The Douglas C-54 Skymaster is a four-engine transport aircraft that was utilized by the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and the Korean War.
Similar to the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, which was derived from the DC-3, the C-54 Skymaster was also derived from a civilian airliner, the Douglas DC-4.
In addition to its primary function of cargo transport, the C-54 was also utilized for the transportation of presidents, prime ministers, and military personnel.
Numerous variations of the C-54 were employed in a diverse range of non-combat roles, including air-sea rescue, scientific and military research, and missile tracking and recovery.
During the Berlin Airlift, the C-54 was utilized to transport coal and food supplies to West Berlin.
Following the Korean War, the aircraft continued to be utilized for both military and civilian purposes by over 30 countries.
It was one of the first aircraft to transport the President of the United States, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt being the first to utilize the aircraft during World War II.
In June 1941, with the imminent involvement of the United States in World War II, the War Department assumed responsibility for the provision of orders of the Douglas DC-4 for the airlines and allocated them to the United States Army Air Forces, designating them as C-54 Skymasters.
The first C-54 took flight from Clover Field in Santa Monica, California on 14 February 1942.
To meet military requirements, the initial civil production aircraft were equipped with four additional auxiliary fuel tanks in the main cabin, which reduced the passenger capacity to 26.
The subsequent batch of aircraft, known as the C-54A, was constructed with a reinforced floor and a cargo door featuring a hoist and winch.
The first C-54A was delivered in February 1943.
The C-54B, introduced in March 1944, was equipped with integral fuel tanks in the outer wings, allowing for the removal of two of the cabin tanks and the installation of 49 seats (or 16 stretchers).
The C-54C, designed for Presidential use, was a hybrid of the C-54A fuselage with four cabin fuel tanks and C-54B wings with built-in tanks, providing maximum range.
The most widely used variant was the C-54D, which entered service in August 1944.
Based on the C-54B, it was fitted with more powerful R-2000-11 engines.
The C-54E featured the relocation of the last two cabin fuel tanks to the wings, allowing for an increased freight capacity of 44 passenger seats.
Aircraft transferred to the United States Navy were designated as Douglas R5Ds.
In 1962, with the implementation of the Tri-Service aircraft designation system, all R5Ds were re-designated as C-54s.
Variants C-54 The first production variant adapted from DC-4, 24 built. C-54A The first military version with a strengthened airframe, increased fuel capacity, and provision for passengers or cargo, Navy equivalent R5D-1, 252 built. C-54B Increased fuel capacity in the wing, one was used by Winston Churchill, and 220 were built. C-54D Same as C-54B but with R-2000-11 engines, 380 built. C-54E Further revision to fuel tanks and provision for rapid conversion from passenger to cargo, 125 built. C-54G Same as C-54E but with a different version of the R-2000 engine. 400 were ordered, of which 162 were completed and the remainder were cancelled at the end of WW2. Specifications Crew Four Capacity 50 troops / 32,500 lb (14,700 kg) cargo Length 93 ft 10 in (28.60 m) Wingspan 117 ft 6 in (35.81 m) Height 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m) Wing area 1,460 sq ft (136 m2) Airfoil Root NACA 23016 Tip NACA 23012 Empty weight 38,930 lb (17,658 kg) Gross weight 62,000 lb (28,123 kg) Max take-off weight 73,000 lb (33,112 kg) Fuel capacity 2,868 US gal (2,388 imp gal; 10,860 L) normal fuel load. 3,592 US gal (2,991 imp gal; 13,600 L) with auxiliary fuel Powerplant 4 × Pratt & Whitney R-2000-9 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 1,100 hp (820 kW) each at 7,500 ft (2,300 m) Propellers 3-bladed constant-speed fully feathering propellers Performance Maximum speed 275 mph (443 km/h, 239 kn) at 20,000 ft (6,100 m) Cruise speed 190 mph (310 km/h, 170 kn) at 10,000 ft (3,000 m) Range 4,000 mi (6,400 km, 3,500 nmi) with 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) payload Service ceiling 22,300 ft (6,800 m) Time to altitude 10,000 ft (3,000 m) in 14 minutes 36 seconds Wing loading 42.5 lb/sq ft (208 kg/m2) Power/mass 0.0935 hp/lb (0.1537 kW/kg) Sources
American Military Transport Aircraft Since 1925-E.R. Johnson. Douglas C-54/R5D Skymaster and DC-4, Warpaint Series 109-Charles Stafrace.
Douglas DC-4/C-54 Skymaster-Alain Picollet.
Images of Aviation, The Douglas Skymaster Family-Ken Wixey. McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920: Volume I-René J Francillon. San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.