The C-47 Skytrain, Gooney Bird or Dakota, regardless of its nickname, was quite probably the most successful aircraft ever developed. Approximately 13,000 C-47 variants were produced including more than 2,000 built in foreign countries under license. At one time the DC-3 or C-47 was in service in more than 40 countries.
Developed from the Douglas DC-3 which first flew Dec. 22, 1935, the C-47 became the workhorse of the Army Air Force in World War II. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower once identified the C-47 as one of four things that won World War II for the allies. The others were the Bazooka, Jeep and Atom Bomb.
The C-47 with its low-wing, monoplane design utilized conventional landing gear with retractable front wheels and fixed tail wheel. Its two Pratt & Whitney 1,200 horsepower engines produced a top speed of 220 mph and a maximum range of 1,500 miles. Other characteristics included maximum cruising speed of 185 mph at 9,480 feet, initial climb rat of 18.7 feet per second and service ceiling of 23,950 feet. Wing span was 95 feet; length was 64 feet 5.5 inches; and height was 17 feet. The plane weighed 16,971 pounds empty and 26,000 pounds fully loaded which provided a payload of more than 7,000 pounds, although it often exceeded its rated carrying capacity. The three-man crew consisted of a pilot, co-pilot and crew chief.
The aircraft has a long air commando history. The original air commandos in India and Burma in World War II employed C-47s in supporting Gen. Wingate. The aircraft towed gliders to a small, primitive airstrip nicknamed Broadway during Wingate’s “long range” penetration of Burma. After the initial glider assault, the C-47s performed resupply duties. Four C-47s, the SC-47 variant, were part of the Air Commando FARMGATE detachment which deployed to South Vietnam in November 1961. During the Vietnam War, C-47s served as designed and also as the first gunship-the AC-47 or “Puff the Magic Dragon,” which was fitted with 7.62 mm miniguns. These weapons fired up to 6,000 rounds per minute and the aircraft carried 54,000 rounds. The AC-119 and the AC-130 succeeded the AC-47 in the gunship role with their greater capacity and better design for gunship use. As it pioneered in cargo and passenger transport, the C-47 also pioneered in development of the gunship, which became so important to special operations. (Official United States Air Force Website)