I’m not exactly sure how it all started, but it’s becoming somewhat of an annual tradition for me to sit down and watch the entire Ice Pilots TV series from beginning to end each spring. It usually takes about a month to get through all six seasons, and I always walk away from it feeling like I want (need) to create templates of vintage aircraft. Especially the Douglas DC-4.
Anyway, I finished my annual binge in early June, and since then, I’ve been working on the DC-4 side view templates you see below. It was fun. And incredibly frustrating.
Douglas DC-4 blank illustration templates
I’ve never been a very big fan of vintage “piston pounders”, but the DC-4 speaks to me in ways that are hard to put into words. Not only does it look great, it’s an incredibly nice-sounding airplane. I’ll bet it smells really good too, but unfortunately, I’ve never seen one up close. Not yet anyway.
Vintage aircraft are extremely difficult to create templates for (a lesson I learned when creating my Boeing 707 templates). Good reference photos are hard to come by, and it seems nobody thought to take perfectly side-on pics of these old birds back in the day.
I did what I could though, and I hope you find the above illustrations useful.
What exactly is a Douglas DC-4?
The Douglas DC-4 was a highly-versatile aircraft developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company in the late 1930’s. It was a propeller-driven aircraft that the company had built primarily for commercial purposes, but proved to be a capable transport aircraft for the military during World War II.
The DC-4 had a simple autopilot system that provided altitude and directional hold. It weighed approximately 73,000 lbs and had a range of 4,200 miles.
- The most common configuration consisted of 44 passenger seats
- It had a top speed of 215 mph
- It had wingspan of 118 feet, was 94 ft long, and 28 ft tall.
- It was introduced into commercial service in 1942 with United Airlines
- It was powered by four Pratt and Whitney R-2000 Twin Wasp engines. These engines were twin-row radial 14-cylinders with air-cooling and Stromberg carburetor fuel systems.
How many DC-4s are still flying?
1,245 DC-4’s were built. Most were built before (and during) WWII, but there were a number of postwar aircraft built between 1946 to 1947.
In the 50s, Transocean Airlines in California was the largest civilian operator of the DC-4. The aircraft was also actively used in the Berlin airlift between 1948 to 1949. There were also many other operators of the aircraft in the United States and all over the globe.
The last DC-4 was delivered to South African Airways. As of June 2020, two DC-4s were still used by SkyClass Aviation. The aircraft are primarily for charter operations, owned by the South African Airways’ Museum Society.
How does the DC-4 compare to a DC-3?
The DC-4 had twice the payload capacity of the DC-3. It was powered by four radial (piston) engines instead of DC-3’s two engines.
From the onset, the goal was to develop the DC-4 as the natural successor to the DC-3. Airlines demanded larger and faster equipment, so Douglas poured $3 million into the development of an all-new aircraft which extended the capabilities of the DC-3. The DC-4 was their first four-engine, 42 passenger commercial airliner ever built.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the DC-4 and the DC-3 is the range. The DC-3 was capable of flying 1,491 miles nonstop, while the DC-4 could fly 4,200 miles.
How much did a DC-4 cost when new (adjusted for inflation)?
Between 1946 to 1947, the retail price for a new DC-4 was around $1,350,000. By 1960, used DC-4s were being sold for about $750,000. This is extremely low by modern standards.
Today, a good DC-4 (with engines) can be bought for around $400,000.
Speaking of cost, think about this: The DC-4 (United Airlines’ most common aircraft at the time) typically flew from New York to San Francisco in 16 hours with one stopover at Chicago. The fare of $236.60, when adjusted for inflation, comes out to $3,943.76. Would you pay that much to fly between JFK and SFO now?
Other interesting facts about the DC-4
The DC-4 was a remarkable airliner that went down in history as one of the best (in my opinion anyway). It was a highly versatile aircraft that paved the way for the aircraft we still fly on today. Here are some other interesting facts about the amazing DC-4:
- Before the DC-4 was created, the Douglas Aircraft Company manufactured a four-engine aircraft in 1938 that was almost twice as big than the DC-3. It was called the DC-4E.
- The E in DC-4E stood for “experimental.”
- The Douglas Aircraft Company built the DC-4E with the capacity to carry 42 passengers for daytime flights (and 30 for overnight flights). The aircraft featured very comfortable sleeping accommodations, which included a secluded bridal room.
- On June 7, 1938, the DC-4E prototype flew from CloverField in Santa Monica, California. It was piloted by Carl Cover.
- Testing issues delayed the approval of the Type Certificate until May 5, 1939.
- In 1939, the Imperial Japanese Airways acquired a DC-4E for secret evaluation and transfer of technology.
- That particular DC-4E aircraft crashed in Tokyo Bay, killing top military generals.
- The DC-4E was ultimately reverse-engineered by the Japanese to become the foundation for their Nakajima G5N bomber.
- At the end of the Second World War, the US military released over 300 DC-4 transport aircraft for civilian use.
- A DC-4 was the setting for the popular movie The High and The Mighty starring John Wayne.
- The DC-4 was the first aircraft to carry fuel tanks in the wings, to make use of a one-piece fuselage, and it was the first to use completely-retractable tricycle landing wheels.
- Military versions of the DC-4 were called C-54 Skymaster and R5D.
- The first C-54 variation flew from CloverField in Santa Monica, California on February 14, 1942.
- To meet strict military regulations, the first production C-54 military aircraft had four extra auxiliary fuel tanks in the central cabin. This reduced the number of passenger seats to 26.
- Between January 1946 and August 9, 1947, the Douglas Aircraft Company produced 79 new-build DC-4s. The last was delivered to South African Airways.