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C-47B-30-DK c/n 33180, 44-76848

R4D-7 BuNo 99832


Last modified 1/2/13


Our N91375, C/N 33180 (16432/33180), was ordered as USAAF C-47B-30-DK 44-76848; completed as a TC-47B-30-DK navigation trainer; and diverted to the U.S. Navy as R4D-7, BuNo. 99832. In 1962 it was redesignated a TC-47K.

This was Item 20 on D.O.D. sale IFB 49-6034, and we paid $8,888.66. Before the sale Father went to AZ to inspect the airplanes and his handwritten notes said: “A+, #1 choice, Beautiful. Has center section doublers; complete main gear; ferryable fabric. Needs fuel boost pumps, oil coolers, some work on tail strut.” Many other small parts were missing but Father only listed the main things.

D.O.D. notes said: “Navy TC-47K/R4D-7, Bureau No. 99832. Has been subjected to reclamation. Instrument panel, landing and tail gear, lavatory, autopilot, communications and navigation equipment are incomplete. Fabric poor. Loose material stored in aircraft. Parts and components missing including engines, propellers, engine mounts, and cockpit glass. Total airframe hrs: 7163.  Hrs. since overhaul: 1368”

As you can see, this was Father’s #1 choice of the 32 airplanes there, but his pleasure was short-lived. We had hired Haynes Burrus to make the first flight, taking N91375 from the Litchfield Park N.A.F. to Litchfield Park Airport, a short distance north. Burrus was a 13,500 hour pilot with 2,800 hours in DC-3’s and had flown our TBM’s on spray contracts. He was also type rated in the Lockheed L-18 Lodestar, and Douglas B-18 and B-26.

Burrus and copilot Charles Kough took off, and a short time later we saw a column of black smoke in their direction. Soon the Navy fellow in charge of our work area at the base came speeding toward us with the bad news and the good news. Our airplane had burned up on the ground but both pilots were uninjured.

You can read Burrus’ accident report, but here’s more of the story. When they smelled smoke, he reduced power on #2. Kough checked the electrical area and didn’t find anything, and by now there was no smoke or odor. Burrus assumed there had been a bird nest or something in the heat duct that runs from the heat intensifier tube in the exhaust tailpipe, to the cabin; that it had caught fire; and that it had burned out now and “no problem.” He brought the power back up and landed on two engines.

The photos below were taken by a Navy or Air Force photographer, who gave them to us.
Click on photos to enlarge

Douglas DC-3 TC-47K, R4D-7, Bureau No. 99832

Douglas DC-3 N91375, cn 33180, R4D-7, TC-47K

Douglas C-47B, TC-47B, R4D-7, TC-47K, DC-3

USAAF Douglas C-47B-30-DK 44-76848, TC-47B-30-DK

Why do I always think of the line, "Lay down your head, Tom Dooley, lay down your head and cry" when I see this photo?

After landing, and while still on the runway, it became clear that #2 had quit and was on fire. They attempted to restart it, and turned the fuel boost pump on. Burrus instructed Kough to get the fire extinguisher and attempt to put the fire out. However, Kough had to exit through the main entrance, meaning that he had to open the forward cargo door.

Burrus had #1 engine cranked up to keep the generator putting out so he could keep turning #2, and Kough couldn’t open the cargo door against the wind blast. He shouted at Burrus and had him pull the power back, and finally got out. He only had a small co2 bottle that gave one short “poof” and did nothing more than spit on the fire. By now the engine was engulfed in flames, so Burrus shut #1 down and they abandoned the aircraft on the runway.

T-38’s in the pattern at Luke AFB saw the fire and alerted their crash crew, who soon arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire with foam. By then the aircraft was totally destroyed. You could walk through the cargo door area and only pick your feet up for the rudder and elevator control cables. You can see how much of the tail was left!

Father flew out from PA, and the FAA came to investigate. The fuel and oil, Aeroquip type hoses, had fire sleeve over them. It was determined that the hose itself had leaked fuel into the fire sleeve and that vapors had escaped and were ignited. They had heard of something like that happening before.


As you can see from the photos, #1 engine was undamaged. We replaced all the hoses and installed it on the next P&W powered aircraft, C/N 26618, N91374. Events that followed proved that we had misdiagnosed the cause of the fire, but you can read about that in the notes on that aircraft.

There were drops of aluminum on the approach end of the runway, meaning that the fire was already hot enough that the cowling was melting and dripping!

The foam that the firemen used was very effective. The tops of the four, 200-gallon fuel tanks were melted off but there was still fuel in them as they lay on the ground. We started cleanup after the investigation. As I understand, the foam was made from dried animal blood and after a couple of days in the Arizona sun it took on quite an odor and drew weenie flies. It was a mess!

We took #2 engine to Remmert Werner in St. Louis for repair. They replaced the back end of the engine because of fire and heat damage and ran it in a test cell. It performed fine until the last time acceleration test at the end of their run – when it seized up. Better there, than on the first takeoff after we had installed it on another airplane!

After the fire we bought c/n 26224 which became our N3706A. We'll cover it third in this series.

Ferry permits were much easier to get in 1966 than they are now, and with fewer restrictions. Fortunately however, we didn't need to explain how the heavy steel engine stands that we used to truck the QEC's, and which are visible in the photos, fit the "no cargo" stipulation of the ferry permit. You can see at the top of the form that we were in the transition from the CAA to the FAA!

Note that there, and on our registration certificate, the aircraft was identified as serial number 99832, the USN Bureau Number, instead of by C/N 33180.

End of story – and a sad ending for the airplane that Father had called “A+, #1, Beautiful.” I never heard him complain though, because he didn’t do much of that.

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