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Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4) - United States (1942)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4) Military Transport Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 10/18/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4)  
Picture of Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4) Military Transport Aircraft

The C-54 Skymaster was a pivotal American aircraft serving actively throughout the Berlin Airlift.

Derived from the commercial DC-4 airliner, the C-54 Skymaster was a workhorse transport aircraft for both the United States Army and the United States Navy branches of service. Planned as a technologically superior successor to the DC-3 type, the early DC-4 design suffered through growing pains of burgeoning pressurization technology, proving too much to handle and well ahead of its time. As such, the DC-4 design went back to a simplified un-pressurized version that would become the basis for the C-54 for Army use and the R5D for Navy usage.

Design of the DC-4 type consisted primarily of a sleek fuselage and began as early as 1935, though production elements were not delivered till 1942. Even then, the early models destined for civilian transport use were rerouted and enlisted for military service. Four Pratt & Whitney brand radials were mounted on the low monoplane wing assembly. A single ventral vertical surface was set on the tail section in place of the twin fins found on the early DC-4E models. Crew accommodations amounted to 4, with seating for up to 86 civilian passengers and an additional four in-flight service crew.

The system saw extensive service for both US branches and appeared in a variety of forms, differing in powerplant usage and number of passenger seats. Some dedicated troop and cargo transports existed with US President Roosevelt's own VIP version known as the "Sacred Cow" - utilized as a personal transport throughout the war. Post war service amounted to high utilization during the Berlin Airlift as well as serving in further models as a civil passenger airliner in later years.

Picture of the Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4) Military Transport Aircraft
Picture of the Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4) Military Transport Aircraft

Any available statistics for the Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4) Military Transport Aircraft are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).

Cockpit picture from the Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4) Military Transport Aircraft
Douglas C-54 Skymaster (DC-4) Cockpit Picture

Douglas C-54A (R5D-1) Skymaster Specifications

Service Year: 1942
Type: Military Transport Aircraft
National Origin: United States
Manufacturer(s): Douglas Aircraft Company - USA
Total Production: 1,170

Operating Crew, Dimensions and Operating Weights

Operating Crew (Typical): 4
Overall Length: 93.50 feet (28.5 meters)
Overall Width: 117.45 feet (35.80 meters)
Overall Height: 27.56 feet (8.40 meters)

Weight (Empty): 38,934 lb (17,660 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 72,753 lb (33,000 kg)

Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

Engine: 4 x Pratt & Whitney E-2000-7 "Twin Wasp" air-cooled radial piston engines developing 1,290 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 275 miles-per-hour (442 kilometers-per-hour; 239 knots)
Maximum Range: 3,977 miles (6,400 kilometers; 3,456 nautical miles)
Service Ceiling: 22,310 feet (6,800 meters; 4.23 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload


Global Operators (A-to-Z)

United States

Series Model Variants

DC-4 - Base Series Designation
DC-4E - Pressurized Model to succeed the DC-3; increased range; fitted with 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-2000-2SD1-G Twin Wasp engines; later changed to unpressurized type for technical reasons.
C-54 "Skymaster" - United States Army Base Series Designation; 26 passenger type; R-2000-7 radial engines; 26 total examples.
C-54A - Fully militarized US Army type; R-2000-7 engines; 50 passenger seating.
C-54B - US Army version; implemented wing tanks.
C-54D - US Army version; R-2000-11 radials.
C-54E - US Army version; redesigned fuel tanks; dual-role passenger/cargo handler.
C-54G - US Army version; dedicated troop carrier.
R5D - United States Navy Base Series Designation.
R5D-1 - Fully militarized USN type; R-2000-7 engines; 50 passenger seating.
R5D-2 - USN version; implemented wing tanks.
R5D-3 - USN version; R-2000-11 radials.
R5D-4 - USN version; redesigned fuel tanks; dual-role passenger/cargo handler.
R5D-5 - USN version; dedicated troop carrier.

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