Designed to complement the already successful DC-3, Douglas Aircraft’s DC-4 was built to be the big brother to one of history’s most famous airliners. The DC-4 showed that it too could chase the sun.
Douglas Aircraft Company created the DC-4 to fulfill United Airlines request for a long-range passenger airliner. With a wingspan of 138 ft and nearly three times heavier than the DC-3, the DC-4 could carry 42 passengers as a day plane and 30 passengers as a sleeper. This larger airliner had a top speed of around 240 M.P.H. and a range of 2,200 miles, making it able to travel across the country, only needing to stop twice. The DC-4 also had a great safety record due in part to its four engines. These engines were powerful enough so that any two, even on the same side, could shut down and the plane could keep flying at 7,000 ft while any three could keep the plane 5,000 ft above the highest mountain in the U.S.
The first DC-4 took to the skies on June 7, 1938 but was soon shifted from being manufactured for airlines to the U.S. Air Force due to the outbreak of World War II. Renamed the C-54 for military use, the Allies extensively used the plane as a troop transport as well as airlifting supplies to embattled troops. One of the C-54’s most notable missions was the Berlin Airlift, where it was the backbone of support for the operation along with the C-47, where 5,000 tons of supplies needed to be airlifted into a war-torn Berlin.
President Truman used a C-54 as his Presidential airplane and had it named the “Sacred Cow.” He actually signed the National Security Act of 1947 while on board the “Sacred Cow” thus creating the U.S. Air Force. The “Sacred Cow” is now preserved at the National Museum of the USAF. This model of plane was also the personal aircraft of Presidents Roosevelt and MacArthur along with Winston Churchill.
The DC-4 proved to be a popular plane of choice among many airlines but was eventually replaced by newer planes due to the fact that the civilian planes were built unpressurized.
The sun has not quite passed on the DC-4 as it is still popular and in use to this day as a cargo transport plane. Many are used in Alaska and the Canadian North due to its ability to land in remote areas. Just as its little brother, the DC-3, the DC-4 will continue to chase the sun.