C-54M Skymaster

This is part of the museum's First, Last, and Only aircraft—View the others

Dover AFB’s first strategic airlifter is represented by the single remaining C-54M which was specially modified during the Berlin Airlift for hauling coal. The Skymaster’s restoration was also quite extensive and took several years. The inside shows examples of its World War II cargo and passenger configurations—and if parts become available will display how medical litters were carried in its Korean War role as a medevac aircraft. During the restoration process, we were fortunate to find a photograph of this aircraft showing its military serial #44-9030 and the markings it carried in the Pacific Theater in World War II. They were still in place during her service in the Berlin Airlift, and we have restored the aircraft in these markings.

The C-54 on display at the museum is the last surviving “M” model in existence. There were only 38 of this model converted.


The Douglas C-54 (designated R5D by the U.S. Navy) was the military variation of the DC-4 four-engine commercial transport. It was the first four-engine transport to enter USAAF service. The USAAF accepted a total of 1,164 Skymasters from 1942 to 1947. Its maximum load capacity was 28,000 pounds of cargo or 49 passengers.

Although it served with the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as a transport, the C-54 made history when it became the first “official” presidential transport aircraft (Air Force One). Known as “Sacred Cow,” it was built in 1944 for use by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. One special feature was an elevator behind the passenger cabin to lift the President in his wheelchair in and out of the plane. The passenger compartment included a conference room with a large desk and bullet-proof picture window. President Roosevelt made his first and only flight in this aircraft traveling to Yalta, USSR, in February 1945. For security reasons, the tail number on the aircraft was changed for this flight. After Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, “Sacred Cow” remained in presidential service during the first 27 months of the Truman Administration. On 26 July 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 while on board “Sacred Cow.” This act established the Air Force as an independent service, making “Sacred Cow” the birthplace of the U.S. Air Force. It was later assigned to other transport duties and was eventually retired in October 1961.

During the Berlin Airlift in 1948, every C-54 the USAF had was pressed into service to supply the isolated city. Many C-54s were later converted into litter-carrying planes for use during the Korean Conflict returning 66,000 patients to the United States.

In later years, Douglas developed the XC-112, a pressurized version of C-54E Skymaster military transport. It had a longer fuselage, larger rectangular windows in place of circular portholes, and four 2,100-hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800-34 radial engines. After testing, this aircraft entered commercial service as the DC-6 and military service as the C-118 Liftmaster.


360° Panoramic Tour

Serial Number: 44-9030
Douglas Aircraft
First Flight:
14 February 1942
Crew: 4
Payload: 28,000 lbs; or 50 troops
Powerplant: 4x Pratt & Whitney R-2000-9 radials
93 ft 5 in
117 ft 6 in
27 ft 7 in
Empty Weight:
38,000 lbs
Loaded Weight:
62,000 lbs
Maximum Speed:
275 mph
Cruise Speed:
190 mph
Range: 4,000 mi
Service Ceiling: 22,300 ft
AMC Museum Restoration Crew Chief: Wayne King

Assignment History

The assignment history for the Air Mobility Command Museum's C-54M Skymaster, serial number 44-9030:

Date Location
30 Jan 1945 Delivered to the United States Army Air Force (USAAF)
Feb 1945 Departed the U.S. for assignment to Pacific Division, Air Transport Command
Dec 1945 Returned to the U.S. assigned to the 1503rd Base, Hamilton AAF, California
Feb 1946 to 1512st Base Unit, Fairfield AAF, California
Apr 1946 Departed the U.S. for an unknown transport assignment
Mar 1948 to 43rd Weather Wing (ATC), Haneda AB, Japan
Dec 1948 to 1600th Air Transport Group (MATS), Westover AFB, Massachusetts
Jan 1949 to 513th Air Transport Group (MATS), Rhein Main AB, Germany
24 Apr 1949 to 316th Troop Carrier Group Heavy (MATS), Celle AB, Germany
Apr 1950 to 1600th Air Transport Group (MATS), Greenville Airport, South Carolina
Apr 1950 to 1600th Air Transport Group (MATS), Greenville Airport, South Carolina
Sep 1951 to 1261st Air Transport Squadron (MATS), Wheelus AB, Libya
Jul 1952 to 1282nd Air Transport Squadron (MATS), Rhein Main AB, Germany
Aug 1955 to 46th Transport Squadron Medium (MATS), Kelly AFB, Texas
Sep 1957 to 7244th Air Base Group (USAFE), Dhahran AB, Saudi Arabia
Jun 1960 to 7250th Support Squadron (USAFE), Ankara AB, Turkey
Apr 1967 to 101st Fighter Group (Air National Guard), Dow AFB, Maine
Oct 1971 to 150th Fighter Group (ANG), Kirtland AFB, New Mexico
Sep 1973 Dropped from the USAF inventory, transferred to FBI Academy for Sky Marshal training
Nov 1989 Declared surplus by FBI, rescued by Air Mobility Command Museum (then Dover AFB Museum), Dover AFB, Delaware
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Anyone know what model UHF radio was in the C-45 and/or the power output in Watts? Thx

I was stationed at Ankara as an engine mechanic. Flew all over Europe and the Middle East on 44-9030. Went with it to Rhine Main to performs periodic maintenance on it and spent over 30 days there.
I was glad to see that she was saved from the scrapper and was preserved for all to enjoy.

