World War 2 - This aircraft was delivered to the U.S.N on the 20th May 1945 as R5D-3 with serial number 56498. Her first unit was VR-11, Naval Air Transport Squadron at on Guam. Her job was to repatriate wounded soldiers back to safety and take in a 1000 ltrs of blood per day to the battlefields of Iwo Jima & Okinawa to the islands of Japan. On the to the battlefields of Iwo Jima & Okinawa to the islands of Japan. On the 2nd of February 1946 she transferred to VR-6 and then in April of 1946 moved onto MAG-15, Marine Air Group 15, based out of Hawaii. Her connection with the Berlin Airlift in 1948 is with VR-6. This squadron went onto fly supplies into Germany in Operation Vittles in 1948 during the Russian blockade. 498 remained in the Pacific Theater and in August 1947 moved to VMR-152 , Marine Transport Squadron 152 at El Toro. From here it moved around with the squadron to Barbers Point, Corpus Christi and onto Iwakuni in Japan.
The Korean War (1950-53) At NAS Iwakuni , VMR-152 formed with VMR-253. From January 1952 through to June 1953, the squadron logged over 11,000 flight hours,carried 30,170 passengers, and moved 5,213,383 lbs(2,364,751 kg) of cargo.
The Vietnam War (1955 –1975)
Since 1946 she had been flying out of Agana, Guam, Iwakuni and Atsugi delivering supplies and much needed whole blood for the wounded of the Vietnam conflict. She operated in the Vietnam campaign up until 1972 flying between NAS Atusgi, Iwakuni in Japan, NAS Sangley Point, Cubi Point in the Philippines, Barbers Point, Hawaii and El Toro bringing back wounded soldiers and transporting back vital supplies. After 30 long years of military service she was retired .
Sold to Biegert Aviation of Phoenix, Arizona in 1975 and operated from 1977 to 1983 as a sprayer. Sold in January 1996 to Atlantic Warbirds Inc. of New Hampshire. A comprehensive restoration was carried out and the aircraft was flown to England to feature in a film about the Berlin Airlift. The aircraft sold to Aces High US Inc. in September 2002. She has been stored at North Weald airfield north of London. Unfortunately the film was cancelled and she has remained there ever since.
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The aim is to raise vital funds for the preservation and eventual restoration to flight of this rare surviving Douglas C54 Skymaster. Our Trustees and the society are leading a team of engineers, volunteers and pilots who believe that this aircraft is of particular importance and has served as a true Workhorse in three major Global Conflicts namely World War 2, Korean War and the Vietnam War. She will be a Flying tribute to the Berlin Airlift and attend airshows and events around the world.
She was a cargo plane and although these workhorses are not the ‘Glamour girls of the sky`like the Spitfire or P51 Mustangs, they did the important and vital role of bringing back our fallen and wounded troops as well as supplying the soldiers on the front line with valuable supplies of ammunition, food and fuel.
In 2002 she made her way to England together with another DC4 to feature in a film about the Berlin Airlift.
It is our intention to preserve this aircraft as a ‘Flying Classroom` for our current and future generations to see and enjoy. She has an incredible story to tell spanning her 30 years of military service and her time as an Agricultural Workhorse too.
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There is exfoliation corrosion in several areas of the upper spar caps of both mainplanes. The section shown above is on the outer Right mainplane main spar just outboard of the transport joint rib. The corrosion will need to be removed, the amount of material which has been removed will be assessed and a repair plate fitted. Other areas of the spar caps have previously been repaired as this is a well-known problem with Aluminium Alloy forgings. The repair will need to be referred to Boeing who now hold the historical rights to the Douglas design office. We hold historical reference documents which appear to prohibit repairs to the spar caps inboard of the engine nacelles, further research indicates that it is splice repairs which are not allowed rather than corrosion removal. We have entered into discussion with Cranfield Aerospace who have agreed in concept there will be no problem with the repairs.
