The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Gulf Coast Wing has had a challenging year and a half after the loss of their Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Texas Raiders and her crew in November 2022. Despite these hardships, the unit decided to move forward with exciting plans, which were announced to the membership via newsletter. After consulting with their members, who overwhelmingly supported the idea, the Gulf Coast Wing leadership decided to add a new, large aircraft to their fleet. As a consequence, the unit announced an interest in obtaining a AC-47 gunship.
A USAF Douglas AC-47D Spooky gunship of the 4th Special Operations Squadron in Vietnam, circa in 1968. [Image via Wikipedia]
The Douglas AC-47 was the first fixed-wing gunship developed by the USAF during the Vietnam War. It was engineered to offer greater firepower than light and medium ground-attack aircraft, particularly in situations where ground forces needed close air support. Essentially a standard Douglas C-47 converted to carry heavy weapons including miniguns on the port side, the type was given several colorful nicknames by both USAF crews and USAF servicemen such as Spooky and Puff The Magic Dragon. Later iterations of the gunship concept pioneered by the AC-47 included conversions of the Fairchild C-119 and Lockheed C-130, modern versions of which still serve with the USAF today.
The DC-3 was operated for several years as a freighter with the IFL Group and later Corporate Express. Regsitered N514AC, she is pictured here at Pontiac, MI in June 1994. [Photo by Michael Prophet]
The Gulf Coast Wing decided to tell the story of the AC-47 and the unit’s search led them to an exciting find – a C-47 already partially configured as an AC-47 located near Atlanta, Georgia appropriately named Spooky. The aircraft initially was transferred to the Navy as an R4D-6 with the BuNo. 50788 and left military service in 1958, registered with the Federal Aviation Administration as N49, later holding registrations N2006J and N235GB with different owners. Eventually it was acquired by the Lone star Flight Museum in Texas as part of Rick Sharp’s Vietnam War Flight Museum collection. In July 2014 the Collings Foundation of Stow, MA acquired Spooky and, following an extensive overhaul, it completed its first post-overhaul flight on March 29, 2020.
Spooky tucked away in an hangar at the Atlanta Motorspeedway Airport. [Photo via CAF Gulf Coast Wing]
The CAF leadership and the American Airpower Heritage Museum Board have approved the purchase and necessary restoration to bring it up to the organization’s standards. This aircraft not only fits the unit’s needs, it aligns as as well with the CAF’s vision to expand beyond WWII.  This addition is particularly special as it allows the Gulf Coast Wing to connect with Vietnam veterans, whose stories are a vital part of the CAF mission and are still being told firsthand. The unit’s aim is to honor these stories and integrate the Vietnam era more deeply into their activities.
The decision to acquire a large aircraft aligns with the unit’s goal to involve more members in both flying and maintaining the aircraft, and it will help the Gulf Coast Wing to participate in more airshows and public events.
To learn more about the CAF Gulf Coast Wing you can visit their website or check out their page on Facebook.