Gooney Bird Grows Water Wings

The versatile Gooney Bird wore many uniforms. At one point, the C-47 grew a pair of water wings. Initially, planners thought the Navy and Marine island hopping campaign in the Pacific would require an amphibian float plane since they knew many of the islands were without airfields.

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The Edo Corporation, of College Point, N.Y. designed, and built twin, 1-ton floats, (the largest floats ever built). Each float was 42 feet long, five feet, eight inches wide, almost six feet high, and displaced 29,000 pounds of water. The cellular construction of each float had 14 separate water-tight compartments. Each float also had a 325 gallon fuel tank. The floats had fully retractable, hydraulic wheels, and could land on water, snow or land. The float rudders were connected to the air rudder.

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This DC-3 example above is construction number (c/n) 11761 and was delivered to the USAAF in July of 1943. Now registration N130Q, a DC-3A/C-53D-DO (was USAAF 41-68834) of Folsom’s Air Service (video) based in Maine, USA. As far as is known it is the only DC-3 on floats. In 2008 it was on wheels awaiting repair of the floats. The floats are the original EDO Corporation type. She flew for Eastern Airlines as NC86562 until 1952. Later N20W. It was converted to a float plane by Dick Folsom in 1976. The experimental type certificate for this aircraft was awarded in September 1990 and the first flight took place at Greenville airport at that time. (Henry M. Holden, April 1995)

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(National Archives)

They could be disconnected in flight. The C-47C weighed 34,162 pounds and had several serious deficiencies. Pilots found the C-47C difficult to launch in rough water, and performed like a pogo stick when landing on anything but a mirror smooth body of water. It had a high tire failure on land, and was difficult to handle in a crosswind landing. The C-47C was slow on take-off and JATO bottles did little to improve its performance. The floats created much drag causing it to be about 30 mph slower than its sisters without floats.

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This C-47C, c/n7365, USAAF 42-5671 picked up the nickname “Dumbo” (National Archives)


Image602The Army contracted with Edo to build 150 sets of floats, but because of the airplane’s limitations, and the fact that the US Marines and the C-Bee’s (Construction Battalion) were able to quickly cut airfields on the Pacific Islands, the army amended the contract and Edo built only 30. As many as 10 C-47s were equipped with the floats and at least three saw service New Guinea, one in Alaska, and another in India.

©Copyright Henry M. Holden 1996, 2013

For the complete story of the Douglas DC-3 see: “The Legacy of the DC-3

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