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Photo ID: 1015011
click image to enlarge
Model: C-54E Skymaster, DC-4 Registration: NC45344
Year: 1945 Serial Number: 44-9037, C/N 27263/DO209
Engine(s): Four P&W R2000, 1400-HP each Owner: TWA
Location: Unknown Photographer: An old 6X9 photo from the Ken Stoltzfus collection
Date: Probably early 1950's Present Registration: Destroyed Present Owner (FAA info):
Notes: 6/5/04 - I treasure this photo! Wow, it is full of action and is so sharp that you would recognize some of the people if you knew them.

TWA's NC45344, named "The Colosseum"* and given their number "603", was built as a C-54E-1-DO and delivered on September 2, 1945. It received Douglas Construction Number 27263 (which became its civilian serial number), and USAAF s/n 44-9037. It also bore "DO209", which indicates the fuselage number.

The military C-54E Skymaster was a convertible passenger/cargo aircraft with a gross weight of 73,000 pounds. It carried 3540-gal of fuel in six wing tanks, and had 44 passenger seats. Power was four P&W R2000 "Twin Wasp" engines of 1400-HP each. Several sources say that Douglas built 125, C-54E's in their Santa Monica plant, i.e. USAAF 44-9026/ 9150 and c/n 27252/ 27376. (FAA Spec. A-762 indicates c/n 27242/ 27371 are eligible as C-54E's.)

Note the cargo door; passenger entrance ramp; 5-gal. jugs of oil (possibly de-ice fluid) at the bottom of the ramp; and the astrodome right behind the cockpit for celestial navigation. There is an ADF (Automatic Direction Finder) loop antenna on the belly, but also a manually operated DF antenna behind it.

The date of the photo is unknown. However, TWA became Trans World Airlines in 1950, so it was 1950 or later. A little snag is that after December 1948 the registration would have been N45344 instead of NC45344 and I'm surprised that it had not been changed by 1950.

The location is also unknown, but the name INTAVA on the trucks should give someone a clue, and the truck doors say "Imperial Oil". Can someone out there help us?

This aircraft was operated by TWA from 8/46 to 3/58. One source indicates that TWA used the C-54 for freight only. In January 1947 they commenced a weekly freight run to Lydda, Israel, via New York, Gander, Shannon, Paris, Geneva, Rome, Athens and Cairo. TWA operated a total of 14, C-54B, E and G aircraft.

N45344 was later operated by Flying Tigers but the dates are unclear. Sources indicate it went to Eastern Aircraft sales in 3/58 and was leased to Flying Tigers after that. It is reported to have flown for U.S. Overseas, and was leased by California Airmotive Sales to Associated Air Transport in 1960.

My 1967 and '68 U.S. Civil Aircraft Registers show Coastal Aircraft Machine, Inc. of Miami Springs, FL as the owner. At one point it was operated by Aerovias Panama SA as HP-311; then registered in Anguilla as VP-LAH. My 1976 Register shows it as N174DP with L&N Enterprises Inc. DBA of Miami Springs as owner.

Its demise came on March 4, 1977. Interamerica Air Lease was the operator, and someone was doing some naughties. Reports say that the pilot attempted a landing on "unsuitable terrain" near Monroe Station, FL with 3720-lb. of marijuana on board. It was wet, soft ground and the nose gear collapsed. It may have been a stolen aircraft or an unauthorized flight.

*Some sources misspell this, but it is clearly visible in this photo.
 
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