Douglas C-47 Skytrain

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C-47 Skytrain
C-53 Skytrooper
Dakota
Douglas C-47 Skytrain.jpg
Role Military transport aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
Designer Douglas Aircraft
First flight 23 December 1941[1]
Status In service in Colombia, El Salvador and South Africa
Primary users United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
United States Navy
See operators
Number built >10,000
Developed from Douglas DC-3
Variants Douglas XCG-17
Douglas AC-47 Spooky

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota (RAF designation) is a military transport aircraft developed from the civilian Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remained in front line service with various military operators through the 1950s.[2]

Design and development[edit]

The C-47 differed from the civilian DC-3 in numerous modifications, including being fitted with a cargo door and strengthened floor, along with a shortened tail cone for glider-towing shackles, and an astrodome in the cabin roof.[3][4]

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. The U.S. Naval designation was R4D. More than 10,000 aircraft were produced in Long Beach and Santa Monica, California and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Between March 1943 and August 1945 the Oklahoma City plant produced 5,354 C-47s.[5][6]

Operational history[edit]

U.S. Army Pathfinders and USAAF flight crew prior to D-Day, June 1944, in front of a C-47 Skytrain at RAF North Witham

The C-47 was vital to the success of many Allied campaigns, in particular those at Guadalcanal and in the jungles of New Guinea and Burma, where the C-47 (and its naval version, the R4D) made it possible for Allied troops to counter the mobility of the light-traveling Japanese army. Additionally, C-47s were used to airlift supplies to the embattled American forces during the Battle of Bastogne. Possibly its most influential role in military aviation, however, was flying "The Hump" from India into China. The expertise gained flying "The Hump" was later be used in the Berlin Airlift, in which the C-47 played a major role, until the aircraft were replaced by Douglas C-54 Skymasters.

In Europe, the C-47 and a specialized paratroop variant, the C-53 Skytrooper, were used in vast numbers in the later stages of the war, particularly to tow gliders and drop paratroops. In the Pacific, with careful use of the island landing strips of the Pacific Ocean, C-47s were even used for ferrying soldiers serving in the Pacific theater back to the United States.

C-47s unloading at Tempelhof Airport during Berlin Airlift

C-47s (about 2,000 received under lend-lease) in British and Commonwealth service took the name Dakota, possibly inspired by the acronym "DACoTA" for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft.[7] The C-47 also earned the informal nickname "Gooney Bird" in the European theater of operations.[8]

Other sources[9] attribute this name to the first plane, a USMC R2D—the military version of the DC-2—being the first plane to land on Midway Island, previously home to the native long-winged albatross known as the gooney bird, which was native to Midway.

The United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command had Skytrains in service from 1946 through 1967.

With all of the aircraft and pilots having been part of the Indian Air Force prior to independence, both the Indian Air Force and Pakistan Air Force used C-47s to transport supplies to their soldiers fighting in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947.

Several C-47 variations were used in the Vietnam War by the United States Air Force, including three advanced electronic warfare variations, which sometimes were called "Electric Gooneys" designated EC-47N, EC-47P, or EC-47Q depending on the engine used.[10] EC-47s were also operated by the Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian Air Forces.[11] A gunship variation, using three 7.62 mm Miniguns, designated AC-47 "Spooky", often nicknamed "Puff the Magic Dragon", also was deployed.[8]

The Royal Canadian Air Force and later, the Canadian Armed Forces employed the C-47 for transportation, navigation, and radar training, as well as for search and rescue operations from the 1940s to the 1980s.[12]

After World War II, thousands of surplus C-47s were converted to civil airline use, some remaining in operation in 2012, as well as being used as private aircraft.

