C-54Q Skymaster

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Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft
Designation: C-54
Version: Q, (converted from a C-54D)
Nickname: Skymaster
Type: Cargo/Transport
Length: 93 ft 10 in  
Height: 27 ft 6 in  
Wingspan: 117 ft 6 in  
Crew: 3  
Gross Weight: empty - 43,300 lb;  max. takeoff - 73,000 lb  
No. of Engines: 4
Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney R-2000-11
Horsepower (each): 1350 hp
Range: 3,100 miles  
Cruise Speed: 203 mph    
Max Speed: 275 mph    
Ceiling: 22,300 ft  


The Douglas C-54 was the military version of the 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. No prototype was
built, with the first production aircraft making its first flight February 14,
1942. The C-54D carried 50 passengers and was the most produced variant of the
C-54. The Skymaster gained its greatest fame flying over the Russians in the
Berlin Airlift from June 1948 to September 1949.

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 26 March 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 JC-54D, which was modified for missile nose cone
recovery; 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; the C-54M, which was a C-54E stripped out to serve as
a coal-carrier during the Berlin Airlift; the EC-54U, a post-war modification as
an electronic counter-measures platform; and at least 14 sub-variants built for
the US Navy originally called the R5D (the museum's airplane is one of these
R5D's). There were numerous other variants which performed countless other
roles, from VIP transport to multi-engine training.

The C-54 offered sterling service for both the USAF and the US Navy after the
war, and 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.

In the photo at the top of this page, taken on January 19th,  2002, the
museum's latest acquisition is shown after landing and taxi-ing over to the
museum.  Not having flown in nearly seven years, it made the flight from Tucson,
AZ, with no problem. Before it was retired, its last duty service was as a fire
bomber.  More details of the aircraft history are given below.

May 31st, 1945 - delivered to the USAAF (serial number 42-72636), transferred
to the US Navy that same date, and redesignated from C-54D to R5D-3 with
registration (Bureau Number) 56514. Note that another serial number, 10741, is
assigned to this aircraft; this is probably the manufacturers' serial number.
In its fire bomber period, it was designated civilian N67062.

The aircraft history below was provided by the Naval Aviation History Branch,
Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, 805 Kidder Breese Street SE,
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060.


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.