The Douglas C-47 Dakota, the military version of the DC-3, was the Allies’ principal transport aircraft during the Second World War. After the war, Dakotas remained in service in countless other countries for years to come. They were as versatile as they were reliable. The two-engine aircraft was used to transport, drop, and evacuate troops and stores, as well for medical evacuations and to tow gliders. They could carry up to 28 troops, 18 stretchers, or 3,400 kg of freight.
The RAAF first flew the aircraft in September 1939 when it requisitioned four DC-3s from Australian National Airways (ANA). The aircraft served with No. 8 Squadron, based in Canberra, and were used for coastal patrols and transport duties. The squadron flew the aircraft for only a few months, before returning them to ANA between February and June 1940. The purchase of ten DC-2 aircraft in August 1940 then filled the gap until further supplies of DC-3s could be obtained.
In 1941 and 1942, following Japan’s entry into the war, Australia’s civilian airlines and charter operators provided emergency DC-3s to the RAAF for operations in Papua and New Guinea. Similarly, in May 1943 the United States Army Air Force lent about two-dozen DC-3s to the RAAF while the Australian fleet of C-47s was built up. Under lend lease, between February 1943 and August 1945 the RAAF received 124 C-47s. These aircraft equipped six operational transport squadrons (33, 34, 35, 36, 37, and 38), plus other smaller units.
RAAF Squadrons continued to operate Dakotas after the war: No. 37 until June 1948, No. 36 until 1958, and No. 38 until 1964. Other units continued to fly Dakotas for longer. In 1949 to 1950 two Dakotas were transferred to the RAN, which received another two aircraft in 1968.
Douglas C-47B Dakota IV
Entered service: September 1939
Crew: Two flight crew
Wing span: 28.95 m
Length: 19.62 m
Weight (unladen): 8,250 kg
Ceiling: 7,315 m
Endurance: Maximum range 2,414 km
Speed: Maximum speed 368 km/h, cruising 280km/h
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