The third Douglas DC-4 was built as an airliner but was delivered to the U. S. Army in war paint as a C-54.
THE Douglas DC-4 Sky-master, which was produced for the U.S. Army as the C-54, was the most widely used four-engine transport and cargo plane of World War II, with 953 planes built in seven Army versions. Surprisingly, though, the plane didn't originate as a military airplane.
Early in 1936, five U.S. airlines put up $100,000 each to help Douglas develop a new, long-range airliner, the DC-4, that would meet their antici pated requirements. Two airlines soon backed out, but the DC-4 was completed and flown in June 1938. Its powerplants were new 1,450hp Pratt & Whitney R-2180-S1 A1-Gs; its wing-span was 138 feet, 3 inches; and its gross weight was 65,000 pounds. It proved to be too difficult to maintain, however, and with a passenger capacity of only 52, it wasn't cost-effective. After the DC-4 was tested on the three airlines' routes, the airlines and Douglas decided to develop a smaller, more efficient model, still called DC-4. The original was then redesignated DC-4E (" E " for Experimental) and was sold to Japan.
In mid-1939, Douglas began work on a new design to meet the airlines' revised requirements. This airplane had a wingspan of only 117 feet and a wing area of 1,460 square feet (compared to the 2,155-square-foot wingspan of the DC-4Es). Gross weight was 62,000 pounds, and passenger seating was 40, with a four-man cockpit crew. The engines were 1,350hp Pratt & Whitney R-2000-2SD1-Gs, and the production DC-4 and its military successors were the only airplanes to use them. About the only significant detail retained from the DC-4E was the tricycle landing gear, which was an innovation that proved to be well-suited to large airplanes. Top speed was 265mph; cruising speed was 192mph at 10,000 feet.
Douglas started a production line at Santa Monica for 61 DC-4s that were ordered by the airlines, but military demands precluded their delivery. Even before the first DC-4 flew in February 1942, the entire production was requisitioned by the U.S. Army. The first 24, which were well along in construction as airliners, were designated C-54. Later airframes, which could be modified to meet military requirements, were designated C-54A.
The demand for C-54s was so great that Douglas established a new plant in Chicago for additional production. The C-54s built in Santa Monica were designated C-54-D0; those built in Chicago were designated C-54-DC.The U.S. Navy also used C-54s under the designation of R5D, but they weren't ordered directly from Douglas. All the Navy models were transferred from the Army, as were 23 Skymasters for Britain.
Only the first few C-54s, and none of the R5Ds,were camouflaged, as they weren't expected to fly into combat zones. Army C-54s were procured in the following versions:
C-54—The initial 24 started as airliners and were delivered to the Army with minimal modification. Four fuel tanks were installed in the cabin for extra range, and an extra compartment was built ahead of a shorter cabin for additional military crew. Passenger capacity was reduced to 14. The civil engines were redesignated R-2000-3.
C-54A—The remainder of the original airline orders and later Army production totaled 252:97 C-54A-DOs and 155 C-54-DCs. Major changes were a large 67x94-inch, two-section cargo door on the left side of the fuselage and a reinforced floor to accommodate heavy cargo. Gross weight increased to 73,000 pounds with the addition of R-2000-7 engines.
C-54B—These were improved C-54As with additional wing fuel tanks replacing two
of the cabin tanks. There were 100 C-54B-DOS and 120 C-54B-DCS produced.
C-54C—One C-54A-DO was modified for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and included a cargo elevator (for bringing him aboard in his wheelchair), luxurious cabin furnishings and amenities suited to a VIP. The airplane was given such special attention that it was of the fuselage for testing as a paratroop deployment aircraft. No production was undertaken on this model.
C-54G—The final production model was the C-54G, with 162 built at Santa Monica as personnel transports. A further 235 were cancelled at the war's end, but Douglas completed them, and built others, as civil transports.
Below: this photo of the original DC-4E shows the many differences between it and the production-model DC-4. The plane's main contribution to later models was the tricycle landing gear.
- if ms irreverently nicknamed "The Sacred Cow."
C-54D—Built only in Chicago, the 380 C-54D-DCS were improved C-54Bs with R-2000-11 engines.
C-54f—The 125 C-54ED0s were built in Santa Monica and were similar to C-54Bs except for their increased fuel capacity. The cabin was rearranged to permit a quick change from all-cargo to 50 troops in canvas seats.
XC-54F-One C-54B-DC had jump doors on each side
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