Douglas TC-47B Skytrain
Two-engine Four-crew Low-wing Trainer Transport, U.S.A.

Archive Photos 1

Douglas TC-47B-30-DK Skytrain (AF 44-767116, N8704, TC-47D) on display (9/25/2003) at the Yankee Air Museum, Belleville, Michigan (Photos by John Shupek)

Overview 2

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota (RAF, RAAF and RNZAF 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 remains in front-line service with various military operators.

Design and Development 2

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

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.

The specialized C-53 Skytrooper troop transport started production in October 1941 at Douglas Aircraft’s Santa Monica plant. It lacked the cargo door, hoist attachment, and reinforced floor of the C-47. Only 380 aircraft were produced in all because the C-47 was found to be more versatile.

Operational History 2

World War II

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. C-47s were used to airlift supplies to the encircled American forces during the Battle of Bastogne in Belgium. 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 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. During the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, C-47s dropped 4,381 Allied paratroops. More than 50,000 paratroops were dropped by C-47s during the first few days of the D-Day campaign also known as the invasion of Normandy, France, in June 1944. In the Pacific War, with careful use of the island landing strips of the Pacific Ocean, C-47s were used for ferrying soldiers serving in the Pacific theater back to the United States.

About 2,000 C-47s (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.

The C-47 also earned the informal nickname gooney bird in the European theater of operations. Other sources attribute this name to the first aircraft, a USMC R2D’the military version of the DC-2 being the first aircraft to land on Midway Island, previously home to the long-winged albatross known as the gooney bird which was native to Midway.

Postwar Era

The United States Air Force’s Strategic Air Command had Skytrains in service from 1946 through 1967. The US Air Force’s 6th Special Operations Squadron was flying the C-47 until 2008.

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.

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.

Vietnam War

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. Air International, Miami International Airport was a USAF military depot used to convert the commercial DC-3s/C-47s 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, along with upgraded avionics and gun mounts. They left as first-rate military aircraft headed for combat in Vietnam in a variety of missions. Douglas EC-47s were also operated by the Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian Air Forces. A gunship variation, using three 7.62 mm miniguns, designated AC-47 Spooky, often nicknamed Puff the magic dragon, also was deployed.

Super DC-3 (R4D-8)

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-engine performance. This 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-2000 Twin Wasps 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; 220 kn). With greater than 75% of the original DC-3/C-47 configuration changed, the modified design was virtually a new aircraft. The first DC-3S made its maiden flight on 23 June 1949.

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 that were its main target; only three were sold to Capital Airlines. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps had 100 of their R4D aircraft modified to Super DC-3 standards as the R4D-8, later redesignated the C-117D.

Variants 2

Operators 2

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Belgium
  4. Benin
  5. Biafra
  6. Bangladesh
  7. Bolivia
  8. Brazil
  9. Burma
  10. Cambodia
  11. Canada
  12. Chad
  13. Chile
  14. China
  15. Colombia
  16. Republic of the Congo
  17. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  18. Cuba
  19. Czechoslovakia
  20. Denmark
  21. Dominican Republic
  22. Ecuador
  23. Egypt
  24. El Salvador
  25. Ethiopia
  26. Finland
  27. France
  28. Gabon
  29. Germany
  30. Greece
  31. Guatemala
  32. Haiti
  33. Honduras
  34. Hungary
  35. Iceland
  36. India
  37. Indonesia
  38. Iran
  39. Israel
  40. Italy
  41. Ivory Coast
  42. Jordan
  43. Japan
  44. Kenya
  45. Laos
  46. Libya
  47. Madagascar
  48. Malawi
  49. Mali
  50. Mauritania
  51. Mexico
  52. Monaco
  53. Morocco
  54. Netherlands
  55. New Zealand
  56. Nicaragua
  57. Niger
  58. Nigeria
  59. Northern Rhodesia
  60. Norway
  61. Oman
  62. Pakistan
  63. Panama
  64. Papua New Guinea
  65. Paraguay
  66. Peru
  67. Philippines
  68. Poland
  69. Portugal
  70. Rhodesia
  71. Romania
  72. Rwanda
  73. Saudi Arabia
  74. Senegal
  75. South Africa
  76. South Korea
  77. South Vietnam
  78. Somalia
  79. Soviet Union (also as Lisunov Li-2)
  80. Sri Lanka
  81. Spain
  82. Sweden
  83. Singapore
  84. Syria
  85. Taiwan
  86. Tanzania
  87. Thailand
  88. Togo
  89. Turkey
  90. Uganda
  91. Uruguay
  92. United Kingdom
  93. United States
  94. Venezuela
  95. Vietnam
  96. West Germany
  97. Yemen
  98. Yugoslavia
  99. Zaire
  100. Zambia

