Douglas C-47 Skytrain

Probably as versatile an aircraft that has ever existed, Douglas' immortal Gooney Bird has hauled fighting men, airline passengers, cargo, and animals over every part of the world. C-47 military operations have included dropping paratroopers over Normandy, towing gliders, flying coal and other supplies during the Berlin Airlift, supporting operations in the arctic regions, carrying out covert missions across denied borders, flying psychological warfare and electronic reconnaissance operations, and serving as makeshift bombers in the Middle East and as gunships in Southeast Asia and Central America.

History Douglas had flown the DC-3 as early as 1936, but it would be another five years before the USAAF would start taking delivery of the military C-47 derivative. These had more powerful versions of the Twin Wasp engine, pneumatic de-icing, beefed up floor structure, and a cargo door. Douglas built a total of 965 C-47 / R4D-1s before production shifted to the C-47A, which had 24 electrics in place of the original 12-volt system. This was the major production version, with over 5,200 aircraft being turned out. The C-47B / R4D-6 had supercharged engines and extra fuel for high-altitude operations.

The C-53 Skytrooper version was intended as a dedicated paratroop transport and glider tug, and as such had the standard DC-3 flooring. Twenty-eight paratroopers could be carried. A total of 219 were built, being followed up by a single XC-53A with leading edge flaps, eight C-53Bs with winterization, and seventeen C-53Cs with enlarged passenger doors. The only other major production version of the Skytrooper was the C-53D with revised electrics.

Aside from new-build C-47s, there were also a dizzying variety of DC-3s either impressed from airline service or taken over while still under construction; these were designated as C-48 / C-49 / C-50 / C-51 / C-52 / C-58, and C-64s.

The basic DC-3 design was actually used by both the Allies and the Axis during WWII, as Japan had licensed production from Douglas in 1938; the L2D Tabby was flown as both a personnel transport and a freighter, with some examples having a dorsal gun turret. As supplies of strategic materials became scarce later in the war, wood was increasingly used where possible, and there were even plans for an all-wood L2D5 variant. The Tabby could also be distinguished from its Allied counterparts by added cockpit and forward fuselage windows, an altered cargo door, and prop spinners used with the Kinsei engines, these being copies of the R-1830 Twin Wasp.

Russia, aside from American-built aircraft supplied as aid, also built the DC-3 as the Lisunov PS-84 / Li-2. These had a cargo door on the left side, a passenger door on the right, while many wartime aircraft had defensive guns. ironically, in March 1987 a DC-3 rebuilt by Airtech Canada was flown powered by ASh-621R engines, these being Polish-built versions of the Li-2's M-62s/ASh-62s. The Polish powerplants were still in production, providing a straightforward way of replacing old R-1830s, but to the best of my knowledge this particular program did not go any further.

C-47 Bibliography & Suggested Reading Gerry Manning 1000 Preserved Military Aircraft photo p.112 in flight shot of DC-2 N39165

Paul A. Jackson French Military Aviation p.140: photo of Aeronavale C-47D 711/44-77011

Paul A. Jackson German Military Aviation 1956-1976 p.70: photo of Luftwaffe C-47 CA015

Dana Bell Air Force Colors Vol.1 1926-1942 p.28: in-flight photo of a Sacramento Air Depot C-39

The History of the U.S. Air Force, by David Anderton page 96-97 color 3-view of C-47A-65-DL 42-100558 Buzz Buggy

Military Aircraft Visual Encyclopedia "The Immortal Dakota" p.264-265 Color profiles include a No. 267 Squadron Dakota III, Li-2 #2804, Belgian Dakota III OT-CNB with radar nose, SAAF #6892, Argentine LC-47 TA-06.

"Dragonships - USAF Gunships in Vietnam, Part One" International Air Power Review, Spring 2002. Highlights include an overall side view photo of Project Tailchaser C-47D 43-48462, several shots of FC-47D 43-48579, photos of the Minigun and .30-cal installations, and an account of John Levitou's Medal of Honor mission and pictures of aircraft 43-9770


"Something Really New!" Edo Float Gear Ad, showing float-equipped C-47 25671 Aviation November 1943 p.30

Photo (side view): Turner Airlines DC-3 N21711 Aviation Week November 14, 1949 p.53

Ad for B.F. Goodrich Brakes, depicting DC-3s of Empire, Piedmont, Lamsa (XA-FUV), Aerovias Reforma, and Hawaiin. Aviation Week November 28, 1949 p.3

