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C-54 Skymaster

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Douglas C-54 Skymaster
Type Military transport aircraft
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
Introduced 1942
Retired 1975
Primary users United States Army Air Forces
United States Navy
Number built 1,170
Developed from Douglas DC-4

The Douglas C-54 Skymaster was a four-engined transport aircraft used by the United States Army Air Forces in World War II. Like the C-47 Skytrain, the C-54 Skymaster was derived from a civilian airliner (the Douglas DC-4). C-54s began service with the Army Air Forces in 1942, carrying up to 26 passengers. (Later versions carried up to 50 passengers.) The U.S. Navy also acquired the type, under the designation R5D. The C-54 was one of the most commonly used long-range transports by the U.S. armed forces in World War II. 515 C-54s were manufactured in Santa Monica, CA and 655 were manufactured in Chicago, Illinois.

After World War II, the C-54 continued to serve as the primary airlifter of the new United States Air Force and with the United States Navy.

The USAF Strategic Air Command had C-54 Skymasters in service from 1946 through 1975.

President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, which created the U.S. Air Force, on board "Sacred Cow", the Presidential C-54 which is preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. More than 300 C-54s and R5Ds formed the backbone of the US contribution to the Berlin Airlift in 1948. They also served as the main airlift during the Korean War. After the Korean War, the C-54 was replaced by the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, but continued to be used by the U.S. Air Force until 1972.

The C-54 was the personal aircraft of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, and Winston Churchill (along with an Avro York). The C-54 was also used by the Royal Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, the Armée de l'Air, and the armed forces of at least twelve other nations.


  • C-54 - First production variant adapted from DC-4
  • C-54A - First military version. Navy designation R5D-1.
  • C-54B - Increased fuel capacity in the wing. One was used by Winston Churchill.
  • VC-54C - VIP transport version used by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • C-54D - Same as C-54B but with different version of the R2000 engine. Most common version.
  • AC-54D - Small number of aircraft modified with special electronic calibration and communications equipment. The aircraft were redesignated EC-54D.
  • JC-54 - Nine C-54Ds converted for missile nose-cone recovery.
  • SC-54D - 38 aircraft converted by Convair, as search and rescue aircraft. Later redesignated HC-54D.
  • TC-54D - C-54Ds converted into multi-engine training aircraft.
  • VC-54D - C-54Ds converted into VIP transport aircraft.
  • C-54E - Further revision to fuel tanks and provision for rapid conversion from passenger to cargo.
  • XC-54F - One experimental paratroop version built.
  • C-54G - Same as C-54E but with different version of the R2000 engine.
  • VC-54G - C-54Gs converted into VIP/staff transport aircraft.
  • C-54GM - The designation of the DC-4 version made by Canadair.
  • C-54H - Paratroop transport. None built.
  • C-54J - Staff transport project, none built. Navy designation R5D-6.
  • XC-54K - One aircraft built with Wright R-1820 engines.
  • C-54L - One aircraft built with an experimental fuel system.
  • C-54M - Specialized modification of C-54E to carry coal during the Berlin Airlift.
  • MC-54M - Specialized modification of C-54E for medical evacuation.
  • EC-54U - US Navy version, modified with electronic countermeasures equipment. Used for training and evaluation.
  • R5D-1 - The designation of 56 C-54As transferred to the US Navy.
  • R5D-1C - Modified in US Navy service, with a fuel system based on the one used in the C-54B.
  • R5D-1F - Naval staff transport version of the R5D-1. Later redesignated VC-54N.
  • R5D-1Z - Interim designation of the R5D-1F.
  • C-54P' - Naval variant of the C-54B. Navy designation R5D-2.
  • VC-54P - Naval staff transport version, Navy designation R5D-2F.
  • R5D-2Z - Interim designation of the R5D-1F.
  • C-54Q - Naval variant of the C-54D. Navy designation R5D-3.
  • RC-54V - Naval Photographic reconnaissance version.
  • VC-54Q - Naval Staff transport version.
  • R5D-3Z - Interim designation of the VC-54Q.
  • R5D-4 - The designation of 20 C-54Es transferred to the US navy.
  • C-54R - Naval variant of the C-54E. Navy designation R5D-4R.
  • C-54S - Naval variant of the C-54G. Navy designation R5D-5.
  • VC-54S - Naval staff transport version. Navy designation R5D-5Z.
  • VC-54T - Naval Personnel transport version. Navy designation R5D-5R.
  • R5D-6 - Unbuilt project.
  • XC-112 - Pressurized variant with Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines. None built.
  • XC-112A - As XC-112. One built. Developed into DC-6 / C-118 family.
  • XC-114 - Stretched C-54E powered by Allison V-1710 engines. One built.
  • XC-115 - XC-114 with Packard V-1650 engines. None Built.
  • XC-116 - XC-114 with thermal de-icing rather than rubber boots. None built.
  • Skymaster Mk I - RAF designation of one C-54B and 22 C-54Ds.


Military operators

Civilian operators

Specifications (C-54G)

USAF C-54 Skymaster.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4
  • Capacity: 50 troops
  • Length: 93 ft 10 in (28.6 m)
  • Wingspan: 117 ft 6 in (35.8 m)
  • Height: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
  • Wing area: 1,460 ft² (136 m²)
  • Empty weight: 38,930 lb (17,660 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 62,000 lb (28,000 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 73,000 lb (33,000 kg)
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney R-2000-9 radial engines, 1,450 hp (1,080 kW) each



  • Francillon, René (1979). McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-87021-428-4. 
  • Yenne, Bill (1985). McDonnell Douglas: A Tale of Two Giants. Greenwich, Connecticut: Bison Books. ISBN 0-517-44287-6. 

External links

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See also

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