Douglas DC-3/C-47 Family Specifications 3

Douglas DC-3/C-47/C-49/C-117 and Lisunov Li-2 Family
Aircraft ☛DSTDC-3ADC-3CC-47A-DLC-47B-DKC-49K-DOC-117A-DKLi-2
Power PlantWright SGR-1802-G2 CycloneP&W S1C3-G Twin Wasp P&W R-1830-92 Twin Wasp P&W R-1830-92 Twin Wasp P&W R-1830-90C Twin Wasp Wright R-1820-71 Cyclone P&W R-1830-90C Twin WaspShvetsov ASh-62 (M-62)
Wing Span95 ft 0 in95 ft 0 in95 ft 0 in95 ft 6 in95 ft 6 in95 ft 0 in95 ft 0 in94 ft 103/16 in
Length64 ft 5½ in64 ft 5½ in64 ft 5 in63 ft 9 in63 ft 9 in64 ft 6 in64 ft 6 in64 ft 5⅝ in
Height16 ft 3⅝ in16 ft 11⅛ in16 ft 11 in17 ft 0 in17 ft 0 in17 ft 0 in16 ft 8 in
Wing Area987 ft²987 ft²987 ft²987 ft²987 ft²987 ft²987 ft²983 ft²
Empty Weight16,060 lb16,865 lb18,300 lb17,865 lb18,135 lb16,295 lb17,840 lb16,976 lb
Loaded Weight24,000 lb25,200 lb25,200 lb26,000 lb26,000 lb24,400 lb26,000 lb23,589 lb
Maximum Weight28,000 lb31,000 lb31,000 lb29,000 lb30,000 lb24,868 lb
Wing Loading24.3 psf25.5 psf25.5 psf26.3 psf26.3 psf24.7 psf26.3 psf24.0 psf
Power Loading12.0 lb/hp10.5 lb/hp10.5 lb/hp10.8 lb/hp10.8 lb/hp10.2 lb/hp10.8 lb/hp13.1 lb/hp
Maximum Speed212 mph at 6,800 ft230 mph at 8,500 ft237 mph at 8,800 ft230 mph at 8,800 ft224 mph at 10,000 ft218 mph at 5,500 ft230 mph at 12,500 ft174 mph
Cruising Speed192 mph207 mph170 mph160 mph160 mph156 mph160 mph137 mph
Climb Rate850 fpm1,130 fpm10,000 ft in 9.6 min10,000 ft in 9.5 min10,000 ft in 10.0 min10,000 ft in 9.4 min
Service Ceiling20,800 ft23,200 ft24,000 ft26,400 ft22,750 ft26,400 ft18,375 ft
Normal Range2,125 mi1,025 mi1,600 mi1,600 mi1,650 mi1,600 mi
Maximum Range3,800 mi3,600 mi1,800 mi3,600 mi


  1. Shupek, John. The Skytamer Photo Archive, photos by John Shupek, copyright © 1998 Skytamer Images (
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Douglas C-47 Skytrain
  3. Francillon, René J. McDonald Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume I, London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1995, ISBN 0-85177-827-5. pg. 249.


Skytamer Images (
Est. 1998