Military Wiki
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]
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-engined 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

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 derivative. Before the definitive DC-4 could enter service the outbreak of World War II meant production was channeled to the United States Army Air Forces and the type was given the military designation C-54 Skymaster, with US Navy aircraft designated Douglas R5D. The first aircraft, 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 be of constant cross-section for most of its length, so it could be easily 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 2011. An example 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 Airlines (Oakland, California) was the largest civil operator of the C-54/DC-4.

Aerolíneas Argentinas DC-4 preparing for take-off 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 unpressurized.

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, post-war.
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 film.

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 aircraft, is portrayed in one of the first stamps of independent India in 1947. This stamp was meant for foreign airmail.

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 believed to be 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] and operated by Skyclass Aviation,[8] a company specializing in classic airliner charters to exotic destinations in Africa. A 1944 built DC-4 is currently being restored in New South Wales, Australia.[9] Buffalo Airways in Canada operates roughly a dozen DC-4s (former C-54s of various versions) for hauling cargo and aerial firefighting.

Specifications (DC-4-1009)

DC4 Silh.jpg

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4
  • Capacity: Up to 86 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 × 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)

See also


  1. "History: DC-4/C-54 Skymaster Transport." Boeing. Retrieved: December 4, 2011.
  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.
  6. Blewett 2007, p. 101.
  7. "DC-4." South African Airways Museum Society. Retrieved: December 13, 2010.
  8. "Skyclass Aviation." Retrieved: December 21, 2010.
  9. Morgan, Ben. "Engineering Underway on the Douglas DC4." Retrieved: September 21, 2011.
  • 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

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