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Douglas AC-47

by Andrew Garcia




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The C-47 was America’s military version of the Douglas DC-3. Like many other aviation breakthroughs’, the new Pratt & Whitney and Wright engines under development in the 1930’s permitted new aircraft designs to become a reality and resulted in the DC-1. Testing in 1933 revealed the aircraft; a DC-1, reached 227 mph – the same performance achieved by contemporary racing aircraft! The U.S. Army Air Corps bought a single DC-2 for evaluation in 1935. This led to some production orders and modifications such as the rear cargo-loading door.

The evolution continued until the first DC-3 was delivered to American Airlines on the 18th of August 1936. By 1937 Douglas was turning out 36 units a month. The need for greater load carrying resulted in the C-47 military transport specification requiring Pratt & Whitney R-1800-92 engines. Production of these aircraft totaled 5,253 during the WWII years. The last production C-47 was delivered to the USAAF on the 13th of October 1945. Although built as C-47B’s, the vast majority were converted to C-47D’s by the simple process of removing the engine blowers when it was determined their engine troubles were cured by this change. This venerable aircraft can still be found flying today.



Monogram 1/48 C-47 Skytrain (Dakota IV)


First released in 1978 as a USAAF paratrooper model (Kit # 5607) complete with a group of jump-ready troopers, the kit has been a good seller with only a few completed models appearing at shows and contests. It was re-released in 1989 and also released as a civilian airliner version with the rear-cargo door eliminated as is appropriate for this version. I was fortunate to see one built by Rodney Williams at a San Jose, California IPMS contest in the mid-1980’s and knew one day I would be building a D-Day invasion model like his. This resulted in the fortunate purchase and storage of a few Monogram C-47’s for future use.


A terrific kit build of a Revell-Monogram Do-217E-5 by Nick J. Wigman featured in the April 2002 Scale Aviation Modeler International (Vol. 8 Issue 4) issue was the final impetus to my starting a C-47 project. Nick had done what I was thinking about doing – incorporating the Aires resin engines into a kit build. The Aires - # 4032 Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Late Version engines are little gems. They are exquisite in detail, easy to construct and stunning when finished.

I had been thinking about building the C-47 in D-Day markings and incorporating the Aires resin engines into a building project for some time. In 2001 my eldest son graduated from the U.S. Army Airborne school and I knew the time had come to get this project underway after hearing many stories about his experiences in “para” training. He had a touching story about three men who were in the first graduating class of the U. S. Army Airborne school, during WWII, addressing his graduating class at Ft. Benning, on the day he received his Airborne wings. After this memorable story, the Monogram C-47 came down from the “pending” shelf and research started. However, after studying a number of references I decided to build the three AC-47 gunships on the Microscale decal sheet and postpone the C –47 Paratrooper D-Day kit for the next building cycle. The photos in International Airpower Review Vol. 4 “USAF Gunships in Vietnam Part 1” were so fantastic, I decided to build the AC-47’s to get some C-47 building experience before I build the D-Day Paratrooper version.

The Monogram kit builds easily out of the box. It does have a few construction challenges such as the wing to fuselage join and the closing of the two fuselage halves due to a slightly oversized internal component. The next most important part of the building effort, after the Monogram kit, is the Meteor Productions Cutting Edge Modelworks CEC48040 AC-47D Gunship Conversion Set, Spooky/Puff the Magic Dragon. This made it all possible. It is typical Cutting Edge quality – that is, superb bubble-free resin, incredible detail and ease of construction with a very clear and content rich instruction sheet (Thank you Meteor!).

The Aires - #4032 Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Late Version resin engines were easy to build and have incredible detail. I cut away the side access panels on the engine cowlings to expose the beauty of the Aires engines. This left me with the problem of mounting the engines. I researched the C-47 and found a few superb cutaway drawings showing good views of the engine mounts. The references were so good I realized it would be best left up to the Scott Battistoni’s of the world (the creator of most of the master mold’s at Meteor) who have the talent to craft such components. I opened a hole inside the cowling and firewall and used Milliput epoxy putty for a mounting. It worked despite not being the most elegant solution. I would love to see the likes of Cutting Edge, Aires, CMK or Verlinden provide C-47 engines and mountings for a future build.

Additional components I added were the Squadron - #48052 resin wheels, modified props and navigator window. I had to modify the kit props since the kit provided WWII style thin props. This gave way to a full paddle blade prop in the 1950/60’s. The reference texts clearly show these and they are natural metal on the planes featured on the Microscale sheet and not the traditional flat black props. For the gunship version I also had to add a side Navigation window since it is not part of the Monogram C-47.


The props were a temporary fix using the kit props as a foundation. I added some evergreen plastic, cyano glue and Milliput epoxy putty to rough out some paddle shaped blades using photos from the reference books. The props were painted aluminum per color photos on pg. 120 + 122 International Air Power Review. I will remove them and replace them with new props when Meteor or Blackbox comes out with the correctly shaped resin props. The cockpit has no etched metal seatbelts, which I always add to a kit, because they can’t be seen. The most important cockpit area enhancements are the Cutting Edge resin gunsight and some scratchbuilt (using metal from the Aires P & W engine etched metal fret) metal wiper blades on the front cockpit windows.

There are many, many antennas on the top and bottom of the FC/AC-47 aircraft with no one standard so you need to study your reference photos. Cutting Edge though provides most of the needed antennas in their resin set.

