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A65 Douglas Dakota

The Douglas DC-1 flew for the first time on 1 July 1933 and this "one-off" aircraft was developed into the DC-2 of 1934, and the DC-3 of 1935. Military versions of the DC-3 were produced for troop and freight movements, and these aircraft entered service with the United States Army Air Corps in 1941 as the C-53 Skytrooper, and in 1942 as the C-47 Skytrain - the latter version being fitted with large freight doors. In the Royal Air Force, these aircraft became known as Dakota I (C-47), Dakota II (C-53), Dakota III (C-47A), and Dakota IV (C-47B). Altogether 10,926 DC-3s were built, including 10,123 military versions.

RAAF Dakotas began operating in February 1943 and included nine Dakota Is (A65-1/9), 50 Dakota IIIs (A65-10/59) and 65 Dakota IVs (A65-60/124): actually A65-123/124 were C-47Ds which were revamped versions of the C-47B. In addition, No 36 Squadron operated 23 C-53s and one C-49 (impressed DC-3) on loan from the US Army Air Force during 1943-44. Wartime Dakota units included Nos 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 and 38 Squadrons and No 1 Communication Unit.

Post-war, the Dakota has served wherever the RAAF has operated – New Guinea, Japan, Malaya, Korea, and Thailand. RAAF aircrews also flew RAF-serialled Dakotas in the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift. Other Dakota activities include spraying experiments, glider-towing, rain-making, VIP transport and Antarctic research. Alongside transport operations, Dakotas also served as training aircraft, serving with No 1 Flying Training School, the Central Flying School and the School of Air Navigation. The final role for the Dakota in RAAF service was with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, where the aircraft were used in support of flight test activities, and were themselves fitted with many items of special equipment during flight tests.

In March 1999, these activities also came to an end, closing the book on the 56-year career of the Dakota in RAAF service.

The RAN also operated two ex-RAAF Dakotas.

TECHNICAL DATA: Douglas C-47 Dakota


Military transport with 3 or 4 crew, 27 passengers or freight. All-metal stressed-skin construction.


Two 1200 hp Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-92.


Span 28.95 m (95 ft); length 19.62 m (64 ft 6 in); height 5.15 m (16 ft 11 in).


Empty 8250 kg (18 190 lb); loaded 13 290 kg (29 300 lb)..


Max speed 368 km/h (199 kt); Cruising speed 280 km/h (151 kt); Initial climb 353 m (1160 ft)/min; Range 2414 km (1303 nm); Service ceiling 24,000 ft (7315 m). Back to top

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