Each repair is estimated to take a minimum of two weeks to accomplish, there are six areas of corrosion. A limited inspection of the spar webs has been carried out in the centre section and inside the inboard engine nacelles. No obvious defects were found and the spar webs and booms appear to be sound. The skins are secured to the structure using Magnesium Alloy rivets. Over long periods the structure of the rivet is weakened and the rivet will fail as has happened in the above picture in the area of the right wing outer mainplane transport joint. The repair for this will be to remove the failed rivets and replace with modern alternative. There is also evidence of corroded structure below the skin (as evidenced by the skin swelling up) which will require further inspection and investigation. A conservative estimate would be that the repairs would take between eight and twelve weeks to complete.
Pratt and Whitney have adopted a “hands off” approach to the support of reciprocating radial engines. We have talked to Anderson Aeromotive who overhaul these engine in the United States. They have set the time between overhaul at 1500 hours. The engine condition is monitored through oil consumption, once oil consumption rises above a maximum amount the engine is in need of attention. A lot of investigation and rectification can be carried out “on the wing” and the intention is to carry on this philosophy during operations. Because these engines have not flown in more than twelve years they will need to be dismantled and a thorough inspection carried out by an authorised repair organisation. Historically the engines have run very well with anti-deterioration runs being carried out until recently. In March 1976 FAA STC was raised to replace R-2000-4 with R-2000-6 engines this modification has been carried out in the number 2 position and it is possible to modify the remaining engines to this standard. There is a spare engine in the fuselage which may be used as a source of spares or possibly overhauled and returned to service. We have purchased an additional low time (50 hrs since overhaul) engine. A plan for the examination of the four installed engines and the spare engine has been prepared by Weald Aviation Ltd.
There are detailed log books for the props until June 2002 when all four props were removed for work related to A.D. 81-13-06 in Canada, this work needs to be satisfied at an interval not exceeding 18 months. It has been recommended that the props are removed and overhauled before the engines are started. Weald Aviation Ltd. have prepared a plan for the overhaul and satisfaction of A.D. 81-13-06 of all four propellers in their on-site facility.
There is a full set of VFR avionics fitted but they will need to be updated to a modern standard. An agreement is in place for the overhaul and upgrade of the historic avionics and installation of a modern avionics fit from a private sponsor.
Flying control surfaces.
The fabric covered control surfaces are in a poor state of repair and will need to be recovered. Despite being open to the elements for some considerable time the internal structure appears to be sound. There are several specialist companies in the U.K. with the capability of recovering the controls.
Hydraulic components and Landing gear.
As with the engines the components of the hydraulic system and the landing gear will have to be overhauled and certified by a recognised repair organisation. Once again we have several offers of support from companies in the U.K. with F.A.A. accreditation (one of which has links to the Berlin airlift) who are capable of carrying out this work.
Project time line.
The first priority would be to get the aircraft into a state where it could be moved, wheels and jacks are readily available. Before we can start any work we need to be sure that we know who our landlords are going to be for the duration of the project and that parking is paid for. Once the aircraft has a secure home we will remove the propellers, engines and flying controls and send them away for repair or overhaul. The aircraft can then be jacked up and trestled, so that components can be removed from the undercarriage and hydraulic systems to be sent away for repair. A temporary structure will need to be constructed to give the workforce some protection. Then the work can begin to sort out the corrosion issues with the spar caps and structure. With a good team and assuming not too many nasty surprises are found once we start to get into the repairs this should take about four months.
Consecutively with the corrosion repairs there will be a program of inspection agreed with the F.A.A. inspector. We hold a record of the previous F.A.A. inspection and also a 1971 historical reference document from the United States Air Force which details periodic inspections which will give us a good basis to decide the work required. As we come to the end of the corrosion repairs and inspection we expect the components to start to return from repair. Re-build and setting up the controls and components will probably take two to three months. With all funding in place, the target would be to have the aircraft ready for airtest within twelve months. With the aircraft probably being in demand for the 2021/2 European airshow season.
The aircraft will continue to be operated in the scheme which it has carried since its return to the airshow circuit in America. Over time the scheme will be changed slightly to reflect 56498s long association with the Pacific theatre.
There is no decision yet on where to base the aircraft once she has been returned to flight. There are several options such as Cranfield, North Weald, Duxford and Saint Athan which need to be considered.