Planes of the Past - Douglas Aircraft Company and McDonnell Douglas - Part 4

Welcome to Part 4 of Planes of the Past - Douglas Aircraft Company and McDonnell Douglas and in this topic we are going to talk about


The Douglas DC-4 is a four-engine (piston) propeller-driven airliner developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Military versions of the plane, the C-54 and R5D, served during World War II, in the Berlin Airlift and into the 1960s. From 1945, many civil airlines operated the DC-4 worldwide.


Following proving flights by United Airlines of the DC-4E it was soon obvious the 52-seat airliner was too large to operate economically and the partner airlines[American Airlines,Eastern Airlines,Pan Am and Trans World]recommended a long list of changes required to the design. Douglas took the new requirement and produced a new design, the DC-4A, with a simpler unpressurised fuselage, R-2000 Twin Wasp engines and a single fin and rudder.

With the entry of the United States into World War II, in June 1941 the War Department took over the provision orders for the airlines and allocated them to the United States Army Air Forces with the designation C-54 Skymaster. The first, a C-54, flew from Clover Field in Santa Monica, California on 14 February 1942.

To meet military requirements the first production aircraft had four additional auxiliary fuel tanks in the main cabin which reduced the passenger seats to 26. The following batch of aircraft were designated C-54A and were built with a stronger floor, cargo door with a hoist and winch. The first C-54A was delivered in February 1943. With the introduction of the C-54B in March 1944 the outer wings were changed to hold integral fuel tanks allowing two of the cabin tanks to be removed, this allowed 49-seats (or 16 stretchers) to be fitted. The C-54C was a hybrid for Presidential use, it had a C-54A fuselage with four cabin fuel tanks and the C-54B wings with built in tanks to achieve maximum range.

The most common variant was the C-54D which entered service in August 1944, it was a C-54B with more powerful R-2000-11 engines. With the C-54E the last two cabin fuel tanks were moved to the wings which would allow more freight or 44 passenger seats.

A total of 1,163 C-54/R5Ds were built for the United States military between 1942 and January 1946; another 79 DC-4s were built postwar. A variant, equipped to fly over 40% faster, was built in Canada postwar as the Canadair North Star.

Operational History

The DC-4/C-54 proved a popular and reliable type, 1245 being built between May 1942 and August 1947, including 79 postwar DC-4s. Several remain in service as of 2014. One current operator is Buffalo Airways of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Douglas continued to develop the type during the war in preparation for a return to airline use when peace returned. The type’s sales prospects were affected when 500 wartime ex military C-54s and R5Ds came onto the civil market, many being converted to DC-4 standard by Douglas. DC-4s were a favorite of charter airlines such as Great Lakes Airlines, North American Airlines, Universal Airlines and Transocean Airlines. In the 1950s Transocean (Oakland, California) was the largest civil C-54/DC-4 operator.

Douglas produced 79 new-build DC-4s between January 1946 and August 9, 1947, the last example being delivered to South African Airways. Pressurization was an option, but all civil DC-4s (and C-54s) were built un-pressurized.

Purchasers of new-build DC-4s included Pan American Airways, National Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Western Airlines in the USA, and KLM Royal Dutch Air Lines, Scandinavian Airlines System, Iberia Airlines of Spain, Swissair, Air France, Sabena Belgian World Airlines, Cubana de AviaciĂłn, Avianca, AerolĂ­neas Argentinas, Aeropostal of Venezuela (1946) and South African Airways overseas. Several airlines used new-build DC-4s to start scheduled transatlantic flights between Latin America and Europe. Among the earliest were AerolĂ­neas Argentinas (1946), Aeropostal of Venezuela (1946), Iberia Airlines of Spain (1946), and Cubana de AviaciĂłn (1948).

Basic prices for a new DC-4 in 1946-7 was around ÂŁ140,000-ÂŁ160,000. In 1960 used DC-4s were available for around ÂŁ80,000.



