Douglas AC-47A Spooky

Updated: September 12, 2008

This is the last model I have built, somewhere in the summer of 2001 or so. Worry not, there are still several galleries left to show. Anyhow ...

Spooky was created to address the dire need of the USAF for an efficient close-support aircraft. In the blooming jet era, speed was everything - and speed was exactly what close support did not require. The modern jets of the era were sleek machines designed to dash at supersonic speed over the battlefield, horribly at disadvantage at low height and slow, near-stall experience that the close combat support demanded. And they drank fuel, too.

Modern jets could loiter above the battlefield for only a few minutes, usually with just a few seconds above the actual hot zone. This made them completely inadequate for prolonged, sustained and precise support of friendly troops in landing zones.

Luckily for Spooky, the ghosts of the Korean War and the fresh sprouts of the Vietnam made for all sorts of budget-unlimited experimentations possible. And thus, amidst the growl of fuel-thirsty turbojets, Spooky was born.

Based on the venerable DC-3, one of the most versatile (and safe) aircraft ever created, it was a simple, sturdy and cheap conversion that promised good results. The cargo hold was emptied of seats and miscellanea and machine guns were mounted instead, looking sideways and downwards. This way, Spooky could cruise above the landing zone and lay down suppressive fire, circle after unending circle.

Alongside another relic, the AD-1 Skyraider, Spooky was one of the more effective CAS platforms in the Vietnam war. They laid down the foundations for the AC-130 Spectre gunship and A-10 Warthog, the USAF's today most important support machines. Spooky still serves well in many Latin American countries, where it is used for raid-style missions, whether against drug lords or various political factions.

As to my model, it proved to be a great little thing, quite precise and detailed, with well made pieces that fit together. The simple lines of the DC-3 fuselage also made it possible to add all sorts of details, making the design even more interesting. My Spooky was 1/72 scale Italeri model.


This time, I was true to the paint scheme the manual suggested. I wanted to made this model as accurate as possible. So I stuck to the Vietnam colors, with bits of touches of my own. The tear-and-wear of the camouflage is my own idea, the effect of field maintenance and harsh weather conditions of forward strips in South-East Asia.

Notice the green-dragonhead-spouting-fire logo near the nose. The letters read PUFF - the first word of the plane's nickname, Puff The Magic Dragon.

AC-47 left front side

AC-47 right front side

I paid special attention to make it look old and used. After applying the normal colors, I used a soft file to rub off some of the paint from the exposed areas, like the wing edges and propellers, and then used diluted silver paint to mimic the bare metal underneath. I even went further with engines, using diluted black and yellow paint, creating an impression of oil stains.

AC-47 engine wear

I think I have done a rather good job. The engine nacelles do look like they have undergone thirty lashes with bamboo canes, plus some unfriendly AA fire from the Vietnamese.

Furthermore, if you take a closer look at the engine pistons, you'll notice the red and copper strips inside. Well, they were not intended to be there, but I had them added, to make the engines look more "real." I am aware that engines usually do not have loose bits of piping strewn about, but the tiny decorations do add a military feel, since it is quite customary to use bright colors to mark pieces of machinery, so they can be more easily recognized by the technicians, both in general - and in the dark, if needed. I used the copper from electrical wires and had them glued to the arms of the star engine.

AC-47 engine wear zoomed

The underside also underwent a heavy abuse. After applying the "normal" color, I used diluted black color to fill in every crevice. Then, I added extra smears near the engine exhausts.

AC-47 bottom

Weapons were also a great fun. I had to mount the Miniguns inside the fuselage with care before gluing the pieces together forever. I made sure to added a touch of gun-metal black to the end of each of six barrels on the three guns, to make sure they looked as real as possible. Again, the wear on the body is clearly evident.

AC-47 weapons 1

AC-47 weapons zoomed

Another bit of customization I went for were the radio antennae. The kit did not have them, so I used silk thread to stretch them out, using authentic photos of real Spookies to find out the proper layout. You can notice one of the antenna on the back, between the dorsal tower and the tail and another below the cockpit.

AC-47 left side

The cockpit was a simple matter, but it fits well into the overall scheme of details. Notice the abundance of funny looking fairing above and behind the cockpit. And that antenna is not crooked - it's how it's supposed to be. You can also enjoy another look of the engines and the propellers.

AC-47 front

AC-47 engines

I must admit the two engines look too feeble for this big plane. Placed so close together, they don't look quite capable of lifting this massive machine into the air. And just for reference, the plane has a 30+ m wingspan!

AC-47 front top

The landing gear was also exceptionally well done. The cast was detailed and extremely sturdy. I hardly needed any glue to fix it into its place. Naturally, I filed off some of the plastic from the tires to make them looked as if they sagged a little under the weight of the plane.

AC-47 landing gear 1

AC-47 landing gear 2

And here are some images that offer a better look into the rather lovely camouflage scheme.

AC-47 left rear side

AC-47 tail

And finally, a comparison to some other models I have made, the Hs-129, which features in another gallery, and the Soviet Pe-2, which I've not yet unveiled.

AC-47 comparison 1

AC-47 comparison 2

That's it. I very much love this model. I think it's well made, with a few unorthodox touches that make it even more authentic. Let's say, 9 out of 10? And although I've made no more models after Spooky, there are still some 5-6 galleries to come.


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