Douglas C-47 Skytrain


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 DesignationC-47D (R4D) Skytrain
Unofficial NicknamesGooney Bird, Goon, Dizzy Three, Grand Old Lady, Old Methuselah
Primary RoleMilitary transport
Secondary RoleAerial gunship
National OriginUSA
Original ContractorDouglas Aircraft Corporation
Wingspan95 feet, 6 inches
Length63 feet, 10 inches
Height at Tail17 feet
ArmamentSee AC-47D
EnginesTwo Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radials
Horsepower1,200 shp each
Cruise Speed175 mph
Max Speed230 mph
Range2,000 miles
Service Ceiling24,000 feet
Operating WeightUnknown
Max Payload7,500 pounds or 27 troops
Max Takeoff Weight31,000 pounds
Date Deployed1940
Total ProducedOver 10,000 aircraft