Initial prototype. One built.
Postwar passenger model. This civil model could carry up to 88 passengers.
Postwar freight model.
Civilian model designation for the C-54 Skymaster.
DC-4M-1X North Star
The initial prototype that was later part of the TCA order.
DC-4M-2/3 North Star
Four-engined civil transport aircraft for Trans Canada Airlines, powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin 622 piston engines. A total of 20 built for Trans-Canada Airlines. Also known as the North Star M2-3.
DC-4M-2/4 North Star
Four-engined civil transport aircraft for Trans Canada Airlines, powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin 624 piston engines. Also known as the North Star M2-4.
DC-4M-2/4C North Star
DC-4M-2/4 North Star cargo conversions done between 1954-1961. Also known as the North Star M2-4C.
DC-4M-1 North Star Mk M1
Six aircraft operated by Trans Canada Airlines, on loan from the RCAF.
C-4 Argonaut
A total of 22 built for use by BOAC.
North Star C-4-1
Four aircraft identical to BOAC’s Argonauts built to Canadian Pacific Airlines specifications. Also known as the Canadair Four
North Star C-4-1C
North Star C-4-1s converted into freight or cargo aircraft.
C-5 North Star
One RCAF VIP transport version powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial piston engines.
Canadair model number for the DC-4M-1X, DC-4M-2/3, DC-4M-2/4 and C-54GM North Star.
Canadair model number for the C-4 Argonaut and C-4-1 Canadair Four.
Canadair model number for the sole C-5 North Star.
Aviation Traders Carvair
Starting in 1959, 21 DC-4s and C-54s found new life as ATL-98 Carvairs. The Carvair was designed to carry 22 passengers and five automobiles. This was accomplished by extending the fuselage, moving the cockpit above the fuselage, adding a side-opening nose, and enlarging the vertical stabilizer to offset the larger forward fuselage. These aircraft served as flying ferries well into the 1970s, and two are still airworthy as of March 2008 - one each in Texas and South Africa.


First production variant adapted from DC-4, 24 built.
First military version with strengthened airframe, increased fuel capacity, provision for passengers or cargo, Navy equivalent R5D-1, 252 built.
Optional designation for C-54As used for medical evacuation.
Redesignation for “obsolete” C-54As.
One ZC-54A converted for flight testing.
Increased fuel capacity in the wing, One was used by Winston Churchill, 220 built.
One C-54A converted as Presidential transport version (Sacred Cow colloq.) delivered to Air Transport Command in June 1944 for Franklin D. Roosevelt and used by Harry Truman (officially retired July 1961, transferred to “National Air Museum of the Smithsonian Institution” on December 4, 1961)
Same as C-54B but with R-2000-11 engines, 380 built.
Small number of aircraft modified with special electronic calibration and communications equipment. The aircraft were redesignated EC-54D.
Redesignation of the AC-54D.
HC-54D Rescuemaster
Redesignation of the SC-54D.
Nine C-54Ds temporary converted for missile tracking and nose-cone recovery.
38 aircraft converted by Convair, as search and rescue aircraft. Later redesignated HC-54D.
C-54Ds converted into multi-engine training aircraft.
C-54Ds converted into VIP transport aircraft.
C-54Ds converted for weather reconnaissance.
Further revision to fuel tanks and provision for rapid conversion from passenger to cargo, 125 built.
C-54Es converted for airways calibration, redesignated EC-54E in 1962.
AC-54E redesignated in 1962.
SC-54E redesignated in 1962.
C-54E converted for air-sea rescue, redesignated HC-54E in 1962.
C-45Es converted as a staff transport
Proposed experimental paratroop version, not built
Same as C-54E but with different version of the R2000 engine. 400 ordered of which 162 were completed ", remainder cancelled.
SC-54G redesignated in 1962.
C-54Gs used for temporary testing.
C-54Gs converted for air-sea rescue, redesignated HC-54G in 1962.
C-54Gs converted into VIP/staff transport aircraft.
C-54GM North Star Mk 1
Four-engined military transport aircraft for the RCAF, powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin 620 piston engines. A total of 24 built for RCAF transport use, (the first six actually modified DC-4s).
C-54GM North Star Mk M1 ST
North Star Mk M1s converted into passenger transport aircraft.
Paratroop transport. None built.
Staff transport project, none built. Navy designation R5D-6.
Long range version, one aircraft built with Wright R-1820 engines.
One C-54A aircraft tested in 1947 with an experimental fuel system.
Specialized modification of C-54 to carry coal during the Berlin Airlift, 38 conversions.
Specialized modification of C-54E for medical evacuation, 30 conversions.
Single MC-54M converted to a VIP transport.
R5D-1Z redesignated in 1962.
R5D-2 redesignated in 1962.
R5D-2Z redesignated in 1962.
R5D-3 redesignated in 1962.
R5D-3Z redesignated in 1962.
R5D-4R redesignated in 1962.
R5D-5 redesignated in 1962.
R5D-5Z redesignated in 1962.
R5D-5R redesignated in 1962.
R5D-4 redesignated in 1962.
R5D-3P redesignated in 1962.
56 C-54As transferred to the United States Navy.
R5D-1s modified in US Navy service, with a fuel system based on the one used in the C-54B.
Naval staff transport conversions of the R5D-1, redesignated R5D-1Z then VC-54N.
Interim designation of the R5D-1F.
30 C-54Bs transferred to the United States Navy, redesignated C-54P in 1962.
Naval staff transport conversion of the R5D-2, redesignated R5D-2Z then VC-54P in 1962.
Interim designation of the R5D-2F.
R5D-2 converted to a radar and radio testbed with a dorsal mast and wingtip pods.
95 C-54Ds transferred to the United States Navy, redesignated C-54Q in 1962.
Photo survey conversions of the R5D-3, redesignated RC-54V in 1962.
Naval staff transport conversions of the R5D-3, redesignated VC-54Q in 1962.
20 C-54Es transferred to the United States Navy, redesignated EC-54U in 1962.
Passenger only conversion of the R5D-4, redesignated C-54R in 1962.
R5D-2 and R5D-3s re-engined to approximate C-54G standards, redesignated C-54S in 1962.
Passenger only conversion of the R5D-5, redesignated C-54T in 1962, 86 conversion.
Staff transport conversion of the R5D-5, redesignated VC-54S in 1962.
Proposed USN version of the C-54J with passenger interior, not built.
Pressurized variant of the C-54B with Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines. None built.
As XC-112. One built. Developed into DC-6 / C-118 family. Later redesignated YC-112A.
Stretched C-54E powered by Allison V-1710 engines. One built.
XC-114 with Packard V-1650 engines. None Built.
XC-114 with thermal de-icing rather than rubber boots for testing, one built.
Skymaster I
Royal Air Force designation for 22 C-54Ds.