We had one in Gitmo in 65 and 66 we used to fly the Embassies around the Caribbean, it was the original C54 with the oval windows and 4 R2000 engines, tail number was 90999

I was station at Ankara AB, Turkey from 1960-1962 and work on electrical systems on 44-9030 and flew with her to Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Morocco. We did a pilot recertification and the co-pilot shut off two engines and was supposed to restart them but shut off the other two engines, but luckily, we had a good pilot and got them all restarted before we crashed.

On Feb 23 1973 I was the transport plane commander (TPC) in Navy Transport Squadron VR-62Y1, NAF Detroit. We were the last military squadron flying the C-54 and this was the last operational flight in the squadron, I claim I flew the last operational flight. The BuNo was 50857. I loved airplane. I flew P-3s in the fleet and stayed in the Naval Air Reserve. I got about 200 hours in the C-54 as TPC and instructor pilot in 4 years. In February 1973 after that flight I was the last TPC C-54 pilot. Interestingly it was the Akron, Columbus southern airlift flown in a snowstorm.
Also the C-54s were older than I was.

John Johnston flew. As aircrew load master on C54 090865 at NARTU
NAF Andrew’s AFB from 1966 to 1970.

My father LTC Donald I. Greene USAF (Ret.) Deceased, as a CPT was a pilot and flew out of Rhein-Main Air Base assigned to the 513th Troop Carrier Group (SPECIAL), 330th Troop Carrier Squadron 7 April 1949 thru Aug 1949. Dad may have flown this aircraft during Operation Vittles (Berlin Airlift). I have his Operation Vittles Diary but he didn’t list tail numbers. I loved the virtual tour of the C-54 Skymaster – Thanks so much. I served 6 years in the USAF as an enlisted bomb loader 1969-1975, then I joined the Army Reserves and retired as a Nurse Anesthetist.
COL Stephen Greene USA (Ret.)

Myself and a group of dedicated engineers and volunteers are currently restoring a C54 back to flight condition. The aircraft was built in 1945 and is currently at North Weald airport just north of London in the United Kingdom. The tail number is 56498. the aircraft saw active service with the US Navy throughout the Pacific and other places during many conflicts and has a great history.
If you want to see it and check on the progress we are making you can look on our new website, savetheskymaster.org.
We are hoping to have engine runs in the very near future.

I believe that this C-54 may be one that my father flew while stationed at Wheelus AFB in Tripoli Libya. He was Major John P Murphy and we lived in Tripoli from 1957-61. In a C-54, he flew the then King & Queen of Libya, Idris & Fatima. In late February, 1960, he flew Frank “Speedy Pete” Everest & a crew throughout Africa. The trip was a reward for Everest’s test piloting feats, including flying 3X speed of sound. I have a photo of the C-54 with tail # 49030. I also have a copy of the official Flight Order noting the Aircraft Number as 9030. I’m no sleuth, but it’s gotta be the same plane…

USAF HC-54 Flight Engineer, Instructor/Examiner in Thule Greenland. Was there when B-52 crashed and searched for survivors after crash. Also flew C-54 at Kirtland AFB. All of this was
1966-1970. Loved the Aircraft. Transitioned to Convairs right at the end of my Tour C-131.

Got my civilian pilot ratings in Albuquerque via GI-Bill. T-34 Private Pilot through ATP, CFI, CFII.

http://www.thuleforum.com/al/ is a website showcasing pictures from Al Botello’s trip to Thule air base, Feb. 1967, to Feb 1968.

I am looking for some info on instructors C-54 who helped KLM when their first C-54 arrived 1945/1946 at Schiphol. I see names of the training unit at a photo at schiphol with : :
Forrest Wolfred, Floyd McClymonds, William Etter, Charles Pruet, John P. Woolcott (leader) William Johnson Charles Miles and Carlton Ash. who can help me ?

Hi Jack–My father, Norman Seitz, was stationed at Kirtland AFB in 1962-64. He was an ADR1 and often flew on C-54s. The dates you mention suggest you may have just missed meeting him, as he died in a C-54Q crash at Calverton, Long Island on Feb 6, 1964. I was only five years old at the time and keep trying to find people who knew him.

