Douglas DC-4 / C-54
Back to the Virtual Aircraft Museum
  PASSENGERVirtual Aircraft Museum / USA / Douglas  

Douglas DC-4 / C-54

In response to the requirements of five major US airlines, Douglas designed and built the large 52-passenger DC-4, which made its first flight on 7 June 1938. This type was not put into production; instead a smaller unpressurised development was ordered by American, Eastern and United Air Lines. This, too, bore the designation DC-4 and the original aeroplane became the DC-4E. The new aircraft flew on 14 February 1942, by which time the US was at war and all 24 DC-4A built were taken by the armed forces.

The DC-4 had a retractable nosewheel undercarriage and was powered by four 820-1,080kW Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasps. It was, for its time, an ideal long-range heavy logistic transport with a payload of up to 9,980kg. The military production version was the C-54. A total of 207 C-54A were built, followed by increased-capacity C-54B, similar C-54D with Pratt & Whitney R-2000-11 radials, C-54E with convertible cargo/passenger interiors, and C-54G with new engines. Nine hundred and fifty-two Skymasters were completed for the USAAF and 211 for the US Navy which designated them as R5D Skymasters.

Used in all theatres of war, none achieved a more impressive record than those operated by the USAAF's Air Transport Command. With this Command C-54 established the first regular transport service across the North Atlantic, averaging for a long period 20 double-crossings per day. One, the VC-54C-DO Sacred Cow, served as President Roosevelt's special aircraft and a C-54B-1-DO was used by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

After the war Douglas built 79 civil DC-4-1009 and many of the military aircraft became available for airline operation - mostly with 44 seats but later with as many as 86. On 7 March 1946 American Airlines was first to introduce DC-4 on US domestic services, between New York and Los Angeles. However in October 1945 American Overseas Airlines had introduced DC-4 on North Atlantic services.


 ENGINE4 x P+W R-2000-25, 1065kW
    Take-off weight33140 kg73062 lb
    Empty weight20000 kg44093 lb
    Wingspan35.8 m117 ft 5 in
    Length28.6 m94 ft 10 in
    Height8.4 m28 ft 7 in
    Wing area136.0 m21463.89 sq ft
    Max. speed450 km/h280 mph
    Cruise speed365 km/h227 mph
    Ceiling6900 m22650 ft
    Range w/max.fuel6000 km3728 miles
    Range w/max.payload2200 km1367 miles

Douglas DC-4 / C-54

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60 61-80
loomas j marshall, 14.01.2011

Upon landing at Dover, we were escorted to the VIP spot as a VC-54 with a code 7. The Transit Alert Sgt said'" What is this crap VC-54" after seeing the condition of the bird and the plywood floor, I flipped hi the forms and said There's a code 7 as the Col stepped out of the cockpit. more on this flight later.

loomas j marshall, 14.01.2011

I was stationed at Rhein-Main AB Germany from Aug 68 thru july72. Base Flt had 2 c-54s, 9099, a VC model which we received from the Navy in Naples where it served an Admiral for some years. The cabin had a private room for the VIP with table and chairs and two beds. It only had room for 13 passengers. It was also equiped with an electric ladder for remote exit and entrance. The AC was very comfortable to fly.
The other 5 assigned was an old timer 40-590 with 35,000 hrs. which at one time in the past was a PAN AM bird because their logo could be seen faintly over the entrance. When we received the bird it was designated a VC. However we striped the cabin and installed a plywood floor for cargo. Higher Headquarters would not change the VC designation so we were stuck with it. Around 1970 the bird was to be transferred to Davis-Monthan Az for salvage. I was assigned as the Engineer with my favorite pilot, Col James H Newton and my direct OIC Capt Les Ikes. The AC Was na8 tank model but it had a discrepancy: only three fuel gauges worked! The Col had a funny look when I told him but I said "Col I can keep up with the fuel if you want to go." He thought for a second and said OK. walked across the ramp to a C-141 and borrowed a Form -52 Fuel log and off went to Torrejon Spain. After an overnight we departed for the Azores. I refueled the bird and topped off all the tanks to the rim. 3540 Gallons. The Fuel Flow gauges worked just fine so I kept a close count of the fuel remaining and range. We had filed a flt plan for Argentia Newfoundland. Approaching Argentia, The Col asked How much fuel we had remaining and I said 9hrs and forty minutes. He said it's only six hrs to Dover. I said fine, turn left and proceed..
After 13:40 hrs flt time we arrived with 530 Galls of fuel and enough for another two and half hrs flying time. More on this flight later.

