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An O-47B at National Museum of the United States Air Force
Role Observation
Manufacturer North American Aviation
First flight November 1935
Introduction 1937
Primary user United States Army Air Corps
Number built 239[1]

The North American O-47 was an observation fixed-wing aircraft monoplane used by the United States Army Air Corps. It had a low-wing configuration, retractable landing gear and a three-blade propeller.

Design and development

A "red force" O-47B during manoeuvers in 1941.

The O-47 was developed as a replacement for the Thomas-Morse O-19 and Douglas O-38 observation biplanes. It was larger and heavier than most preceding observation aircraft and its crew of three sat in tandem under the long canopy. Windows in the deep belly overcame the obstacle that the wings presented to downward observation and photography. The design for the XO-47 prototype originated in 1934 with General Aviation, a subsidiary of North American Aviation, as the GA-15.[2] The Air Corps ordered 174 O-47s in 1937 to 1938, 93 of which were assigned to National Guard units. In 1938, the Army ordered 74 O-47Bs with a redesigned engine cowling for better cooling, a more powerful engine, and improved radio equipment.

Operational history

Training maneuvers in 1941 demonstrated the shortcomings of the O-47. Light airplanes proved more capable of operating with ground troops, while fighters and twin-engine bombers showed greater ability to perform recon and photo duties. Thus, O-47s during World War II, except for those caught at overseas bases by the Japanese attacks, were relegated to such duties as towing targets, coastal patrol, and anti-submarine patrol.[3]


one built, serial number 36-145 in Dundalk, Maryland, 850 hp (634 kW) Wright R-1820-41 engine[1]
164 built in Inglewood California, Wright R-1820-49 engine
74 built, minor improvements and a 1,060 hp (790 kW) Wright R-1820-57 engine installed,[3] plus an extra 50 gallon fuel tank[1]


United States


  • An O-47A (s/n 37-279; c/n NA25-222) is in storage at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.[5]
  • An O-47A (s/n 38-284; c/n NA25-554) is under restoration at Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California as of August 2013.[6]

Specifications (O-47A)

Data from "United States Military Aircraft Since 1909" [3]

General characteristics

  • Crew: three
  • Length: 33 ft 7 in (10.24 m)
  • Wingspan: 46 ft 4 in (14.1 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 2 in (3.7 m)
  • Wing area: 350 ft2 (32.5 m2)
  • Empty weight: 5,980 lb (2,712.5 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 7,636 lb (3,463.6 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Wright R-1820-49 radial, 975 hp (727 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 221 mph (355.7 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 200 mph (322 km/h)
  • Range: 840 miles (1,352 km)
  • Service ceiling: 23,200 ft (7,071 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,470.8 ft/min (448.3 m/min)


  • 1 × fixed forward-firing .30-cal (7.62 mm) machine gun (200 rounds) in wing
  • 1 × flexible .30-cal (7.62 mm) machine gun (600 rounds) in rear cockpit
  • See also





    1. Acquired in 1978 from Loren L. Florey Jr., of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, the 179th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ohio Air National Guard, Mansfield, Ohio, restored the O-47B.[4]
    1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "U.S. Army Aircraft 1908-1946" by James C. Fahey, 1946, 64pp. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "fahey" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "fahey" defined multiple times with different content
    2. Eden and Moeng 2002, pp. 74–77.
    3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Swanborough and Bowers 1964
    4. 4.0 4.1 "O-47". National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 17 January 2011.
    5. “North American O-47”. “National Air and Space Museum.” Retrieved: 17 January 2011.
    6. “Restoration Projects.” “Planes of Fame.” Retrieved: 17 January 2011.
    • Eden, Paul and Soph Moeng. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. London: Amber Books Ltd., 2002. ISBN 0-7607-3432-1.
    • Fahey, James C. U.S. Army Aircraft 1908-1946. New York: Ships and Aircraft, 1946.
    • Swanborough, F.G. and Peter M. Bowers. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909. New York: Putnam New York, 1964. ISBN 0-85177-816-X.

    External links

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