My late father, SMSgt Jack L Gilbert, Sr., was a C-54 flight engineer at RAF Celle, during the airlift, and may very well have flown on this aircraft.

When I was in the Naval Air Reserve at NAS Dallas Tex I was a Plane Capt, then upgraded to FE.
Then in 67-68 we converted to C-118s. You had to work on the plane then get in and fly. They Mothballed the C-118 while I flew as a FE in 1974 so I moved over to the AF and became a C-5 Flt Engr, retiring in 1994 at Dover AFB, DE.

I’m a former USNR AC-1 (air traffic controller 1st class). I flew in the Navy’s R-5D version of this aircraft a few times in the 1960’s out of NAS South Weymouth, Mass., a USNR base which at one time housed blimps, or derigibles as the Navy called them. One of the VR (transport) squadron’s commanding officers was a well-known Boston TV personality who delivered the news on WBZ Channel 4. His name was Jack Chase. He was the only commander I ever saw who responded to enlisted men with a friendly “hello” when they called him by his first name while walking through a hallway.

Hi Donald, We lived very close to the NAS, and we went to the there regularly since my dad was retired USAF. Very cool!

I flew on the C-54 out of Tokyo and the 99th ATS MATS in the mid 50’s. I was a radio operator, and loved that aircraft. Had 1500 hrs and then went to McGuire AFB on C-118’s. Also a great aircraft.

I was in the 1503 Air Traffic Squadron MATS at Haneda in the 1954-56. the 99th ATS was also there at that time. I was wondering if you knew Col Richard M. Gray he was our Sq commander.

From 1960 to 1962 I was stationed at Wheelus Air Base Tripoli, Libya. My Squadron was the 58th Air Rescue Sqdrn., our planes were SC-54s and SA-16s. We had one Model C 54 and its tail number was 033, my job then was a flight engineer. One Thanksgiving we flew 033 to Germany to pick up fresh veggies for the mess hall, we had a purchasing agent with us. On our return we were at the end of the taxiway doing our engine run-ups when this purchasing agent asked what would happen if we lost an engine on take off. I motioned with my hand doing a nose dive, he return to the cabin wrapped himself in a blanket and stayed there for the eight hour flight.

Hello Joseph, Our father, Major John P Murphy, was stationed at Wheelus in that timeframe. In a C-54, he flew King Idris & Queen Fatima. In a C-54 (perhaps the same one), he flew (then) Col Frank Everest & a crew throughout Africa. Per the official flight order, the Aircraft Number was 9030. I have a photo of the tail probably during that trip, the # displayed is 49030.

In February 1960 I flew on a C-54 from McGuire AFB, NJ, to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, to Prestwick AB, Scotland, and on to Rhein Main AB, Germany. Later, on 6 March 1961, going to my father’s funeral, I flew on a C-54 from Rhein Main AB, to Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada, to NAS Norfolk, VA. Returning to Camp Darby, Italy in April 1961, I flew another C-54 from McGuire AFB, NJ, to the Azores, and on to Rhein Main AB, Germany.

The flight to Germany in 1960 was notble because I was in the first seat on the port side, sitting backwards, beside a seam in the fuselage which filled with frost, adjacent to the number Two Engine’s propeller. The landing in the Azores was notable because the high cross winds required almost a 45 degree crosswind landing and caused the pilot (I am a FAA certified Private SEL Pilot) to have to do a crab-low wing approach to touchdown. I could see almost the entire approach, and runway lights, all the way down, from my wing seat on the starboard side of the aircraft.

Alexander B Cuppett
MSgt U.S. Army, Retired
and Action Officer, the Joint Staff (JCS) Retired

Worked on this particular aircraft when it was assigned to Ankara air station Turkey, was one of 2 that were stationed there 9030 and 9039. Was glad to see that it survived all these years and was preserved.

In September, 1955 I was transported from a holding hospital near Rhine Main AFB and boarded onto a M.A.T.S. C-54 for transport to McGuire AFB via the Azores Islands, where we stopped to refuel prior to the trans Atlantic flight. I was liter bound as were all the patients on that plane. As I recall, the first upper most liter was hung from the overhead, the second liter hung from the first and the third from the second and then anchored to the deck. The entire aircraft was filled with liter bound G.I’s bound for the States. We landed at McGuire A.F.B. and were off loaded to the base hospital at Ft. Dix. From there, two days later, liter bound, I was air lifted to Washington, D.C aboard a DC-3, to a grass strip near Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I was discharged from the Army at Walter Reed in January, 1956.

I worked on these aircraft during the late ’49s removing all that coal dust and restoring them to their original personnel carrier missions. This was at Oakland, CA, while working for the Aircraft Engineering and Maintenance Company (AEMCO)