Few aircraft are as well known or were so widely used for so long as the C-47 Skytrain or "Gooney Bird" as it was also affectionately known. The aircraft was adapted from the DC-3 commercial airliner which appeared in 1936.
The first C-47s were ordered in 1940 and by the end of WWII, 10,654, including civilian versions, had been built in the USA. They appeared in every WWII theater, carrying personnel and cargo. In a combat role they towed troop-carrying gliders and dropped paratroops into enemy territory. In mid-1944 Douglas was turning out C-47s at the rate of one every 34 minutes. The C-47 was acclaimed by General Eisenhower as one of the four weapons that won WWII.
The C-47/DC-3 was the only aircraft to serve with all major WWII combatants. In England it was known as “Dakota”. Prior to WWII the design was licensed to Japan (485 built), where it was identified as the Nakajima or Showa L2D ("Tabby" to Allied Intelligence), and the USSR (approximately 2930 built) where it was identified as the Lisunov Li-2 ("Cab" to NATO). Some were still in service with the Russian Air Force in the 1990s. Germany employed impressed airliners, particularly from KLM.
After WWII, many C-47s remained in USAF service, participating in the Berlin Airlift and other peacetime activities. During the Korean War, C-47s hauled supplies, dropped paratroops, evacuated wounded and dropped flares for night bombing attacks. In Vietnam the C-47 served again as a transport, but it was also used in a variety of other ways. Designated AC-47D “Spooky” it served with great effectiveness in flying ground attack (gunship) missions. Others were used for special reconnaissance and psychological warfare missions with the designations EC-47N/P/Q. The last C-47 was retired from the USAF in 1975. It has been stated facetiously (perhaps) that when the last jet transport is ferried to the boneyard, it will be a DC-3 that goes out to pick up the crew. It is a fitting tribute to the longevity, stability, and durability of the Douglas design.
Our "Bluebonnet Belle" at Highland Lakes Squadron
The C-47 "Bluebonnet Belle" on display in our hangar is owned by the Commemorative Air Force. It was built in Oklahoma City in late 1944 as a C-47B serial number 43-49942; then flown to Montreal, Canada where it was transferred to Great Britain under the Lend-Lease program. The aircraft was ferried to England and served with the RAF. In 1945 it was assigned to the No. 435 Transport Squadron, a Canadian unit as KN270. It was ferried to Canada in 1946. The aircraft received the Canadian Forces serial 12909 in 1970. It was surplussed and entered civilian service in 1974. From 1974 until 1995, the aircraft was owned by a number of Canadian airline and charter companies, after which it was repatriated to the USA.
The Highland Lakes Squadron purchased this aircraft from a Part 135 cargo operator and donated it to the CAF in 2002. While legally airworthy she was in need of a lot of tender loving care. It required a two-year restoration project by the Highland Lakes Squadron to bring the aircraft up to operational standards.
Named the “Bluebonnet Belle” in honor of her home base Burnet, Texas, the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas, she is flown by experienced crews and treats air show crowds to the roar of her two mighty Pratt and Whitney radial engines. She serves as a living memorial to the thousands of men and women who built, serviced and flew them during the war years.
Name: Bluebonnet Belle
Mfg Date: December 1944
Wing Span: 95 ft. 0 in.
Length: 64 ft. 5 in.
Height: 16 ft. 11 in.
Weight: 33,000 lbs loaded
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney R-1830s of 1,200 hp. each
Serial Number: 43-49942
Maximum speed: 232 mph.
Cruising speed: 175 mph.
Range: 1,513 miles
Service Ceiling: 24,450 ft
In addition to flying, we are qualified to carry sky divers and airborne reenactors. Our C-47 is equipped with a 'jump door' and an anchor-line cable for airborne reenactors. For additional information and to schedule jumps please contact us.
We can help make your air show, reunion, or special event truly one to remember with an appearance by this magnificent example of the undisputed Queen of the Skies. To schedule a rendezvous with this legend please contact us.