Super DC-3 (R4D-8)[edit]

U.S. Navy C-117Ds at RAF Mildenhall in 1967

Large numbers of DC-3s and surplus C-47s were in commercial use in the United States in the 1940s. In response to proposed changes to the Civil Air Regulations airworthiness requirements that would limit the continuing use of these aircraft, Douglas offered a late 1940s DC-3 conversion to improve takeoff and single-engined performance. The new model, the DC-3S or "Super DC-3", was 39 in (0.99 m) longer. It allowed 30 passengers to be carried, with increased speed to compete with newer airliners. The rearward shift in the center of gravity led to larger tail surfaces and new outer, swept-back wings. More powerful engines were installed along with shorter, jet ejection-type exhaust stacks. These were either 1,475 hp (1,100 kW) Wright R-1820 Cyclones or 1,450 hp (1,081 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2000s in larger engine nacelles. Minor changes included wheel well doors, a partially retractable tailwheel, flush rivets, and low drag antenna. These all contributed to an increased top speed of 250 mph (400 km/h). With greater than 75% of the original DC-3/C-47 configuration changed, the modified design was virtually a new aircraft.[13] The first DC-3S made its maiden flight on 23 June 1949.[14]

The changes fully met the new FAR 4B airworthiness requirements, with significantly improved performance. However, little interest was expressed by commercial operators in the DC-3S. It was too expensive for the smaller operators which were its main target: only three were sold to Capital Airlines. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps had 100 of its R4D aircraft modified to Super DC-3 standards as the R4D-8, later redesignated C-117D.[15]

Variants[edit]

