The Douglas DC-6 is a piston-powered airliner and transport aircraft built by the Douglas Aircraft Company from 1946 to 1958. Originally intended as a military transport near the end of World War II, it was reworked after the war to compete with the Lockheed Constellation in the long-range transport market. More than 700 were built, and many still fly today in cargo, military, and wildfire control roles.
The DC-6 was known as the C-118 Liftmaster in United States Air Force service, and as the R6D in United States Navy service prior to 1962, after which all U.S. Navy variants were also designated as the C-118.
Design and development
The United States Army Air Forces commissioned the DC-6 project as the XC-112 in 1944. The Air Force wanted an expanded, pressurized version of the popular C-54 Skymaster transport with improved engines. By the time the XC-112 flew, the war was over, and the USAAF had rescinded its requirement.
Douglas converted its prototype into a civil transport (redesignated YC-112A, having significant differences from subsequent production DC-6 aircraft) and delivered the first production DC-6 in March 1947. However, a series of mysterious in-flight fires (including the fatal crash of United Airlines Flight 608) grounded the DC-6 fleet later that year. The cause was found to be a fuel vent located adjacent to the cabin cooling turbine intake. All DC-6s in service were modified to correct the problem, and the fleet was flying again after just four months on the ground.
Pan Am used DC-6B aircraft to inaugurate its first trans-Atlantic tourist class flights, starting in 1952.
Douglas designed four basic variants of the DC-6: the "basic DC-6," and the longer fuselage, higher-gross-weight, longer range versions—the "DC-6A" with large cargo doors forward and aft of the wing on the port (left hand side) with a cargo floor, the "DC-6B" designed for passenger work, had passengers doors only and a lighter floor and the "DC-6C" a "convertible" aircraft built with the 2 cargo doors, but fitted with removable passenger seats. The DC-6B, originally powered by Pratt & Whitney R-2800-CB-16 engines with Hamilton Standard 43E60 constant speed reversing propellers, was regarded as the ultimate piston-engine airliner from the standpoint of ruggedness, reliability, economical operation and handling qualities. The military version, essentially similar to the DC-6A, was the USAF C-118 Liftmaster, and the USN R6D which used the more powerful R-2800-CB-17 engines. The more powerful engine was later used on the commercial DC-6B to accommodate international flights.
The USAF and USN renewed their interest in the DC-6 during the Korean War, and ordered a total of 167 C-118/R6D aircraft, some of which later found their way into civilian service. Harry Truman's first presidential aircraft was an Air Force VC-118 called The Independence.
Total production of the DC-6 Series was 702 including military versions.
In the 1960s, two DC-6s were used as transmitter platforms for educational television, based at Purdue University, in a program called MPATI (Midwest Program for Airborne Television Instruction).
Many older DC-6 aircraft were replaced in airline passenger service by the Douglas DC-7, but the simpler, more economic engines in the DC-6 has meant that this type has out-lived the more sophisticated DC-7. DC-6/7s surviving into the Jet Age were replaced in front line service by Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 aircraft.
2006 marked the 60th anniversary since the introduction of the DC-6.
Notable incidents and accidents
Several DC-6s are preserved in museums.
Data from Airliners.net
Published - July 2009
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