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C-47 Skytrain

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain, or Dakota when used by the Royal Air Force, is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. The C-47 differed from the DC-3 in numerous modifications that included being fitted with a cargo door and a strengthened floor.

Douglas C-39 at Camp Beauregard Louisiana in WWII
Douglas C-39 at Camp Beauregard Louisiana in WWII

World War II Transport Evolution and Development

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.

C-39 Transport Aircraft

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.

C-47 Skytrain Capabilities

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.

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.

A surviving C-47 Skytrain restored and on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-47 Skytrain at the Charles B. Hall Airpark

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.

Possibly its most influential role in military aviation, however, was flying "The Hump" from India into China. The expertise gained flying "The Hump" would later be used in the 1948 Berlin Airlift, in which the C-47 would play a major role.

The C-47 also earned the informal nickname Gooney Bird in the European theater of operations.

Post World War II Usage of the C-47

More than 10,000 C-47 aircraft were manufactured at plants in Oklahoma City and in Santa Monica, CA.

After World War II thousands of surplus C-47s were converted to civil airline use. Other C-47s remained in active military service and played a critical role not only in the Berlin Airlift, but also in the Korean and Vietnam wars. In Vietnam, the C-47 served as a transport plane, but it also flew a variety of other missions, including ground attack as gunships, reconnaissance, and psychological warfare.

Surviving C-47 Skytrain and DC-3 Aircraft

Today, some remain in operation as private aircraft. Many other surviving C-47 aircraft have been restored and are on static display across the country.

Others, such as "Sky King" and "Hondo" shown below, have been maintained in air worthy condition, and can be seen on air tours and air shows.

The oldest DC-3 still flying is the original American Airlines Flagship Detroit which can be seen at airshows around the United States and is owned and operated by the nonprofit Flagship Detroit Foundation. The oldest surviving DC-3 is N133D, the sixth Douglas Sleeper Transport built in 1936.

Original C-47 Photos by the Airplanes Of The Past Staff

C-47 Skytrain "7th Heaven" S/N 43-15977, Atwater, California
C-47 Skytrain "7th Heaven" S/N 43-15977
Douglas C-47 Skytrain S/N 41-7723 in Tuscon, Arizona
Douglas C-47 Skytrain S/N 41-7723
Douglas C-117 of the U.S. Marines S/N 50826
Douglas C-117 of the U.S. Marines S/N 50826 in Tucson
C-47 Skytrain at the Charles B. Hall Airpark
at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-47 Skytrain on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-47 Skytrain S/N 2150761 at the Charles B. Hall Airpark
C-47 Skytrain on display at the Charles B. Hall Airpark at the entrance to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
C-47B Skytrain "Spirit of Hondo" S/N 44-77109
C-47B Skytrain "Spirit of Hondo" S/N 44-77109 parked at Pounds Regional Airport, Tyler, Texas
C-47A Skytrain "Hi Honey" S/N 43-16130 at the Barksdale AFB airpark in Bossier City
C-47A Skytrain "Hi Honey" S/N 43-16130
C-47A Skytrain "Hi Honey" S/N 43-16130 at the Barksdale AFB airpark
C-47A Skytrain "Hi Honey" S/N 43-16130
AC-47 "Spooky" at Eglin AFB, Florida
AC-47 "Spooky"
C-47 Skytrain, N226GB, Rapid City, South Dakota
C-47 Skytrain, N226GB
Nose view of C-47 Skytrain, N226GB
Nose view of C-47 Skytrain, N226GB
Douglas C-47B Skytrain "City of Garibaldi", at Tillamook, Oregon
Douglas C-47B Skytrain "City of Garibaldi"


Photos by Our Friends and Supporters

Nose view of DC-3 Artic Liner, Palmer, Alaska
Photo courtesy of Alaska Professional Photography
Nose view of DC-3 Artic Liner, Palmer, Alaska
C-47 Skytrain S/N 315174 at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington
(photo by Michael Hoschouer)
C-47 Skytrain S/N 315174 on display at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington


C-47 YouTube Video by the AirplanesOfThePast Staff

C-47 "Sky King" arrives at Pounds Regional Airport in Tyler Texas, July 2012
(video by the PlanesOfThePast staff)

YouTube Video of C-47 "That's All Brother" restoration by the Commemorative Air Force

C-47 Photos Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum

C-47 "The Zephyr" on landing approach
C-47 "The Zephyr" on landing approach
C-47 VHCGO 412 on tarmac
C-47 VHCGO 412 on tarmac