Both Lockheed and Douglas focused on trying to coax out the maximum performance from the unreliable and dirty, but tried and tested, piston engines of the day. British manufacturers focused on the turboprop and pure jet whilst Boeing's Stratocruiser focused on luxury before they switched to the pure jets too. The ultimate expression of Douglases line of piston props was the DC-7C - the first aircraft to reliably be able to perform transatlantic crossing non-stop. Wingroot extensions increased the wingspan over the DC-7B plus fuselage extensions increased the length to 2 metres greater than the DC-6. Lockheed's competing Starliner was delayed and couldn't match the DC-7C anyway but both types sales were limited by the impending arrival of pure jets.
Typically airlines who bought DC-7Cs were those that already had bought previous Douglas props. In mainland Europe these airlines included Alitalia, SABENA, SAS, Swissair and TAI. Only KLM switched over from Lockheed Constellations to the DC-7C, buying the second largest order (15). Many of the smaller national airlines simply skipped the last incarnation of the piston props altogether. Here is the history of the type with the three of the carriers in my collection:
Registration I-DUVA CN/LN 45228/879
Delivery Date 08/10/57 Sale Date 03/66
Alitalia successfully converted itself from a loss making airline to a profitable leading carrier during the 1950s and Douglas products were a major component of that success. The airline had already used four ex-Pan Am DC-4s and 8 DC-6s. The DC-7C was chosen as the pre-jet age stopgap and 6 aircraft served until the mid-60s. VA was the first and was involved in a serious incident on April 21, 1959 when en-route to New York a prop detached and entered the cabin. The plane was able to land at Shannon and was repaired. Along with DUVE she was converted to a freighter in 1961 and sold in 1966 to Airlift International, where she became N356AL. She stayed with them until 1970, surviving an aborted take-off at Miami in September 1968. By 1978 she was with Integrity Aircraft Sales when she suffered a landing accident on April 30, again at Miami. She was broken up in early 1979.
Registration SE-CCB CN / LN 44931 / 719
Delivery Date 22/09/56 Sale Date 10/67
SAS pioneered scheduled polar route services from 1954 using DC-6Bs to operate a multi-stop Copenhagen-Los Angeles service. The airline went one step further in 1957 when it began service through the Arctic to Tokyo via Anchorage using DC-7Cs. SAS was a major customer for the DC-7C with 14 aircraft joining the fleet from August 1956-December 1957. As with other airlines the Seven Seas time in the sun was limited and 5 were sold to Riddle Airlines in 1960. Despite this most of the fleet survived until late 1967, albeit mainly operating short-haul services within Scandinavia and to Germany. In fact four second-hand aircraft were bought from 1962 for operation as freighters. SE-CCB ‘Magnus Viking’ spent her entire career with SAS and was broken up in late 1967.
Registration HB-IBP CN / LN 45553 / 1038
Delivery Date 04/11/58 Sale Date 06/01/62
Swissair restarted operations following World War Two in July 1945 and two years later began transatlantic services using DC-4s. The airline stayed true to Douglas during the 1950s with its first DC-6B arriving in June 1951. HB-IBA was joined by IBE, IBI, IBO, IBU and IBZ. The original DC-7 didn’t appeal to European operators but the much improved DC-7C was a natural fit for transatlantic operations. Swissair purchased 5 (HB-IBK-N/P) which were delivered from November 1956. The DC-7Cs despite being impressive piston types could not compete with jets and had short lives. Swissair’s were sold to Riddle and SAS. IBP went to SAS as SE-CCH but was not used and instead resold to JAL where she became JA6306. In August 1965 she joined Spantax as EC-BBT and is nowadays preserved in Binter Canarias colours at Gran Canaria.
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: