Aircraft By Type

Aircraft Make & Model:
Douglas C-47
173 mph
HP or Thrust:
No. flown by DL:
All-cargo flights in 1947 initially between Atlanta, Cincinnati and Chicago.
First Delivery:
November 6, 1945
First Scheduled Service:
Reason Aquired:
Cargo capacity for Delta's new air freight service.
Last Retirement:
Reason Disposed:
Not enough capacity to remain competitive.

Narrative:  Douglas C-47 1946-1957

Modified version of the Douglas DC-3 with a reinforced fuselage floor and large cargo door. Delta acquired these military surplus "Flying Freighters" to support new cargo services as World War II ended.

Delta established a Cargo Department in 1945. Became the first airline to fly living vegetable plants with an experimental shipment of 160,000 live tomato plants in an "unconverted military freighter." Cargo bins of 21-passenger DC-3 aircraft bulged with "air express" shipments of newspapers, shrimp and small packages.

Once wartime restrictions eased, Delta officially launched its air freight business on August 15, 1946. Rates were approximately 60 percent cheaper than air express. All-cargo C-47 were operated whenever a shipment or combination of shipments was too heavy or too large for the cargo bins of the DC-3 and DC-4 passenger planes. 

Scheduled C-47 all-cargo flights started on April 1, 1947. With initial service between Atlanta, Cincinnati and Chicago, Delta offered the first all-cargo scheduled service between the northern U.S. and Atlanta. Frequent early shipments included magazines, shrimp, mushrooms, flowers and car parts. Air freight, air mail and air express continued to be carried on regular passenger plane flights.

By the mid-1950s, the C-47 was too small for Delta's cargo service which had grown 724 percent from 1947 to 1956. Delta replaced the C-47 in 1957 with all-cargo Curtiss C-46 freighters that had double the payload capacity.

Fleet List

Delta operated a fleet of three Douglas C-47 all-cargo aircraft:

  • Ship 53, registration NC86553, serial no. 4715
    • Delivered November 10, 1945; out of service March 14, 1963.
    • Leased from Reconstruction Finance Co.; ex-USAAF C-47-DL, 41-18590.
    • Purchased October 3, 1949.
    • Sold to Jack Adams Aircraft Sales.
  • Ship 59, registration NC51359, serial 13759
    • Delivered May 1, 1947; in service July 20, 1947; out of service June 15, 1954.
    • Purchased from the War Assets Administration (WAA); ex-USAAF C-47A-DK, 42-93804.
    • Ground accident at Atlanta (ATL), insurance write off and scrapped.
  • Ship 61, registration N57539, serial 9037
    • Delivered January 20, 1949; in service March 1, 1949; out of service September 11, 1959.
    • Purchased from L.B. Smith Aircraft Corp.; ex-USAAF C-47-DL, 42-32811.
    • Sold to Delta Leasing Corp., Delta Air Base, Charlotte, NC.
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