Paratroop C-47, 12th Air Force Troop Carrier Wing, invasion of southern France, 15 August 1944
Interior view of Douglas C-47, Hendon Aerodrome, England
Aircraft of the 6th Special Operations Squadron including a C-47T in use by the U.S. Air Force
C-47B Skytrain -serial 43-49942
An ex-USAAF C-47A Skytrain which was displayed at Cotswold Airport, Gloucestershire, England was recently purchased by Kermit Weeks and returned to the U.S. in August 2011. This aircraft flew from a base in Devon, England, during the D-Day Normandy invasion and shows "invasion stripes" on her wings and fuselage.
N1944A parked on ramp near a C-47 in Icelandair colors in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2011: The C-47 in Army colors is en route to the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin from its previous home at Cotswold.
Douglas C-53 Skytrooper c/n 4935, operated by a skydiver flight service in Eloy, Arizona.
C-47
Initial military version of the DC-3 with seats for 27 troops, 965 built including 12 to the United States Navy as R4D-1
C-47A
C-47 with a 24-volt electrical system, 5,254 built including USN aircraft designated R4D-5
RC-47A
C-47A equipped for photographic reconnaissance and ELINT missions
SC-47A
C-47A equipped for Search Air Rescue; redesignated HC-47A in 1962
VC-47A
C-47A equipped for VIP transport role
C-47B
Powered by R-1830-90 engines with superchargers and extra fuel capacity to cover the China-Burma-India routes, 3,364 built
VC-47B
C-47B equipped for VIP transport role
XC-47C
C-47 tested with Edo Model 78 floats for possible use as a seaplane [16][17]
C-47D
C-47B with superchargers removed after the war
AC-47D
Gunship aircraft with three side-firing .30 in (7.62 mm) Minigun machine guns
EC-47D
C-47D with equipment for the Electronics Calibration, of which 26 were so converted by Hayes in 1953; prior to 1962 was designated AC-47D
NC-47D
C-47D modified for test roles
RC-47D
C-47D equipped for photographic reconnaissance and ELINT missions
SC-47D
C-47D equipped for Search Air Rescue; redesignated HC-47D in 1962
VC-47D
C-47D equipped for VIP transport role
C-47E
Modified cargo variant with space for 27–28 passengers or 18–24 litters
C-47F
YC-129 redesignated, Super DC-3 prototype for evaluation by USAF later passed to USN as XR4D-8
C-47L/M
C-47H/Js equipped for the support of American Legation United States Naval Attache (ALUSNA) and Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) missions
EC-47N/P/Q
C-47A and D aircraft modified for ELINT/ARDF mission, N and P differ in radio bands covered, while Q replaces analog equipment found on the N and P with a digital suite, redesigned antenna equipment and uprated engines
C-47R
One C-47M modified for high altitude work, specifically for missions in Ecuador
C-47T
Designation applied to aircraft modified to a Basler BT-67 standard
C-47TP Turbo Dakota
Refit with modern turboprop engines and fuselage stretch for the South African Air Force
C-53 Skytrooper
Troop transport version of the C-47
XC-53A Skytrooper
One aircraft with full-span slotted flaps and hot-air leading edge deicing
C-53B Skytrooper
Winterised version of C-53 with extra fuel capacity and separate navigator's station, eight built
C-53C Skytrooper
C-53 with larger port-side door, 17 built
C-53D Skytrooper
C-53C with 24V DC electrical system, 159 built
C-117A Skytrooper
C-47B with 24-seat airline-type interior for staff transport use, 16 built
VC-117A
Three redesignated C-117s used in the VIP role
SC-117A
One C-117C converted for air-sea rescue
C-117B/VC-117B
High-altitude superchargers removed, one built and conversions from C-117As all later VC-117B
C-117D
USN/USMC R4D-8 redesignated
LC-117D
USN/USMC R4D-8L redesignated
TC-117D
USN/USMC R4D-8T redesignated
VC-117D
USN R4D-8Z redesignated
YC-129
Super DC-3 prototype for evaluation by USAF redesignated C-47F and later passed to USN as XR4D-8. Wright R-1820 engines uprated to 1425 hp.
CC-129
Canadian Forces designation for the C-47 (post-1970)
XCG-17
One C-47 tested as a 40-seat troop glider with engines removed and faired over
R4D-1 Skytrain
USN/USMC version of the C-47
R4D-3
Twenty C-53Cs transferred to USN
R4D-5
C-47A variant 24-volt electrical system replacing the 12-volt of the C-47; redesignated C-47H in 1962, 238 transferred from USAF
R4D-5L
R4D-5 for use in Antarctica. Redesignated LC-47H in 1962. Photos of this type show the removal of underslung engine oil coolers typical of the R-1830 engine installation; apparently not needed in the cold polar regions.
R4D-5Q
R4D-5 for use as special ECM trainer. Redesignated EC-47H in 1962
R4D-5R
R4D-5 for use as a personnel transport for 21 passengers and as a trainer aircraft; redesignated TC-47H in 1962
R4D-5S
R4D-5 for use as a special ASW trainer; redesignated SC-47H in 1962
R4D-5Z
R4D-5 for use as a VIP transport; redesignated VC-47H in 1962
USN R4D-8 from VR-23 Codfish Airline over Mount Fuji, 1952
United States Navy R4D-8
R4D-6
157 C-47Bs transferred to USN; redesignated C-47J in 1962
R4D-6L, Q, R, S, and Z
Variants as the R4D-5 series; redesignated LC-47J, EC-47J, TC-47J, SC-47J, and VC-47J respectively in 1962
R4D-7
44 TC-47Bs transferred from USAF for use as a navigational trainer; redesignated TC-47K in 1962
R4D-8
R4D-5 and R4D-6 remanufactured aircraft with stretched fuselage, Wright R-1820 engines, fitted with modified wings and redesigned tail surfaces; redesignated C-117D in 1962
R4D-8L
R4D-8 converted for Antarctic use, redesignated LC-117D in 1962
R4D-8T
R4D-8 converted as crew trainers, redesignated TC-117D in 1962
R4D-8Z
R4D-8 converted as a staff transport, redesignated VC-117D in 1962

RAF designations[edit]

