C-54Q Skymaster

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Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft
Designation: C-54
Version: Q
Nickname: Skymaster
Type: Cargo/Transport
Length: 93 ft 11 in  
Height: 27 ft 6 in  
Wingspan: 117 ft 6 in  
Crew: 5  
Gross Weight: empty - 43,300 lb;  max. takeoff - 73,000 lb  
Payload: 76 passengers or 24,000 lbs  
No. of Engines: 4
Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney R-2000-3  14 cylinder radial piston
Horsepower (each): 1,100 hp
Range: 3,000 miles  
Cruise Speed: 203 mph    
Max Speed: 274 mph at 14,000'    
Ceiling: 22,000 ft  


The Douglas C-54 was the U.S. military version of the Douglas DC-4 airliner. The DC-4 had not yet entered commercial service when the United States Government commandeered the Douglas production line on December 5, 1941. Wartime expediency demanded speed or caution, no prototype was built, the first production aircraft made its first flight February 14, 1942. 

To meet the military’s more stringent needs, the DC-4 was given a cargo door, stronger floor, cargo boom hoist and larger wing tanks. First flight of the military C-54 occurred on March 26, 1942. During the war years, 1242 C-54s were delivered with a wide variety of modifications. A few of the major ones were; the C-54A, the original, fully militarized model capable of lifting 50 soldiers or 32,500 pounds of cargo, the C-54E, with larger Pratt & Whitney engines, bigger fuel tanks for longer range and a specially designed cabin for quick conversion between passenger and cargo roles. Post-war the C-54M, which was a C-54E stripped out to serve as a coal-carrier during the Berlin Airlift; the EC-54U an electronic counter-measures platform, the JC-54D, which was modified for missile nose cone recovery and at least 14 sub-variants built for the US Navy. There were numerous other variants which performed countless other roles, from VIP transport to multi-engine training.

The Skymaster gained its greatest fame flying over the “Hump” to China during WW 2 and supplying Berlin during the Russian blockade from June 1948 to September 1949. The C-54 offered sterling service for both the USAF and the US Navy, the aircraft was not fully retired until the late 1960’s. Ex-military Skymasters became popular as cargo transports and fire bombers, and many are still in active use around the world in these roles.

The museum’s C-54 began its life as a C-54 on May 31st, 1945 when it was delivered to the USAAF (serial number 42-72636). Transferred to the US Navy that same date, it was redesignated from C-54D to R5D-3 with Bureau Number 56514. Serving until 1965, it sat in storage nearly seven years before becoming a fire bomber at Hemet-Ryan airport from 1973 until 1994 when it flew to the museum. 



Jun-Nov 1945 - VRE-1

Dec 1945 - VR-6

Jan-Feb 1946 - appears as Hdrm Mag 35 (original handwriting)

Mar-Oct 1946 - VMR-953

Nov 1946 to April 1947 - VMR-253

May-Nov 1947 - VMR-152

Dec 1947 to Jun 1948 - Pool Alameda

Jul-Aug 1948 - VMR-352

(records skipped; new record format started)

1950 - BUAER M&S, San Diego, Corpus Christi, VMR-352 El Toro

1951 - VMR-352 at El Toro

1952 - ATTU and ACTRU FLAN F&M, Corpus Christi, VR-21 PAC at Barbers
Point; VR-3 NATS at Moffett Field; VR-8 NATS at Hickam Field.

1953 - ACTRU F&M at Corpus Christi; VR-1 LANT at Pautuxent River; VR-24
LANT at Port Lyautey

1954 - VR-24 LANT at Port Lyautey; O&R BUAER M&S at Corpus Christi

1955 to Jul 1957 - VR-24 LANT  at Port Lyautey

Jan 1958 to Jul 1958 - O&R BUAER at Norfolk

Aug 1958 to May 1959 - VR-24 at Port Lyautey

Jul 1959 to Jul 1960 - NAS NART at New York

Aug 1960 to Nov 1960 - BWR FR at Dallas

Dec 1960 to Nov 1961 - NAS NART at Grosse

(records skipped here)

1962 - redesignated C-54Q

27 Sep 1965 - NARTU  at Norfolk

28 October 1965 - stored at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, with 20,676 hours of
flight time.

April 3rd, 1973 - Registered to Robert B. Audiss and was assigned tail number

February 21st, 1975 - Purchased by the Texas Truck Salvage Company

October 11th, 1976 - Registered to Bill Dempsay, Central Air Services with
airtanker tail number "148", and flown throughout Southern California on
fire-fighting missions out of Hemet-Ryan Airport, CA.

1994 - Storage at Tucson, AZ

January 19th, 2002 - Flown by Bill Dempsay and a crew of two assistants to
March Field Air Museum after purchase by the museum for $50,000 from Maricopa
Air Services, Tucson, AZ.