Very few DC-4s remain in service today. The last two passenger DC-4s operating worldwide are based in Johannesburg, South Africa. They fly with old South African Airways (SAA) colors. They are ZS-AUB “Outeniqua” and ZS-BMH “Lebombo” and are owned by the South African Airways Museum Society and operated by Skyclass Aviation, a company specializing in classic and VIP charters to exotic destinations in Africa. A 1944 built DC-4 is currently being restored in New South Wales, Australia. Buffalo Airways in Canada’s Northwest Territories owns roughly a dozen DC-4s (former C-54s of various versions) 4 for hauling cargo and 3 for aerial firefighting. A 1945 built DC-4 (C-54E) c/n 27370 is currently operating as a flying museum to the Berlin Airlift. Called the “Spirit of Freedom”, it has been touring the world for nearly 20 years. Alaska Air Fuel also operates two DC4s out of Palmer, Alaska. One ex-Buffalo DC4 (N55CW c/n 10673, currently registered to AIRCRAFT GUARANTY CORP TRUSTEE) is fitted with spray bars on top of the wings and is currently based in Florida on standby for oil pollution control.

Specifications (DC-4-1009)
Crew: four
Capacity: 40 to 80 passengers
Length: 93 ft 10 in (28.6 m)
Wingspan: 117 ft 6 in (35.8 m)
Height: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
Wing area: 1,460ft² (135.6 m²)
Empty weight: 43,300 lb (19,640 kg)
Loaded weight: 63,500 lb (28,800 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 73,000 lb (33,100 kg)
Powerplant: 4 Ă— Pratt & Whitney R-2000 radial engine, 1,450 hp (1,081 kW) each
Maximum speed: 280 mph (450 km/h)
Cruise speed: 227 mph/197kts (365 km/h)
Range: 4,250 mi (6,839 km)
Service ceiling: 22,300 ft (6,800 m)
Wing loading: 43.5 lb/ft² (212.4 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 10.9 lb/hp (6.6 kg/kW)

The DC-4 was a huge update from the DC-3 and since the capacity was also more then double and is also used today as is DC-3

Source -

Source - File:Douglas DC-4 Flying Dutchman.jpg - Wikipedia

Source - File:SAS DC-4 cabin.jpg - Wikipedia

Source - File:Pacific Western Airlines DC-4.jpg - Wikipedia

Source - File:Canadair North Star CASM 2012 1.jpg - Wikipedia

Source - File:SpiritOfFreedom.jpg - Wikipedia

This topic was created by @B747fan with the help of Wikipedia and now I will begin working on DC-5 , Link to the previous topic -


Nice, Topic! Keep these up, sorry thought this was a request Lol.


There will be a special topic within 3 hours

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Nice aircraft, although I do prefer the nice, modern aircraft we have today. Having been on the Airbus’, and Boeing’s of nowadays, I don’t think I would have the courage to go on one of these oldies unless it is very well maintained, and looked after.

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