Royal Air Force's Dakota IV in RAF Transport Command colors, owned by the UK Classic Air Force
Dakota I
RAF designation for the C-47 and R4D-1
Dakota II
RAF designation for nine C-53 Skytroopers received under the lend lease scheme. Unlike the majority of RAF Dakotas, these aircraft were therefore dedicated troop transports, lacking the wide cargo doors and reinforced floor of the C-47.
Dakota III
RAF designation for the C-47A.
Dakota IV
RAF designation for the C-47B.
Airspeed AS.61
Conversion of Dakota I aircraft
Airspeed AS.62
Conversion of Dakota II aircraft
Airspeed AS.63
Conversion of Dakota III aircraft

Operators[edit]

A Royal Air Force Memorial Flight Dakota with open parachute door at Duxford, England, in 2008
C-47 in USAAC markings with invasion stripes, Rotterdam 1985

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Memorial in remembrance of a 1954 C-47 crash, Alaska Veterans Memorial

Specifications (C-47B-DK)[edit]

An orthographically projected diagram of the C-47 Skytrain

Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920 [20]

General characteristics

Performance

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "C-47 Skytrain." Boeing. Retrieved: 1 August 2010.
  2. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 13, 35, 37, 39, 45-47, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  3. ^ Wilson, Stewart. Aircraft of WWII. Fyshwick, ACT, Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd., 1998. ISBN 1-875671-35-8.
  4. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 37, 39, 45-47, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  5. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 202-3, 227, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  6. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 13, 35, 37, 39, 45-47, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  7. ^ "History: Douglas C-47 Skytrain Military Transport". Boeing. Retrieved: 7 August 2008.
  8. ^ a b O'Rourke, G.G, CAPT USN. "Of Hosenoses, Stoofs, and Lefthanded Spads". United States Naval Institute Proceedings, July 1968.
  9. ^ C-47/R4D Skytrain units of the Pacific and CBI, David Isby, Osprey Combat Aircraft #66, Osprey Publishing Limited, 2007
  10. ^ Air International out of Miami International Airport was a military depot used by the Air Force to convert the DC-3s into military use. They came in as commercial aircraft purchased from third world airlines and were completely stripped, rebuilt, and reconditioned. Long range fuel tanks were installed with upgraded avionics and gun mounts. They left as first rate military aircraft headed for combat in Vietnam in a variety of missions. "Chronological History of the EC-47's Location by Tail Number". ec47.com. Retrieved: 7 April 2009.
  11. ^ Rickard, J. "Douglas EC-47N". historyofwar.org, 12 November 2008. Retrieved: 7 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Douglas DC-3 (CC-129) Dakota". DND - Canada's Air Force. Retrieved: 14 October 2009.
  13. ^ "Super DC-3." dc3history.org. Retrieved: 23 June 2010.
  14. ^ Francillon 1979, pp. 464–465.
  15. ^ Francillon 1979, pp. 466–467.
  16. ^ "Aviation in Long Pants" (photo of XC-47C). Popular Mechanics, July 1944.
  17. ^ "DC-3s On Floats." YouTube, 8 November 2008. Note: first part has rare World War II film footage and narration by project manager for the XC-47C.
  18. ^ "Das Archiv der Deutschen Luftwaffe." (in German) LuftArchiv.de. Retrieved: 5 July 2010.
  19. ^ a b "Trade Registers". Armstrade.sipri.org. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  20. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 261.

References[edit]

  • Chorlton, Martyn. Paths in the wood. Cowbit: Old Forge Publishing Ltd, 2003. ISBN 0-9544507-0-1.
  • Donald, David. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
  • Flintham, Victor. Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present. New York: Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 0-8160-2356-5.
  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.
  • Gradidge, Jennifer M. The Douglas DC-1, DC-2, DC-3: The First Seventy Years. Two volumes. Tonbridge, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 2006. ISBN 0-85130-332-3.
  • Pearcy, Arthur Jr. "Douglas R4D variants (US Navy's DC-3/C-47)". Aircraft in Profile, Volume 14. Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1974, pp. 49–73. ISBN 0-85383-023-1.
  • Yenne, Bill. McDonnell Douglas: A Tale of Two Giants. Greenwich, Connecticut: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-517-44287-6.

External links[edit]