Douglas DC-4 and Douglas DC-4 Retardant Tanker

The DC-4 airplane is a long-range, low wing monoplane with full cantilever wing and tail surfaces, semi-monocoque fuselage, and fully retractable tricycle-type landing gear. It is designed for use as a passenger and cargo commercial transport. The airplane can be safely operated by a pilot and co-pilot. Equipment to accommodate additional crewmembers, check pilot, radio operator, and navigator, may be added. The weight empty of the airplane is approximately 40, 800 lbs. (Actual weight is dependent on the passenger equipment and fuselage interior requested by the operator). The airplane is powered by 4 Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp, 14-cylinder, air cooled, radial engines. The 4 propellers are 3-blade-type Hamilton Standard Hydromatic with a 23E50 hub and 6507A-0 blades.

Currently Buffalo Airways has eight DC-4’s in its fleet, with five configured with retardant tanks for fire fighting.
C-CPSH (Freighter), C-FBAA (Freighter), C-GBNV (Tanker 56), C-GCTF (Tanker 58), C-GIQM (Tanker 57), C-FBAJ (Tanker 02), C-FBAK (Tanker 13)

In February 1936, Douglas began the design of a large four-engine commercial transport that would be capable of carrying twice as many passengers as the DC-3 over distances of 2200 miles. The result: The Douglas DC-4 / C-54 Skymaster.
The aircraft went into full production during a time of war, in fact work on the first production aircraft continued through the months after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor. On February 14, 1942, the first DC-4, designated a C-54

Skymaster for the military, took flight and started the age of the four-engine transports. Over 1,100 were eventually built.
Because of their long-range capabilities with a full compliment of passengers, the DC-4 immediately found its way into scheduled passenger service for many different airlines. The beautiful purr of the four Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engines could be heard over-flying the world’s oceans time and time again, as passengers found it easier than ever before to visit destinations overseas.

From transporting crews and equipment in the military, to taking passengers and freight to destinations around the world, the DC-4 has more than served its purpose. This four-engine Douglas still hauls 50 passengers or 20, 000 lbs. of freight to many destinations, and it has even taken on some more interesting roles. From being fitted with spray booms for spraying against destructive insects, to adopting an external tank under the belly for use in dispersing 20, 000 lbs of retardant on forest fires, the DC-4 has done it all. And just like the title says, “Nothing beats the sound of a four-engine Douglas”. These engines, developing 1450 hp each at take-off, create a wonderful rumble on the take-off roll, and yet they purr away quietly with the airplane in cruise, allowing passengers to fall asleep to the gentle drone.

Buffalo Airways, in keeping with its fleet of heavy piston-engine transports, has kept the four company-owned DC-4’s working in various roles. Six of these aircraft can be found flying freight from Yellowknife to various destinations in Canada. The other five DC-4’s have returned to service as DC-4 Water Bombers, providing the delivery of retardant to forest fires in the N.W.T.
Buffalo’s various DC-4’s have seen action around the world. GPSH was delivered to American Airlines in 1944. It served as the ‘Flagship America’. The aircraft was sold to Qantas and affectionately named ‘New Guinea Trader’. In 1958 it served in Malaysia for 2 years before making its way back to Canadian soil! FIQM was a part of the Great Berlin Airlift.
These aircraft, the Douglas DC-4 / C-54 Skymaster, have proven themselves for service and reliability over the last 56 years and will continue to transport freight, passengers, and fight fires for years to come.

TYPE: The Douglas DC-4 is certified in the transport category. A variant, the C-54 is designed for Military Transport (capacity for forty-two troops with full equipment).

PERIOD: First saw service in 1941. This basic model was modified to become the military variant C-54 Skymaster, which had large cargo handling doors and first flew in 1942.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United States of America

ENGINE: Four Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S34C-G air cooled radials, 14-cylinder, air-cooled, radial engines. The 4 propellers are 3-blade-type Hamilton Standard Hydromatic with a 23E50 hub and 6507A-0 blades.
C-54: Four Pratt & Whitney R-2000-7 radials


  • Wing span: 117ft 6 in
  • Length: 94ft 10_ in
  • Height: 27ft 6 in


  • Max Take-Off Weight (MTOW): 72,000lbs as a cargo plane and 66,000lbs as a Bomber!


  • (DC-4): Max 259mph at 17,000ft. Service ceiling 25,300ft
    Operating range 2540 miles
  • (C-54): Max 275mph. Service ceiling 22,000ft. Operating range 3,900 miles.


Click here to read a performance-oriented description of a flight in a Canadair Four. (The Rolls Royce engined DC-4M is stepped up in weight and accommodation)



  • 2 flight crew members
  • Maximum payload is 20, 000 lbs.
  • 48 Passengers or a Combination of Passengers / Cargo
  • Fuel Capacity:
No. 1 main (outer wing)
No. 1 aux. (inner wing, outboard)
No. 2 main (inner wing, center)
No. 2 aux. (inner wing, inboard)
No. 3 aux. (inner wing, inboard)
No. 3 main (inner wing, center)
No. 4 aux. (inner wing, outboard)
No. 4 main (outer wing)
Total capacity
  • Tanker retardant / water capacity:

Type II Tankers
1800-2999 gallons retardant

Max Gallons
Cruise Speed (kts)


Quick Fact
During the 1940’s the C-54 Skymaster served as Air Force One for President Roosevelt complete with sleeping quarters, a radio telephone and a retractable elevator for Roosevelt's wheelchair. The plane, nicknamed the "Sacred Cow," carried Roosevelt on several important missions, including the historic Yalta Conference.


Visit the Buffalo Airways page to learn more about our new DVD featuring the DC-4





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