooper
C-53 with larger port-side door, 17 built
C-53D Skytrooper
C-53C with 24V DC electrical system, 159 built
C-117A Skytrooper
C-47B with 24-seat airline-type interior for staff transport use, 16 built
Three redesignated C-117s used in the VIP role
One C-117C converted for air-sea rescue
High-altitude superchargers removed, one built and conversions from C-117As all later VC-117B
USN/USMC R4D-8 redesignated
USN/USMC R4D-8L redesignated
USN/USMC R4D-8T redesignated
USN R4D-8Z redesignated
Super DC-3 prototype for evaluation by USAF redesignated C-47F and later passed to USN as XR4D-8. Wright R-1820 engines uprated to 1425 hp.
Canadian Forces designation for the C-47 (post-1970)
One C-47 tested as a 40-seat troop glider with engines removed and faired over
R4D-1 Skytrain
USN/USMC version of the C-47
Twenty C-53Cs transferred to USN
C-47A variant 24-volt electrical system replacing the 12-volt of the C-47; redesignated C-47H in 1962, 238 transferred from USAF
R4D-5 for use in Antarctica. Redesignated LC-47H in 1962. Photos of this type show the removal of underslung engine oil coolers typical of the R-1830 engine installation; apparently not needed in the cold polar regions.
R4D-5 for use as special ECM trainer. Redesignated EC-47H in 1962
R4D-5 for use as a personnel transport for 21 passengers and as a trainer aircraft; redesignated TC-47H in 1962
R4D-5 for use as a special ASW trainer; redesignated SC-47H in 1962
R4D-5 for use as a VIP transport; redesignated VC-47H in 1962
157 C-47Bs transferred to USN; redesignated C-47J in 1962
R4D-6L, Q, R, S, and Z
Variants as the R4D-5 series; redesignated LC-47J, EC-47J, TC-47J, SC-47J, and VC-47J respectively in 1962
44 TC-47Bs transferred from USAF for use as a navigational trainer; redesignated TC-47K in 1962
Douglas R4D-8

United States Navy R4D-8

R4D-5 and R4D-6 remanufactured aircraft with stretched fuselage, Wright R-1820 engines, fitted with modified wings and re-designed tail surfaces; redesignated C-117D in 1962
R4D-8 converted for Antarctic use, redesignated LC-117D in 1962
R4D-8 converted as crew trainers, redesignated TC-117D in 1962
R4D-8 converted as a staff transport, redesignated VC-117D in 1962

RAF designationsEdit

C-47b dakota g-ampy arp

Royal Air Force's Dakota IV in RAF Transport Command colors, owned by the UK Air Atlantique Classic Flight

Dakota I
RAF designation for the C-47 and R4D-1
Dakota II
RAF designation for nine C-53 Skytroopers received under the lend lease scheme. Unlike the majority of RAF Dakotas these aircraft were therefore dedicated troop transports, lacking the wide cargo doors and reinforced floor of the C-47.
Dakota III
RAF designation for the C-47A.
Dakota IV
RAF designation for the C-47B.
Airspeed AS.61
Conversion of Dakota I aircraft
Airspeed AS.62
Conversion of Dakota II aircraft
Airspeed AS.63
Conversion of Dakota III aircraft


C-47A Skytrain

A Royal Air Force Memorial Flight Dakota with open parachute door at Duxford, England, in 2008

Douglas C-47 Skytrain 1985

C-47 in USAAC markings with invasion stripes, Rotterdam 1985

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Accidents and incidentsEdit


Memorial in remembrance of a 1954 C-47 crash, Alaska Veterans Memorial

Specifications (C-47B-DK)Edit


Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920 [15]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 4 (Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator, Radio Operator)
  • 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

See alsoEdit


  1. "C-47 Skytrain." Boeing. Retrieved: 1 August 2010.
  2. Wilson, Stewart. Aircraft of WWII. Fyshwick, ACT, Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd., 1998. ISBN 1-875671-35-8.
  3. "History: Douglas C-47 Skytrain Military Transport." Boeing. Retrieved: 7 August 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 O'Rourke, G.G, CAPT USN. "Of Hosenoses, Stoofs, and Lefthanded Spads." United States Naval Institute Proceedings, July 1968.
  5. "Chronological History of the EC-47's Location by Tail Number." Retrieved: 7 April 2009.
  6. Rickard, J. "Douglas EC-47N.", 12 November 2008. Retrieved: 7 April 2009.
  7. "Douglas DC-3 (CC-129) Dakota." DND - Canada's Air Force. Retrieved: 14 October 2009.
  8. "Super DC-3." Retrieved: 23 June 2010.
  9. Francillon 1979, pp. 464–465.
  10. Francillon 1979, pp. 466–467.
  11. "Aviation in Long Pants" (photo of XC-47C). Popular Mechanics, July 1944.
  12. "DC-3s On Floats." YouTube, 8 November 2008. Note: first part has rare World War II film footage and narration by project manager for the XC-47C.
  13. "Das Archiv der Deutschen Luftwaffe (in German)." Retrieved: 5 July 2010.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Trade Registers". Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  15. Francillon 1979, p. 261.


  • Chorlton, Martyn. Paths in the wood. Cowbit: Old Forge Publishing Ltd, 2003. ISBN 0-9544507-0-1.
  • Donald, David. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
  • Flintham, Victor. Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present. New York: Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 0-8160-2356-5.
  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.
  • Gradidge, Jennifer M. The Douglas DC-1, DC-2, DC-3: The First Seventy Years. Two volumes. Tonbridge, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 2006. ISBN 0-85130-332-3.
  • Pearcy, Arthur Jr. "Douglas R4D variants (US Navy's DC-3/C-47)". Aircraft in Profile, Volume 14. Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1974, pp. 49–73. ISBN 0-85383-023-1.
  • Yenne, Bill. McDonnell Douglas: A Tale of Two Giants. Greenwich, Connecticut: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-517-44287-6.

External linksEdit

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