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. Like the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, the C-54 Skymaster was derived from a civilian airliner, the Douglas DC-4.
Besides transport of cargo, the C-54 also carried presidents, prime ministers, and military staff. Dozens of 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 it hauled 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. This was one of the first aircraft to carry the President of the United States.
The original DC-4 was abandoned in favor of a smaller, less-complex four-engined design. This newer design was also designated DC-4, leading the earlier design to be re-designated DC-4E (E for "experimental"). Before the definitive DC-4 could enter service the outbreak of World War II meant production was channeled to the United States Army Air Forces and the type was given the military designation C-54 Skymaster, with US Navy aircraft designated Douglas R5D. The first aircraft, a C-54, flew from Clover Field in Santa Monica, California on 14 February 1942. With the introduction of the Tri-Service aircraft designation system in 1962, all R5Ds were re-designated C-54. In the end, only 80 DC-4s were built, the remaining aircraft being C-54s.
C-54s began service with the USAAF in 1942, carrying up to 26 passengers, later versions carrying up to 50 passengers. The C-54 was one of the most commonly used long-range transports by the U.S. armed forces in World War II. Of the C-54s produced, 515 were manufactured in Santa Monica, California and 655 were manufactured at Orchard Place/Douglas Field, in unincorporated Cook County, Illinois, near Chicago (later the site of O'Hare International Airport).
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