Jun 30th, 2020

The Gooney Retires – Goodbye C-47

Forty-five years ago, today, the Air Force retired the last C-47.  It had many nicknames, the most popular was the Gooney Bird.  This is its story.


C-47 derived from the DC-3

In 1935 Lockheed produced its first DC-3.  The aircraft would go on to revolutionize passenger air travel.  The plane was flown by multiple airlines.  Amelia Earhart attempted to fly a DC-3 around the world.  Kelly Johnson had his legendary fingerprints on the plane as well.

C-47 and World War II

The C-47 was the military variant of the DC-3.  It was a mainstay of cargo and airborne missions during World War II.  The planes were produced at Douglas factories in Oklahoma City as well as near Los Angeles in Santa Monica and Long Beach.  It was nicknamed the Skytrain.  Over 10,000 were manufactured. 

C-47 drops paratroopers

Its finest hour was likely on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  Hundreds of C-47s dropped over 20,000 paratroopers behind the defenses of Normandy across the French countryside. 


AC-47 Gatling Guns go in large door

By the time of the conflict in Southeast Asia, C-130s and C-141s were doing the bulk of the transport work.  Therefore, the C-47 was modified for a gunship role.  The AC-47 Spooky carried three Gatling guns for close air support.  Talking with folks who were aboard, they relayed the thunderous force of the guns as they fired out of the side of the ship.

The Last Flight

On June 30, 1975 C-47 Tail Number 43-49507 lumbered onto the runway at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.  Its final resting place is the National Museum of the United States Air Force.  At its retirement it had logged over 20,000 hours. 

C-47 in the Museum

They Skytrain was affectionately known as the “Gooney Bird”.  It served with the Army Air Forces, the Air Force, the U.S Navy, the Royal Air Force and even the Soviet Union and Japan built the airplanes under license. 

For its role in World II see this site.  For more details on the last flight and some excellent pictures see this site.  Finally, when I began flying the Mighty KC-135, I kept hearing stories about a legendary photo, that used to hang at Fairchild AFB.  It was known as the “Moon Goon”.  To learn more about that interesting twist see the following two sites: Pinterest and EC-47

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