Few aircraft are as well known or were so widely used for so long as the C-47 Skytrain, nicknamed “Gooney Bird.” The aircraft was adapted from the DC-3 commercial airliner which first appeared in 1936. The first C-47s were ordered in 1940 and by the end of WWII, over 10,000 had been procured for the USAAF and US Navy. They carried personnel and cargo, and in a combat role, towed troop-carrying gliders and dropped paratroops into enemy territory.
The most widely used military transport in World War II, the C-47 also saw service with the U.S. Navy as the R4D and with the RAF as the Dakota.
After WWII, many C-47s remained in USAF service, participating in the Berlin Airlift and other peace-time activities. One hundred C-47J aircraft were reengineered by Douglas and incorporated new wings, a new, taller vertical tail, modified landing gear, and more powerful engines. They entered U.S. Navy service under designation C-117D.
During the Korean Conflict, C-47s hauled supplies, dropped paratroops, evacuated wounded and dropped flares for night bombing attacks. In Vietnam, the C-47 served again as a transport, but it was also used for a variety of other missions which included flying ground attack, reconnaissance, and psychological warfare missions. The AC-47 “Spooky”, a heavily-armed gunship version of the C-47, was equipped with three side-firing 7.62mm Miniguns and was nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
The last C-47 was retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975.
|Official Designation||C-47D (R4D) Skytrain|
|Unofficial Nicknames||Gooney Bird, Goon, Dizzy Three, Grand Old Lady, Old Methuselah|
|Primary Role||Military transport|
|Secondary Role||Aerial gunship|
|Original Contractor||Douglas Aircraft Corporation|
|Wingspan||95 feet, 6 inches|
|Length||63 feet, 10 inches|
|Height at Tail||17 feet|
|Engines||Two Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radials|
|Horsepower||1,200 shp each|
|Cruise Speed||175 mph|
|Max Speed||230 mph|
|Service Ceiling||24,000 feet|
|Max Payload||7,500 pounds or 27 troops|
|Max Takeoff Weight||31,000 pounds|
|Total Produced||Over 10,000 aircraft|