The DC-3/C-47 Skytrain is perhaps one of the most famous airplanes of all time. It is also one of the most widely used transport in the world. You can find them in nearly every country of the world. In the late 1930's when aviation technology started proceeding so rapidly, it was only a matter of time before this sort of plane was developed. 1936 was when the first C-47 was developed for military use. They were evolved from the DC-1 and DC-2 and did wonders for the military. These planes were soon nicknamed "Gooney Birds". Nobody really known why or how this name came about, but it stuck.
The C-47's most famous role was not soon after when they participated in the Berlin Airlift. When Berlin was divided into sectors after the Germans lost WWII, each of the Allies got a sector to watch after. All of the Allies except for the Soviets slowly rebuilt their own sectors and started to give the Berliners their freedom back. The Soviets only made the restrictions more severe, finally to the point where they cut off all of the ways into and out of East Berlin. The other Allies soon saw what was happening and started the Berlin Airlift in which C-47's carried 1,500 tons of supplies into Berlin every day by the end of the airlift. This worked out to about 150 planeloads a day of medicine, food, and coal for fuel. This meant that a plane was landing about every 8 minutes.
By the end of WWII, nearly 11,000 C-47's existed. Slowly, some started to be converted into DC-3's to be used for the ever emerging commercial airline business. Also, some DC-3's started being produced. The new planes were fast, dependable, strong, and extremely comfortable. These planes for the first time allowed regularly scheduled airline service. Previous to this, only trains and busses could offer such a service. So really, the DC-3 started the commercial airline business and allowed it to expand to what it is today.
Of course the C-47 did not go away completely for quite some time. In 1951 the planes were upgraded. They lengthened and strengthened the fuselage, enlarged the tail for better control, and put on larger engines to allow greater range and cruising speed. In the Korean War C-47's played a large role that few people ever heard about. They hauled crucial supplies, dropped paratroopers, evacuated the injured soldiers, and dropped flares to allow night bombing of strategic targets. They even helped in the Vietnam War. They were used for standard transport, reconnaissance, and psychological warfare. A few were even outfitted to be used as gunships.
The military retired the C-47 in 1976 because they were too small and quickly becoming non-cost effective. Larger airplanes were coming onto the scene that could carry more and were cheaper to run because they were not so old. An estimated 1,000 DC-3's still remain today that are still able to fly. Many others sit in museums around the world because of their enormous contribution to the evolution of aviation in the 20th century.
Country: United States of America
Type: Cargo; Commercial Transport
Service Dates: 1936 to present
Empty Weight: 17,720 lbs
Gross Weight: 26,900 lbs
Maximum Speed: 215 mph
Maximum Range: 1,370 miles
Maximum Altitude: 24,000 ft
Number of Crew: 3 + passengers
Engine Type: Reciprocating
Engine Manufacturer: Pratt &Whitney
Engine Designation: R1830
Engine Horsepower: 1,200 hp