Of the trunk airlines that didn't make up the big four in 1945 only Continental Airlines and Mid-Continent Airlines didn't operate C-54s or DC-4s. This left the following airlines as Skymaster operators:
Braniff picked up 10 ex-USAAF C-54A/Bs in November 1945. Several were leased to Northwest in the late 40s but nine of them made it into 1952 when N65143 was written off at Hugoton, Texas. N59952 was damaged beyond repair at Dallas Love Field in may 1953 and the remaining eight were all gone by 1955.
Chicago & Southern operated at least six C-54A/Bs staring in November 1945. The type was replaced in 1950/51 by new build Lockheed L-649A Constellations.
Colonial Airlines was based at both La Guardia and Montreal and as well as the crossborder routes also operated long-haul flights to Bermuda and a network of short hops in the northeast. For the Canadian and Bermudan services the airline operated three C-54s which were all transferred to Eastern when it won the takeover battle for Colonial in June 1956.
Delta acquired 8 C-54Bs from December 1945 registered NC37472-79. Delta at the time wasn't one of the larger trunk airlines and though joined by 7 DC-6s from late 1948 they weren't replaced until 1953 by Convair 340s. That is except for NC37478 which was written off at Chicago in March 1948.
National bought new rather than taking civilianised C-54s acquiring 7 DC-4-1009s from February 1946. These were bolstered by several leased Northeast aircraft but began to be sold off in November 1952 and were all sold by March 1953. N74685 was written off at Philadelphia in January 1951.
Northeast was always one of the smaller trunk airlines and acquired only two C-54s (NC86556 and NC88844) that operated in its own colours from June 1946 to August 1950. A third aircraft, NC88852, operated almost her entire career with National despite being owned by Northeast.
Northwest operated a substantial fleet (at least 39 aircraft) of various marks of C-54 and R5D in the immediate postwar years plus at least 5 DC-4-1009s. It appears that most of the fleet made it into the 1950s with a few aircraft surviving (as freighters I assume) until 1961.
Pan American Douglas C-54E N88886
Delivery Date 14/11/45
Sale Date 12/01/61
In late 1945 Pan Am began to take delivery of a large fleet of converted USAAF C-54s. N88886 was one of the first 5 to arrive and only the second conversion to be completed. Pan Am in fact only ever operated 7 true DC-4s in a fleet of over 80 C-54s which were the backbone of the post-war airline, along with a smaller number of Connies and Stratocruisers. N88886 was named variously 'Clipper Mandarin', Frankfurt, Pegasus and Hannover during her PA career which lasted until early 1961 when she was sold to TMA of Lebanon as OD-ADW. Sold to Aviation Traders in late 1963 she was converted into an ATL-98 Carvair.
Capital Airlines Douglas C-54A-DO N88841
CN/LN 3111/D2 1
Delivery Date 1946
Transfer Date 01/06/61
In 1946 Pennsylvania Central Airlines purchased 25 ex-Army C-54s and put them into service on their high density network. On the 21st April 1948 PCA became Capital Airlines and soon after introduced off-peak coach service from New York-Chicago for only $33 using its DC-4s. The ‘Nighthawk’ was a great success pioneering coach operations subsequently followed by all the majors. N8841 was known in service as ‘Capitaliner Buffalo' but had originally been 41-32936 with the USAAF. Capital struggled to ever replace its DC-4s and they were still numerous when United took them over in 1961. Sold almost immediately by United to Sam Goldman this aircraft was eventually stored at Wilmington in 1967 and scrapped.
Western Airlines Douglas DC-4-1009 NC10201
Delivery Date 18/01/46
Transfer Date 11/46
Western was one of the few airlines to buy actual new DC-4s and received five from January-May 1946. All but one were however sold from November 1946-September 1947 and replaced with nine ex-military C-54s probably because they could be sold at a profit. The DC-4s were used initially on the newly awarded Los Angeles to Denver route. Since the DC-4 was unpressurized and the route was over highly mountainous terrain resulting in unstable air at the low altitudes in which it flew, these flights were dubbed the "Vomit Comet" by the cabin crew! NC10201 was sold to TACA International of El Salvador and became YS-44 and later YS-02C. She wasn’t finally withdrawn from service until 1972.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: