Douglas Skymaster

Inside the cockpit of a disused Douglas DC-4 skymaster, famously known for their use during the Berlin Airlift. This skymaster was used between 1946 - 1962 as a passenger plane before serving across the world as a freight plane until it was decommissioned in 2002. It was left to rot at the Arizona aviation graveyard for some time before finding it's final resting place in the UK, where it was kept at RAF North Weald before being dismantled for parts, and the cockpit seen here is now being prepared for display at the Burtonwood heritage centre.

The DC-4 (Or C-54 as it was known during the war) proved to be one of the most popular and reliable planes of the 20th century, with 1245 being built between May 1942 and August 1947, including 79 postwar DC-4s. Several remained in service as of 2011, and Douglas continued to develop the type during the war in preparation for a return to airline use when peace returned. The type's sales prospects withered when 500 wartime skymasters came onto the civil market, and many like this one were converted to airliners by Douglas.

It is particularly fitting that this plane is now to go on display here at Burtonwood, as the DC-4 has a significant association with the north west of England, being a frequent visitor to Liverpool and also in its military guise as the C-54 being a regular visitor to the Burtonwood Base Air Depot itself . These aircraft ferried parts and personnel to and from the US, and many of these aircraft eventually ended up being involved in Operation Plainfare a.k.a. the Berlin Airlift.

The crisis started on June 24, 1948, when Soviet forces blockaded rail, road, and water access to Allied-controlled areas of Berlin. The United States and United Kingdom responded by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin from Allied airbases in western Germany, and the Douglas Skymaster was one of the iconic aircraft used to take these emergency supplies to those in need on the Eastern side of Berlin. 

When the two DC-4s arrived at North Weald over 10 years ago, they were acquired for use in a planned film about the Berlin Airlift. The film never came to fruition and the DC-4s began to decay in their derelict state. In this photo you can see how one example still remained intact whilst the other was taken apart, most notably the cockpit which is now at Burtonwood. 

The cockpit has now begun its restoration and sports the iconic red lightning stripe associated with the Berlin airlift era that made the DC-4 so famous. Eventually it will be on display as a walk-in attraction for people of all ages to learn about Berlin airlift and to experience the aircraft up close as a sentiment to the history of the American airbase at Burtonwood.