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The Douglas C47, known as the Dakota in the Royal Air Force and Commonwealth services, became the world's best known transport aircraft. The type saw widespread use by the Allies during the Second World War and by Air Forces and airlines post-war.
The C47 Skytrain and C53 Skytrooper were military versions of the DC3 airliner. The DC3 first flew in 1935 and was ordered by America's airlines. With the outbreak of war these aircraft were diverted to the Allied Air Forces, followed by 10000 military variants constructed before production ceased in 1946. Japan and the Soviet Union also built over 2000 unlicensed copies.
The first of over 1900 Dakotas received by the RAF arrived in India in 1942. Dakotas served in every theatre of the war, notably in Burma, during the D-Day landings and the airborne assault on Arnhem in 1944.
Most RAF Dakotas had been retired or sold by 1950, the last active aircraft leaving the service in 1970. The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough operated a former Royal Canadian Air Force example (ZA947) from 1971 until 1993, when it joined the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) took their first deliveries of Douglas Dakota C47s in 1943 and the last of approximately 60 aircraft in 1946. During WWII Dakotas were operated by both the RAF and BOAC.
After the war, BOAC sold the fleet, fourteen of which went to British European Airways when the airline was formed in 1946. One of the Dakotas acted as a testbed for the Rolls-Royce Dart engine before it powered the Vickers Viscount, the world's first turbo-prop aircraft.