North American O-47

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North American O-47B USAF.jpg
An O-47B at National Museum of the United States Air Force
Role Observation
Manufacturer North American Aviation
First flight November 1935
Introduction 1937
Primary user United States Army Air Corps
Number built 239[1]

The North American O-47 is an American observation fixed-wing aircraft monoplane designed in the mid-1930s and used by the United States Army Air Corps during the Second World War. It has a low-wing configuration, retractable landing gear, and a three-blade propeller.

Design and development[edit]

A "red force" O-47B during maneuvers in 1941.

The O-47 was developed as a replacement for the Thomas-Morse O-19 and Douglas O-38 observation biplanes. It was larger and heavier than most preceding observation aircraft and its crew of three sat in tandem under the long canopy. Windows in the deep belly overcame the obstacle that the wings presented to downward observation and photography. The design for the XO-47 prototype originated in 1934 with General Aviation Manufacturing, a subsidiary of North American Aviation, as the GA-15.[2] The Air Corps ordered 174 O-47s in 1937 to 1938, 93 of which were assigned to National Guard units. In 1938, the Army ordered 74 O-47Bs with a redesigned engine cowling for better cooling, an uprated engine, and improved radio equipment.[citation needed]

Operational history[edit]

Training maneuvers in 1941 demonstrated the shortcomings of the O-47. Single-engined light airplanes like the Piper L-4 and Stinson L-5 proved more capable of operating with ground troops, while fighters and twin engine bombers showed greater ability to perform recon and photo duties. Thus, O-47s during World War II, except for those caught at overseas bases by the Japanese attacks, were relegated to secondary duties such as towing targets, coastal patrol, and anti-submarine patrol.[3]


one built, serial number 36-145 in Dundalk, Maryland, 850 hp (634 kW) Wright R-1820-41 engine[1]
164 built in Inglewood California, 975 hp (727 kW) Wright R-1820-49 engine
74 built, minor improvements and a 1,060 hp (790 kW) Wright R-1820-57 engine installed,[3] plus an extra 50 gallon fuel tank[1]


 United States

Surviving aircraft[edit]

O-47B at Wright-Patterson National Museum of the USAF

Specifications (O-47A)[edit]

3-view silhouette of the North American O-47

Data from "United States Military Aircraft Since 1909" [3]

General characteristics

  • Crew: three (pilot, copilot-observer, gunner)
  • Length: 33 ft 7 in (10.24 m)
  • Wingspan: 46 ft 4 in (14.1 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 2 in (3.7 m)
  • Wing area: 350 sq ft (32.5 m2)
  • Empty weight: 5,980 lb (2,712.5 kg)
  • Gross weight: 7,636 lb (3,463.6 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Wright R-1820-49 radial, 975 hp (727 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 221 mph (355.7 km/h, 192 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 200 mph (322 km/h, 170 kn)
  • Range: 840 mi (1,352 km, 730 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 23,200 ft (7,071 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,470.8 ft/min (7.47 m/s)


  • 1 × fixed forward-firing .30-cal (7.62 mm) machine gun (200 rounds) in starboard wing
  • 1 × flexible .30-cal (7.62 mm) machine gun (600 rounds) in rear cockpit

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ a b c "U.S. Army Aircraft 1908-1946" by James C. Fahey, 1946, 64pp.
  2. ^ Eden and Moeng 2002, pp. 74–77.
  3. ^ a b c Swanborough and Bowers 1964
  4. ^ "North American O-47A". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  5. ^ a b Goodall, Geoffrey (14 June 2018). "North American" (PDF). Geoff Goodall's Aviation History Site. Geoffrey Goodall. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  6. ^ "North American O-47B (FAA Reg. No. N73716)". Combat Air Museum. Combat Air Museum. Archived from the original on 12 August 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  7. ^ "FAA REGISTRY [N73716]". Federal Aviation Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  8. ^ "North American O-47B". National Museum of the US Air Force. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  9. ^ "Restoration Projects". Planes of Fame. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  • Eden, Paul and Soph Moeng. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. London: Amber Books Ltd., 2002. ISBN 0-7607-3432-1.
  • Fahey, James C. U.S. Army Aircraft 1908-1946. New York: Ships and Aircraft, 1946.
  • Swanborough, F.G. and Peter M. Bowers. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909. New York: Putnam New York, 1964. ISBN 0-85177-816-X.

External links[edit]