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Douglas DC-4

Douglas DC-4 of Pacific Western Airlines in 1959
Role Airliner/transport aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
First flight 14 February 1942 (production series)[1]
Status Active
Produced 1942 – August 1947
Number built 80[2] DC-4 and 1,163 C-54/R5D
Developed from Douglas DC-4E
Variants C-54 Skymaster
Canadair North Star
Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair
Developed into Douglas DC-6

The Douglas DC-4 is a four-engine (piston) propeller-driven airliner developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company. It served during World War II, in the Berlin Airlift and into the 1960s in a military role. From 1945, many civil airlines operated it worldwide.


  • Design and development 1
  • Operational history 2
  • Variants 3
  • Notable appearances in media 4
  • Operators 5
  • Accidents and incidents 6
  • Survivors 7
  • Specifications (DC-4-1009) 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Design and development

After the DC-4E proved to be complicated to maintain and uneconomical, Douglas responded to the Eastern and United requests for a smaller and simpler replacement. Before the definitive DC-4 could enter service, the outbreak of World War II caused production to be channeled to the United States Army Air Forces whose aircraft were designated C-54 Skymaster, with US Navy aircraft designated Douglas R5D. The first, a C-54, flew from Clover Field in Santa Monica, California on 14 February 1942.

The DC-4's tricycle landing gear allowed its fuselage to have a constant cross-section for most of its length, so it could easily be stretched into the later DC-6 and DC-7. 1,163 C-54/R5Ds were built for the United States military between 1942 and January 1946; 79 DC-4s were built postwar.

C54E-DC VH-PAF, Archerfield, 2007.

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.[3]

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.

Aerolíneas Argentinas DC-4 preparing for takeoff at Buenos Aires international airport, ca. 1958.

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 Aviación, Avianca, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeropostal of Venezuela (1946) and South African Airways overseas.[4] Several airlines used new-build DC-4s to start scheduled transatlantic flights between Latin America and Europe. Among the earliest were Aerolíneas Argentinas (1946), Aeropostal of Venezuela (1946), Iberia Airlines of Spain (1946), and Cubana de Aviación (1948).

Basic prices for a new DC-4 in 1946-7 was around £140,000-£160,000. In 1960 used DC-4s were available for around £80,000.[5]


Cabin of a Scandinavian Airlines System DC-4 during a domestic evening service in Norway in 1953
Main production airliner, postwar.
Canadair North Star
Canadian production of a Rolls-Royce Merlin - powered variant, plus a single Pratt & Whitney R-2800 - powered aircraft.

Notable appearances in media

The DC-4 featured extensively in the 1954 John Wayne motion picture The High and the Mighty.

A DC-4 appears as the "Amalgamated" airliner that must be piloted by stewardess Doris Day in the 1956 thriller Julie.

The DC-4 was used for the 1957 thriller Zero Hour!.


The Douglas DC-4 Skymaster is depicted on this 1946 U.S. Airmail stamp. The DC-4 was used extensively for airmail service.

Accidents and incidents


A DC-4 painted in the KLM "Flying Dutchman" scheme of the Dutch Dakota Association, Lelystad, Holland

Very few DC-4s remain in service today.[6] 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[7][8] and operated by Skyclass Aviation,[9] 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.[10] Buffalo Airways in Canada operates roughly a dozen DC-4s (former C-54s of various versions) for hauling cargo and 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.[11]

Specifications (DC-4-1009)

General characteristics


See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. ^ a b "History: Products: DC-4/C-54 Skymaster Transport".  
  2. ^ Piston Engine Airliner Production List 1996
  3. ^ Stapleton, Rob. "Brooks Fuel keeps Alaska supplied using legacy aircraft." Alaska Journal of Commerce, August 15, 2009. Retrieved: August 26, 2009.
  4. ^ Berry 1967, pp. 70–73.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Blewett 2007, p. 101.
  7. ^ Outeniqua" Douglas DC-4 1009 ZS-AUB c/n 42984""". South African Airways Museum Society. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  8. ^ Lebombo" Douglas DC-4 1009 ZS-BMH c/n 43157""". South African Airways Museum Society. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "Portfolios: SkyClassic". SkyClass Aviation. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2015. 
  10. ^ Morgan, Ben. "Engineering Underway on the Douglas DC4." Retrieved: September 21, 2011.
  11. ^ "Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation". Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  • Berry, Peter et al. The Douglas DC-4. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1967.
  • Blewett, R. Survivors. Coulsden, UK: Aviation Classics, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9530413-4-3.
  • Francillon, René. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-87021-428-4.
  • Pearcy, Arthur. Douglas Propliners: DC-1–DC-7. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1995. ISBN 1-85310-261-X.
  • Yenne, Bill. McDonnell Douglas: A Tale of Two Giants. Greenwich, Connecticut: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-517-44287-6.

External links

  • Vintage Wings of Canada Canadair North Star showing RR Merlin installation
  • magazine photos by Eliot Elisofon of first production batch of DC-4s being completed (partly outdoors) as military C-54s (note absence of cargo door on these), and including early air-to-air photos of 42-10237 the first DC-4/C-54 to flyLife
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