Quick Facts

Douglas C-47 Skytrain

Workhorse of the Sky

Era: WWII

Part of the Air Zoo Collection

Location: Flight Innovation Center - East Wing

When America entered World War II, the Army Air Forces took the already successful Douglas DC-3, developed in the 1930s, and modified it into the C-47 Skytrain. Used as a Navy transport as well, it was designated R4D. It carried troops, Jeeps, pack howitzers, ammunition, and more. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, approximately 1,200 C-47s hauled 20,000 paratroopers and towed CG-4A gliders. After the war, C-47s were the backbone of the Berlin Air Lift and continued to serve in both Korea and Vietnam under various designations and configurations. 

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, identified the C-47 as one of the keys to the final victory of the Allies.

Handling Capabilities

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain could endure a great deal of battle damage and like its civilian counterpart, the DC-3, it could fly on one engine. It could withstand mid-air collisions and ground loops. It could even land on its belly with minimal damage because the tires, when fully retracted, still extended beneath the cowl. Though not designed for them, the plane could survive terrifying dives, snap rolls and tail spins.

Soldiers load a Jeep into a C-47 cargo bay

Soldiers load a Jeep into a C-47 cargo bay - D-Day Center

The Air Zoo’s C-47

Built in Oklahoma, the Air Zoo’s C-47 was delivered to the USAAF in April 1944. By August 1946, the aircraft was turned over for disposal. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, pilots operated the C-47 in Brazil and New Mexico. In 1974, fuel starvation caused the plane to crash-land in Florida. After repairs, it carried relief supplies to Mexican earthquake survivors in 1985. The C-47 came to the Air Zoo from Basler Aviation in a trade for the Air Zoo’s DC-3A in 1994.

Did You Know?

  • The cost of the DC-1 (first civilian version of the C-47) was to be $125,000, to be paid in gold bullion! Any overruns would be made up by Douglas. The prototype cost $307,000.
  • When the DC-1 rolled out, she was 1,000 pounds overweight with a bare interior.
  • The DC-2 could fly from New York to Los Angeles in 18 hours.
  • The DC-3 was such an impressive aircraft that insurance companies would sell travelers a $5,000 policy for 25 cents-the same rate applied to trains and ships.
  • Within two years of its initiation into service, the DC-3 was hauling 98 percent of the world's air commerce.

Virtual Cockpit