BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
DOUGLAS DC-6B IN GENERAL
The DC-6 was a highly successful member of a proud line of DC
(Douglas Corporation) piston engined propeller driven aircraft.
It was preceded by the lesser known DC-2 (late 1920's and early
1930's), the ubiquitous and much revered DC-3 - commonly known as
the "Dakota" or "Dak" (early 1930's to middle 1940's) and the DC-4,
commonly known as the "Skymaster" (late 1930's to late 1940's).
Built by the Douglas Aircraft Corporation, the first DC-6 took to
the air on 2 February 1951. considerably bigger, faster and more
powerful than any of its predecessors and featuring a pressurised
cabin, the DC-6 range as a whole is regarded by many as arguably the
best piston engined propliner of the post World War 2 era.
Although the DC-6 was supposedly superseded by the DC-7 range, the
"6" proved so popular with operators, that Douglas had to re-open
its production line, where the two ranges rubbed shoulders for a
considerable period of time during the 1950's. In fact, the DC-6's
were built for a short period even after the DC-7 production had
Douglas built four versions of the DC-6 range, namely the DC-6
standard, the enlarged DC-6 cargo version and its military variant,
the C-118 as well as the DC-6B commercial passenger liner. The DC-6B
forms the basis of this business plan.
The DC-6B is similar in dimensions to the DC-6A cargo version.
throughout its production life, which formally ended in 1958,
updates and technical enhancements were made, resulting in slight
variations in terms of weight, range etc.
Throughout their operational careers, DC-6's have earned an enviable
reputation as rugged, reliable aircraft, able to operate in a great
diversity of conditions and with an immense load carrying capacity
in relation to size and weight. In fact, a typical stretched DC-6
variant can carry almost 60% of its empty weight in fuel and cargo.
In addition, the Pratt & Whitney R2800 engines are known for their
power and reliability. This is evidenced by the fact that more than
30 various USA sourced aircraft types have been and are currently
operated with these engines.
HISTORY OF THE DC-6B "BATELEUR"
Although there are many DC-6A and C-118 cargo versions in operation
around the world, the DC-6B passenger liners were mostly
"mothballed" as fiercely competitive airlines clamoured for more
speed and greater seating capacities. The DC-6B represented the
golden era of "style" flying whereas the jets that replaced them
concentrated on high density and above all, speedy transport.
Thus the remaining DC-6Bs not "mothballed" were either converted to
cargo carriers or water bombers.
Extensive research has indicated that there are presently only 2
airworthy and operational DC-6B passenger liners remaining anywhere
in the world. Coincidentally, these two aircraft were also the last
two DC-6B's to have been produced before the production line was
officially halted. Their respective serial numbers are 45563 and
45564. Serial number 45563 left the Douglas manufacturing facility
in Santa Monica on 15th October 1958, whereas her sister did
likewise on 15th November 1958. Both aircraft were procured by
Jugoslovenski Aerotransport (JAT) of Yugoslavia where they were
briefly utilised as commercial airliners before being assigned to
the Yugoslavian Air Force. Configured as VIP aircraft, these two
DC-6Bs served in this capacity as personal transports for the then
President of Yugoslavia, field Marshall Tito, as well as other high
ranking government officials.
Both aircraft were subsequently donated to the Zambian Air Force
during 1975, and were used as VIP transports by President Kenneth
Kaunda and his cabinet. However, over the next years the aircraft
became disused and were eventually left standing at Lusaka airport.
During 1992, the two aircraft became subjects of a deal concluded
with Namibia Commercail Aviation (Pty) Ltd (NCA). The latter company
owned and operated by Mr Chris Schutte had, at the time,
successfully operated two DC-6 cargo versions on various United
Nations mercy flights into Africa. the crux of the deal in question
was that a British aviation suppliers agent had offered NCA 40
tonnes of surplus DC-6 spares from Zambian Air Force stocks on
condition that NCA remove the two DC-6B's standing at Lusaka.
On arrival in Zambia, Mr Schutte and his team found, to their
surprise, that although neglected and dirty, with faded paintwork,
both aircraft were actually in good mechanical health with very low
flying hours logged.
After some nominal repair work, serial number 45564 found its way to
Namibia with serial number 45563 following suit in 1994. This latter
aircraft sporting the Namibian registration V5-NCF, was the first to
be fully restored to its former glory, and put into operation as a
charter aircraft. Aptly named "Fish Eagle", after the Namibian
national bird, she regularly plied the skies from Windhoek Eros
airport to Kariba and Victoria Falls as well as on sundowner
The success of "Fish Eagle" prompted Mr Schutte to restore serial
number 45564 as well, and in 1997 she took to the sky as V5-NCG "Bateleur".
As with "Fish Eagle", Bateleur" was restored to her original VIP
configuration. Thus the aircraft caters for "only" 60 passengers in
a business to first class environment, complete with an 8-seat club
style arranged stateroom, 6 overhead sleeping bunks with individual
lighting and ventilation controls, 3 large sized cloakrooms,
reclining seats and a garderobe.
%The VIP specification also means additional sound deadening. Thus,
with stretch-out comfort, excellent on-board cuisine and the ability
of the pressurised aircraft to fly above turbulence, passengers
relive the "flying in style" of the 1950's.