The Duchess of Dakota | C-53 Skytrooper

In December 1935 the Douglas built DC-3 first flew and ushered in a new era of commercial flight. The DC-3 was a twin engine, low wing monoplane with retractable landing gear, a range of roughly 1,500 miles and was able to carry between 21-32 passengers depending on how the interior was configured. In 1936 the inaugural flight was held and the DC-3 began flying for numerous airlines all over the country as well as developing new routes due to the increased range the plane offered.

In 1939 production of the DC-3 was put on hold as the military saw the potential in the DC-3 as a cargo and troop carrying plane. The USAAF redesignated the DC-3 as the C-47 and C-53. The C-47 was designed as a cargo plane with a large cargo door, reinforced floor and a hoist attachment for lifting cargo. The C-53 was a troop carrying version with bench seats on the interior on either side of the plane and a detachable rear door. Due to the ruggedness and dependability of the design, the DC-3 was soon ordered by allied countries all over the world under the designations of the R4D and Dakota.

The military designed C-47 first flew in October 1941 and was produced from 1942-1945. After the war ended Douglas started producing DC-3’s up until 1950. Between 1942-1945 over 10,000 aircraft were built between the various Douglas Aircraft factories. Of these only 380 were the C-53 version. Due to the versatility of the C-47, it was deemed better to build the one version and then modify when needed.

The C-47, with it’s reinforced floor and cargo hooks, was able to carry up to 6,000lbs of cargo, a full sized jeep or a 37mm cannon. If it was setup for transport it could hold 28 men in full gear or fourteen stretchers and three nurses. Seven versions were built with 22 designations. It was used by every allied nation. Uncertain where the name Dakota came from most believe it originated from Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft. For the men that flew them and those that relied on them, it was affectionately known as the Gooney Bird.

Crew (Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator, Radio Operator)

Max Speed (MPH)

95' 6"

Wing Span

Capacity (Troops)

Range (Miles)

63' 9"


Payload (lb)

Service Ceiling (ft)



The C-53 was designed to carry and drop paratroopers behind enemy lines. The C-53 played significant roles in Operation Overlord and Operation Market Garden. The Gooney Bird was one of the most relied upon aircraft of WWII and it helped to secure victory as much as any other aircraft.

After the war most C-47’s and other variants were repurposed for civilian use. Unlike other aircraft from WWII the Gooney Bird had more to offer then just wartime activities. With the surplus amount built during the war many were sold off to other nations. Soon they were converted back to the DC-3 and used for travel and cargo purposes. The C-47 became so reliable that it can still be found in some countries today.


This C-53 was built in 1942 out of the Douglas plant in Santa Monica, CA. It was accepted in the USAAF in 1942 as 42-6480. It was converted to a XC-53A prototype in March 1942. The project was scrapped and it was converted back to a C-53 in 1949. It was then sold as surplus. It was registered in 1953 as N69032 for Brinkerhoff Drilling Co, Dallas, TX.

Then in 1963 it went on to Corning Glass Works, NY as N48CG. It was then changed to N480G in 1967. It was purchased by C.W. Millard in June of 1967 and was registered in Canada. One year later it was moved to the Canadian Aero Service in Quebec, registered as CF-WGO-X. In 1971 it was sold to Spartan Air Services Ltd, in Ottawa, Ont.

In 1975 42-6480 was sold to Air Dale Ltd out of Sault Ste. Marie, MI. The tail number was changed to C-FWGO and in 1978 it went on exotic lease by Tropic Air under 8P-WGO. In 1983 it returned to Air Dale Ltd. Great Northern Freight bought the plane in 1988 and changed the tail number again. It was leased to Great Bend Sport Para from Jan 91- Dec 94.

In the early 1990’s it operated under Classic Airlines under the registration C-FWGO. 42-6480 was later certified as N603MC and N534BE but N534BE was never taken up until it was bought by TFLM. In 1996 it was purchased by Micheal Chowdry of MAC Flightlease, Portland, Or. Chowdry died in a plane crash and 42-6480 was sold to the EAA Foundation Inc. in Oshkosh, WI in 2001. Then in 2004 it was bought by Robert Odegaard of Kindred, ND where it remained until it was bought by the museum in 2013.


The C-53 was painted in honor of Murray Lawler, a pilot who flew C-47’s and C-53’s during WWII. His son Jim Lawler had the great privilege and joy of traveling in the C-53 for the 70th Anniversary of VE Day Flyover in Washington, D.C. in May 2015. The C-53 marks a very special part of the war effort and the Texas Flying Legends Museum is proud to honor Murray, as well as all those that flew these great planes.

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The Duchess of Dakota

Murray Lawler, a Linton North Dakota native, was a pilot during World War II. He was stationed in Great Britain and took part in D-Day on June 6, 1944. Lawler enlisted in the Army Air Corps in about 1942 and, despite his family's doubts, he passed the corps' test with...
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