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C-54 Skymaster

History of the U.S. Air Force C-54 Skymaster

Douglas C-54E Skymaster
Douglas C-54E Skymaster

The Douglas C-54 Skymaster was a four-engined transport aircraft used by the United States Army Air Forces in World War II and the Korean War. In Navy usage, it was known as the R5D. It was derived from the Douglas DC-4, a civilian airliner.

It was the first four-engine transport to enter service with the U.S. Army Air Force. Its maximum load capacity was 28,000 pounds of cargo or 49 passengers.

Besides transport of cargo, the C-54 also carried presidents, prime ministers and military staff. Many variants of the C-54 were employed in a wide variety of non-combat roles such as air-sea rescue, scientific and military research, and missile tracking and recovery.

During the Berlin Airlift the C-54 even carried coal, and food supplies to West Berlin. After the Korean War it continued to be used for military and civilian uses by more than 30 countries.

During the war, C-54s flew a million miles a month over the rugged North Atlantic -- more than 20 round trips a day. A special VC-54C, nicknamed the "Sacred Cow" by the White House press corps, became the first presidential aircraft, ordered for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In the years immediately following the war, new DC-4s and used C-54s carried more passengers than any other four-engine transport. Some of the airplanes were still flying through 1998. After World War II, commercial airlines placed more than 300 civilian DC-4 transport planes into service.

A total of 1,170 C-54 aircraft were manufactured by the Douglas Aircraft Company between 1942 and 1947.

Original Photos of the C-54 Skymaster from the Airplanes Online Archives

Douglas C-54D Skymaster S/N 42-72488 in Tucson, Arizona
Douglas C-54D Skymaster S/N 42-72488 in Tucson
C-54 Skymaster, S/N 272592, Ellsworth Air Force Base, Rapid City, South Dakota
C-54 Skymaster, S/N 272592 at Rapid City
U.S. Air Force C-54 Skymaster, S/N 272592
C-54 Skymaster, S/N 272592 at Rapid City
C-54G Skymaster, S/N 45-0502, Hill Aerospace Museum, Ogden, Utah
C-54 Skymaster at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Utah
C-54G Skymaster, S/N 45-0502, Hill Aerospace Museum
C-54G Skymaster, S/N 45-0502 at Hill AFB
C-54G Skymaster, S/N 45-0502, Hill Air Force Base
Tail section of C-54G Skymaster, S/N 45-0502
C-54G Skymaster, S/N 50579, Museum of Aviation, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
C-54G Skymaster, S/N 50579 at Robins AFB in Georgia