The C-47 Skytrain produced by The Douglas Aircraft Company referred to as the Dakota was developed from the Douglas DC-3 Airliner. The C-47 Skytrain or Dakota primary use was for military transport aircraft. The C-47 was used extensively by the U.S. and the Allies during World War II. The C-47 Skytrain maintained frontline operations into the 50s and some are still in service to this very day.

C-47 Skytrain Development

C-47 Skytrain

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Many modifications brought the C-47 up to the specification for military service. Major updates included a large cargo door and a strengthened floor to support heavy cargo.

Many different countries made use of the C-47 and DC-3s converted for troop transport and cargo. 10,000 of the aircraft were built in 2 locations in California, Long Beach and Santa Monica. C-47s were also built in Oklahoma and the plant put out 5,354 aircraft between March of 43 and August of 45.

C-47 Skytrain Airworthiness

Douglas responded to the airworthiness requirements that limited the use of the surplus C-47 Skytrain for commercial use. By the late 1940s Douglas offered a conversion to modify the aircraft to meet the new aircraft regulations. Single engine performance was updated along with much improved takeoff with increased speed. What came out of the modifications was almost a completely new aircraft designated as the DC-3S or Super DC-3. The modifications made it 39” longer with a new swept back wing with larger tail surfaces allowed 30 passengers to be carried. Engine upgrades to the Wright R-1820 Cyclones rated at 1,475 hp or the Pratt & Whitney R-2000 rated at 2,000 hp. The new more powerful engines required larger nacelles. Other changes included wheel well doors and the tail wheel even retracted partially. Flush rivets and antennas with much lower drag and more powerful engines boosted the top speed to 250 mph.

The modifications amounted to almost 75% of the original C-47/DC-3 being changed out. The changes made almost a completely new aircraft. The maiden flight of the first DC-3S occurred in June of 1949. The modifications proved to be too costly for the target small operators and only three were purchased by Capital Airlines. The U.S. Navy had 100 of its R4D aircraft modified to the DC-3S specifications. Designated the R4D-8 and later renamed the C-117D.

C-47 Skytrain Operational History

The overall successes of many of the Allied campaigns were due to the C-47. The Naval version the R4D gave the Allied troops the ability to counter the Japanese army’s mobility. Other successful campaigns were Guadalcanal, New Guinea and Burma. Another success was the airlift of supplies to American forces in the Battle of Bastogne. Flying the Hump was a very influential role of military aviation. Flying the Hump India to China was a lesson later applied to the Berlin Airlift until the C-47 Skytrain was replaced by the C-54.

The C-53 Skytrooper was a variant of the C-47 used to tow Waco CG-4A gliders and carry and drop paratroops. With the help of Army engineers and Seabees construction of landing strips on small islands of the South Pacific C-47s ferried soldiers serving in the Pacific Theater.

The C-47 nickname Dakota came from the British Commonwealth. The acronym (DACoTA) was taken from the Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft. The C-47 also earned another nickname in the European Theater, the (Gooney Bird).

The C-47 Skytrain was in continuous service with the USAF Strategic Air Command from 1946 up through 1967.

The Pakistan Army was supplied by the Pakistan Air Force flying C-47 cargo planes while fighting the Indo-Pakistan War against India in 1947.

The United States Air Force used a number of C-47 Variations in the Vietnam War. A few called the Electric Gooney carried advanced electronic warfare equipment carried designations EC-47N, EC-47P and EC-47Q based on the type of engines used on the aircraft. The AC-47 Spooky admired by American Troops on the ground got the nickname of (Puff The Magic Dragon). A very powerful gunship would fly by and open up firing 3 7.62 mm mini-guns and after a few short puffs of smoke the enemy would stop shooting back like magic.

From the 40s through the 80s the Royal Canadian Air Force used C-47s for radar training, search and rescue and navigation and transportation.

To this very day many C-47s still fly for civilian use some have exceptional upgrades to modern fuel efficient turboprop engines. After World War II there were many surplus C-47s converted to civil airline use. There is a warbird museum in Titusville, Florida that maintains a C-47 Skytrain that still flies in its original World War II colors in air shows and provides rides for spectators.

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