Ira Nehring, 06.01.2011

In 1948, my squadron packed all of our equipment into C-54s and flew from Tachikawa, Japan to Weisbaden, Germany, with a stop in the USA to winterize the aircraft. I was a propeller specialist when I arrived at Weisbaden, but after a few check rides I became a crew chief and flight engineer. We moved on up to Celle, in the British Sector and flew coal into Berlin. My aircraft was due for major maintenance in the states at the time I rotated back to the states, so I flew home on it. It was a great aircraft!

Jerry Reed, 29.12.2010

I was a flight eng and crew chief on the SC-54D for Air Rescue in Bermuda and also on CIA loan in Alaska for nav. aid to the U-2's flying over Russia. We had extra bladder fuel tanks and could stay up 14 hours plus special Nav aids.

Denny L. Williams, 13.12.2010

Hi Roy B. I was station in Goose Bay Labrador with 54 th ARS from 1958 to 1960 and I was a flight engineer on the 4 SCH 54 they had. I flew on 42-72536, another number was 527 last number I remember it flew in the Berlin Air Lift. Would like to hear from you. Denny L. Williams.

Art Ladley, 18.11.2010

I was pilot of Coast Guard R5Ds operating out of Barbers Point, Oahu from '57-'60. We flew SAR and Loran support missions to Japan, Korea, the Philippines and many other islands in the Pacific. The R5D was a great machine except for not being pressurized.

Leonard B. Chapman, 13.11.2010

My father, M/Sgt. Leonard J. Chapman, as Flt/Eng. had many hrs. in the C-54, during the CBI and later at Fassberg, Berlin Airlift. He said the German men who unloaded the A/C were the ones who made the job so easy. A very small man would crawl under the floor and vacum out the coal dust.
He joined the Army Air Corps in 1928, spent 3yrs. in Philippines, 1930-40 at March Field, the 6th Ferrying Command at Long Beach. Then India, CBI and Berlin Airlift, back at Long Beach, retired in 1959. Passed away 2005 age 96. Buried Riverside Nat. Cem., near March, like coming home agian.

Wolfgang Boeltzig, 10.11.2010

I was an 8 years old eye-witness of the Berlin Airlift, livin 3.2 km from touch down RWY´s 09 L/R of Tempelhof Air Base. In 1959 I joined the German Air Force and became ATC-controller. As it was forbidden to travel through the Russian Zone, I very often flew with PAA DC 4 to vitit my parents. It was a lovely plane.
During my post as Base Operation Officer in Fassberg, I became one of the foundtors of the magnificant Berlin Airlift Memorial Collection there. Because there is world wide no C 54 model available, I changed C 118 (DC 6) models into SKYMASTERS. They are in display in our beautiful museum in FASSBERG, the former coal base for the supply of Berlin 1948/49.

Randy, 20.09.2010

I was a crew chief/mechanic on C-54's while stationed at Rhein-Main Airvase, Germany from 1962 to 1965. Our was a "SAMS" squadron( Special Air Missions). We had flights all over Europe, Lybia, North Afica etc. We also had regular flights to Berlin and many other points in Germany. A great aircraft! I returned to Germany and visited a small memorial at Frankfurt Airport dedicated to the Berlin Airlift. I have many fond memories of the C-54....all very good memories. Randy

Jay Friedman, 19.09.2010

My first overseas flight was a trip to Europe as a present from my parents following college graduation in 1961. It was a student charter flight in a DC-4. The route was New York-Gander-Shannon-Frankfurt. Coming back a couple of months later the route was Frankfurt-Keflavik-Gander-New York.

Chuck Williams, 28.08.2010

I flew on C-54s out of Kodiak Alaska in 1963. We flew all over Alaska, and down to the lower 48 on "milk and bread" runs. We flew the USO shows out to Adak and Shemia (sp?) Islands, on the Aleutian chain. I flew as an orderly and load-master. We flew with an "all" enlisted crew, which stirred some heads at some of our destinations. One US military base, which will remain nameless, thought we had stolen the aircraft. Chief Drum was the Plane Commander, I believe. We operated two or three C-54s and one HU-16D Albatross. "Big AL" was one of our radio operators. The flight engineers were called "Plane Captains" in those days. I'd love to hear from anyone that was stationed at AMD NS Kodiak Alaska in 1962-63. Chuck Williams AMSC USN Ret.