Photo (small); super DC-3 N3000 Aviation Week February 27, 1950 p.112

Photo: large in-flight view of a VR-23 R4D-8 with Mt,. Fujiyama in the background Naval Aviation News September 1952 front cover

Douglas ad, with color artwork depicting the R4D-8 Aviation Week May 4, 1953 p.20

Ad for the Garrett Corporation, showing a DC-3 under overhaul, with the engines and outer wings removed. Aviation Week December 5, 1955 p.24

Photo: Dakota KN598 Coral Queen. Air Pictorial September 1960 p.325

Photo: DC-3 EI-AFC of Aer Lingus with enlarged cargo doors for hauling jet engines. Air Pictorial January 1961 p.11

Photo: Lockheed DC-3 N18565 F-104 radar testbed. Air Pictorial February 1961 p.43

"Spotters Notebook" Air Pictorial March 1961 p.86. Includes photos of RAF Dakotas KN452, KJ954C, KP221, KN434A, and KP208.

Photo: Senegalese AF C-47 348336 Air Pictorial May 1961 p.143

Photo: Icelandair DC-3 TF-ISB. Air Pictorial September 1962 p.288

Photo: RCAF C-47B 43-48744 Air Pictorial December 1962 p.398

Photo: Tailmarkings for C-47 43-48073 of the 50th TFW. Air Pictorial February 1963 p.53

Photo: RCAF KN979 with F-104 nose. Air Pictorial May 1964 p.139

"AC−47s Being Deployed in Vietnam" Aviation Week & Space Technology November 27, 1965 p.22

"Miniguns Convert C−47 Into Vietnam Weapons Platform" Aviation Week & Space Technology December 6, 1965 p.28 2 photos

Photo: DC-3 G-AMCA of Fairey Air Surveys. Air Pictorial February 1966 p.43

Photo: DC-3 TU-TIA of Air Ivoire. Air Pictorial November 1966 p.417

Photo: South Yemen AF Dakota Air Pictorial August 1968 p.289

Photo: DC-3 G-AGJV Millers Dale of British Midland Airways. Air Pictorial March 1970 p.89

Photo: Well Trade Dakota N3179Q Air Pictorial March 1970 p.106

C.M. Daniels "The Douglas DC Legend Pt.II" Airpower July 1973

Photo: C-47 G-AOBN Air Pictorial May 1975 p.192

James D. Ferguson "Air Anglia" Air Pictorial May 1975. Includes several photos of Air Anglia Dakotas.

Douglas J. Ingells "DC-1 - First of the Great Airliners" Air Classics Quarterly Review Spring 1976

Photos: EC-47P 43-15980, C-47D 44-76578 Air Classics Quarterly Review Spring 1976 p.24-25

Photo: DC-3 SE-CFW "preserved" after a fashion as a playground toy in Belgium. Air Pictorial March 1980 p.100

Photo: Conoco DC-3 N535M. Air Pictorial July 1980 p.270

Photo: SAAF Dakota of No.25 Squadron Air International April 1988 p.168

Color profiles, including Bolivian, Chinese Nationalist, RAAF, and USAF C-47Bs and Dakota IVs. Air International August 1988 p.98

Photo: DC-2 PH-AJU of Royal Dutch Air Lines Air International October 1989 p.196

"Dakota Paint Job" Basler turboprop for Thailand. FlyPast April 1998 p.11 two photos.

"Dakota Exhibit" FlyPast May 1998 p.18 1 photo. C-117 preserved in Canada.

Photos: South African Air Force C-47TPs #6828 and #6882. World Air Power Journal Vol. 33 / Summer 1998 p.12

Photo: RoCAF DC-3 #7231 World Air Power Journal Vol. 33 / Summer 1998 p.155

"Dakota Resurgence" FlyPast October 1998 p.24

"Gathering of Gooneys" Warbirds International March/April 2000

Photo: Sri Lankan Air Force C-47B International Air Power Review Winter 2002 p.43

Santiago Rivas "Spookies Still Going Strong" Combat Aircraft Monthly January 2016 Covers Columbian BT-67 Fantasma gunship operations; includes cockpit and Minigun installation photos.

Scale Models:

Paul Rigby "Lisunov Li-2" Model Aircraft Monthly August 2002

Laddie Mikulasko "Basler Turbo 67" Photo coverage and plans. Model Aviation January 2011 p.18-24

Paul Boyer "Workbench Reviews: Airfix C-47 Skytrain" FineScale Modeler November 2014 p.58

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