The aircraft on which the “Puff the Magic Dragon” nickname was first carried was 43-48579, one of a trio of original FC-47D’s operated by the 1st ACS. This aircraft was built during World War II as a C-47B-5-DK. The aircraft was later modified to C-47D standards (its superchargers having been removed). The conversion was done by Air International, Inc. in Miami, to a FC-47D standard. When 43-48579 was assigned to the 1st ACS, this airframe was a mail courier aircraft (in early 1964) and initially maintained its gloss white upper fuselage with natural metal finish on the rest of the airframe.

By late 1965 “Puff” had been re-sprayed in SEA camouflage, over which its nose art was reapplied. Also, the aircraft had been officially designated “FC-47” for Fighter/Cargo-47, but after an outcry from some pilots, the nomenclature was changed to “AC-47” representing the “attack” designation. Approximately 53 FC/AC-47D gunships were built.

White “ballistic cloth”, which was a kevlar tarp, was hung on the “gun” side of later aircraft to prevent AA fire from hitting the ammunition supply. It was not in use at the time this model represents.

The aircraft is outfitted with three SUU-11A 7.62mm minigun pods with GAU-2B/A guns fitted to the late production racks. They are from the Cutting Edge resin update set.


I have the next two AC-47’s from the Microscale decal sheet under construction. One is the FC-47D S/N 44-8991 “The ‘.30-Caliber Kit” Gunship (Bien Hoa, Vietnam 1965) and the third is AC-47D S/N 43010, 432nd TRW “Spooky Detachment”4th SOS, Udorn RTAB Thailand 1969 in SEA camouflage.

S/N 43010 aircraft was one of the last AC-47 gunships. It wears the final SEA camouflage paint scheme and was armed with SUU-11A 7.62mm minigun pods with GAU-2B/A guns fitted to the late production racks. An extra window was cut in front of the rear access doors for the third minigun to provide unrestricted access through the rear doors. This was accomplished by moving the third gun from the doorway exit into a new “window” opening. I will show this in a future Hyperscale write-up.

The best color photos and references were found in International Airpower Review Vol. 4 “USAF Gunships in Vietnam Part 1” page 124. A color profile of this aircraft can be found in Gunships – A Pictorial History of Spooky – Squadron Signal publications # 6032 on page 28, and a photo on page 14. Both references are authored by Larry Davis.

As more of the next generation gunships, the AC-119K Stinger and AC-130A Spectre Gunships became available the AC-47D was phased out of USAF inventory. The final AC-47D mission was flown on 30 November 1969. This was the final mission for the 4th SOS and ended USAF AC-47 operations in South Vietnam.



Painting and Markings


I used SnJ and Testors Metalizer for the natural metal finish sealed with Future floor wax. The white upper surface is Gunze Flat white since its opacity is better than the gloss. The entire model was sprayed with Future floor wax before and after decaling. The cockpit and internal fuselage was painted Zinc Chromate green using Gunze acrylics.

The exterior of the model was sprayed with several light coats of SnJ Aluminum Metallizer. I buffed the natural metal finish with Aluminum SnJ powder. The upper nose was painted flat black using Monogram paints. The propellers were natural metal based on color reference photos from International Airpower Review Vol. 4 “USAF Gunships in Vietnam Part 1” . I used Testors aluminum metalizer for the props. The antenna wire was made from invisible sewing thread painted with Monogram flat black.


The decal is a Microscale (pre-Superscale) 48-251 sheet, Gunships AC-47’s and AC-130A, decal # 3.
Some stencils were taken from the Monogram C-47 kit and my spares box .

One last suggestion – if you don’t have a copy of the International Air Power Review – get it! Airlife Publishing will be releasing a bound issue of volumes 1-4. The color photos, richness of detail shots and unique photography will make it one of your favorite references. It certainly was the key reference for my C-47 Gunship trilogy.





  1. International Airpower Review Vol. 4 “USAF Gunships in Vietnam Part 1 pages 112- 125.

  2. Gunships – A Pictorial History of Spooky – Larry Davis - Squadron Signal publications # 6032 , 1982.

  3. American Warplanes of World War II – Douglas C-47 Skytrain - David Donald -- -AIRtime Publishing Ltd. 1995 pgs. 102 – 109.

  4. Douglas DC-3 Dakota Super Profile – M.J. Hooks – Haynes Publications 1985 Pages 6-7 have a two-page cutaway drawing of the interior components including engine mounts.

  5. Replic No. 121 September 2001 DC-3 Dakota with color photos in photoscope section pages 24- 34.

  6. Forge of Freedom – V. Dennis Wrynn Motorbooks International 1995, pages 120-124.

  7. WWII Pacific War Eagles – Jeff Ethell – has many color photos of C-47’s.

  8. WWII Eagles In Original WWII Color – Jeff Ethell

  9. The Mighty Eighth in Color – Freeman - color photos of C-47’s and some with D-Day markings.

  10. The Ninth Air Force in Colour - Freeman – many color C-47 photos.

  11. Aircraft Profile No. 96 Douglas DC-3

  12. Douglas DC-3 The Survivors – Kengo YamamotoAirlife Publishing 2000 - all color photos





All images were taken indoors with available light with a Nikon FTN camera set at F-stop 32 or 22 using a Micro-Nikkor 55mm lens. Other camera settings were as follows: Kodak 200 ISO film speed, 1 sec shutter speed using a tripod. Digital Images were obtained during film processing by selecting the digital CD option as well as prints. This provides “.jpg” format files for digital images on a CD or floppy disk.



Additional Images


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Model, Images and Article Copyright © 2002 by Andrew Garcia
Page Created 26 October 2002
Last updated 04 June 2007

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