How did you first come across this particular C-54 Skymaster?

When the owner of the aircraft was scrapping the other DC 4 in December 2017, I came across this particular frame and asked him what his intentions were. He was planning to sell it or scrap it, as he could not find a buyer. Since I am in the aircraft brokerage business I then got permission to market the Skymaster from Mr. Hyde [the owner – ed. note]. After a sale falling through to a museum, I launched an appeal and set up Save the Skymaster on Facebook to see who out there would be interested in helping me getting this aircraft rescued. I was given three months to find a home for the C-54.

Why did the story of this aircraft move your team so much?

Firstly, I wrote to the Smithsonian institute to get a full history of the aircraft. A month later the historical records for 56498 [the serial number of the C-54 – ed. note] arrived and I was blown away by what I found. 56498 was a genuine World War Two veteran and served in the Pacific Theater from early 1945. The Skymaster would transport troops, cargo, blood, ammunition, aircraft parts, and vehicles and then bring back the wounded as a flying hospital. She stayed in the Pacific during World War Two and into the Korean War and later, the Vietnam War. The reason why she was not phased out in the 1960s by the newly introduced Hercules C130 was that she was a U.S. Navy aircraft. This C-54 left military service in 1973 and then was flown as a sprayer from 1975 to 1985. She sat in a boneyard until a group called Atlantic Warbirds rescued and restored her in 1995. Then, the C-54 was flown to the UK with another DC4 to take part in a film about the Berlin Airlift. However, the film did not happen and she was left at North Weald airfield and put up for sale. She was gifted to the C-54 Skymaster Trust once the owner Mr. Hyde was told about its incredible history.

The C-54 served in three conflicts, namely World War Two, the Korean War and Vietnam. Are there a lot of battle scars visible on the aircraft?

The aircraft is very original and still retains a lot of its original equipment. We are however missing a few navigation items which we hope to find one day. The original Bendix Drift meter and Sextant are no longer in the aircraft. All the stretcher mounts and oxygen systems, original gyros and period parts are still in the aircraft. Evidence of her 30 years of military career is there by means of bumps, scratches and personalized insignia.


Your first goal is to obviously restore the Skymaster to an airworthy condition. What do you plan on doing after you bring back the C-54 to its glory days?

The plan is to fly an airshow circuit in the United Kingdom & Europe and operate flights, use the Skymaster in film and television and training pilots on such skills as Astro Navigation.

From an engineering and maintenance perspective, what is the hardest part of restoring a 70-year-old aircraft?

The lack of parts and spares here in the UK. These are easy to find in the United States but difficult to come by in the United Kingdom. All of our engines will need to be Zero Timed – overhauled before she is ready to fly. These can only be done in the US and with four engines at £60,000 each this will take a lot of fundraising so we can accomplish this. We managed to get sponsors and a restoration partnership to help with items such as fabric for control surfaces and hydraulic systems, which were overhauled by a local company. Funding is our major thing. We have estimated the restoration to cost $1.3 million (£1 million) which for such a big aircraft is not too bad. A Spitfire restoration is $2.6 million (£2 million) and that only has one engine and one pilot!

What will the process of recertification look like? Is it difficult to certify a restored aircraft?

The aircraft is registered on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) register and we are going to keep it on this register as it makes our life easier. The reason being is that Douglas DC-4 / C-54s are still operated in the USA and the FAA has approved maintenance programs for all these operators. Our C-54 is the only one in the UK and no other DC4/C-54s are flying in Europe, therefore it would be very difficult for the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to produce an operations and maintenance program for this aircraft.

What is the first event that you aim to bring the Skymaster to?

We aim to make our first appearance at Flying Legends at Duxford but not sure when this will be. Maybe 2021 or 2022. It all depends on what funding we get to do all the work necessary. Once we have all the funding we can get her airworthy in 12 to 18 months. We have registered as the C-54 Skymaster Trust and approved for Charitable Trust status by UK HM Revenue & Customs, thus people can donate to us, as we are operating as a charity.

Lastly, a magical man appears out of the bright blue sky and gives you unlimited funds and personnel to restore one other historical aircraft. Which airplane would it be and why?​

A very difficult question, as I am personally working on other restorations, including a rare Spitfire MK Vb and a friend of mine is working on a De Havilland Mosquito. However, I would like to see a Vickers Wellington flying again. I believe there is only one surviving in the world. This aircraft played a significant part in our World War Two campaign and so many big bomber pilots cut their teeth on the ‘Wimpey’ – the cost to restore one will be around £12 million…if you can find a donor airframe to start with.

Pictured: a Vickers Wellington Mk1A

[ David JC]