George Detraz, 19.08.2010

During 1959-1961 while stationed at Patuxtant River MD in VR-1 the Navy called it a R5D. I remember that there were two R5D's, one (last three numbers of the BU NO) was 390. According to the craft log book it had carried coal in the Berlin air lift. When we had it it had been completely refurbished to a VIP craft. It was used to carry high ranking Admirals and Sec Navy etc. The other oas numbered 505. It had been bellied in in Greenland, salvaged and we were using it as a cargo plane. I remember on one trip to GITMO Cuba we ran into a storm and lightening hit us and water was running all over the deck inside. We had passangers and cargo on board. The passengers's eyes were wide open. But we made it safetly. As an Aviation Electrician and certified as an Orderly I spent much time airborne in that craft.

Leroy McVay, 19.06.2010

My last flight in a military fixed wing was a Navy R5D / C54. Head up his butt pilot got us into trouble at Sand Point Naval Air Station, Seattle. Made 4 approached to land under GCA rules. Waved off on #1, too far off course. Approach #2 got on deck, too fast for snow covered runway, full power at last moment, rt gear struck drainage ditch, broke right wing, don't know what held it on. Approach #3 waved off, crash equipment not in position. Stayed on on approach #4, rt wing snapped off, slow rolled to right and slid on top. All hands walked down the ceiling to get out, all okay, no injuries. Testiment to Douglas engineers for a very sturdy plane!

John Hancocks, 14.05.2010

BOAC used the Merlin powered Canadair variant (Argonaut) extensively, I flew as a passenger Heathrow/Accra in one, it was a "lollipop special" in that it was packed with boarding school kids myself included, out to visit parents. Somewhere over the French Alps a pillow flight errupted using the head rests, as battle surged back and forth the skipper asked us to resume our seats, we'd upset the aircraft's trim. It was pressurised and we cruised at 18,000 feet as I recall. The aircraft was said to be underpowered...perhaps this was so for one was lost on that route in rather strange circumstances, it was the subject of much speculation. Anyway, the Argonaut had replaced the Handley Page Hermes - a real lemon - so I suppose anything would have been seen as an improvement.

Bud Smith ADCS USN (Ret), 08.03.2010

Was crew chief for USN Project RAINBO at NAS Anacostia then Project RAM at NAS PT MUGU CA. Flew C-54 Buno 90413,
special project A/C with VIP section aft and electronics package fwd section of the A/C. Flew it all over the US and across the Atlantic to Paris for an International Aerospace medical convention circa 1961. Great memories of
duty in a small special project team.

Eddie Stough, 22.02.2010

Berline Airlift 1948-1949 at Frankfort and Wiesbaden, Germany (333rd Troop Carrier Sqdn.)

Don Wilson, 07.02.2010

Another great airplane that I was priveleged to fly for about 1200 hours, including doing the airlift from the British Zone (Celle) to the French Zone airport in Berlin. That was a dirty job (as we flew nothing but COAL) and the poor aircraft were dirty as we. When overhauls were done at Burtonwwood, England, I heard that as much as a ton of coal dust was removed from underneath the floor boards in the belly. Subsequently I flew the C-54 for admin purposes out of Puerto Rico (Ramey AFB) and other assignements. It was a good airplane but as ALL Douglas products, the designers didn't leave much room for the pilots. In that at the gooney I kept bumping my head on the overhead radio controls getting in and out of the pilot's seat!! Then they came along withe the B-29 and 50 that gave us a cockpit with the windshield about five feet ahead and three feet in front of the instrument panel.

Joe Roberts, 26.01.2010

I was radio officer in C-54s 1943 unil end of WW2 Flying Air Transport Command from Miami to India. Crews were employees of Pan American Airways and the planes were government owned We were not in the US Air Force, but wore military style uniforms and in many respects were treated as military. We carried military cargo and personnel from Miamito Natal, Brazil, to Ascension Island, to Accra, Gold Coast, Africa (now Ghana) across Africa to Chabua, eastern India. Pan Amerian flew four flights a day from Miami on this route. US Air Force aircraft took the passengers and cargo from Chabua into China. The C-54 was a beautiful airplane for its time.

Joe ciavardone, 15.01.2010

When I was in the Air Force I was stationed in Alaska at Elemndorf AFB, and was a flight engineer on General Frank Armstrong's VC-54E, he was head of the Alaska Air Command. he was also the man the picture Twelve O"clock High was about.

Roy b, 08.01.2010

Where did RC-54D tail No. 42-72536 go? She was my bird while in GB Lab. I shipped into Det (2) 48th ARS in 61 and a month later we were 54th ARS. SAC was still doing their "broken Arrows", and I would catch a round robin to Pease (home) on a KC-97 back in 62

1-20 21-40 41-60 61-80

Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?

Name    E-mail


All the World's Rotorcraft

Virtual Aircraft Museum

All rhe World's Rotorcraft AVIATION TOP 100 -