Douglas C-118 Liftmaster


The C-118 (designated as R6D by the U.S. Navy) was a military variation of the Douglas DC-6 commercial airliner. In 1947, USAAF officials ordered 166 aircraft to support operations of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).

The 29th production DC-6 was designated as VC-118 and modified to replace the aging¬†C-54C¬†“Sacred Cow” Presidential aircraft. It differs from the standard DC-6 configuration in that the aft fuselage was converted into a stateroom; the main cabin seated 24 passengers or could be made into 12 “sleeper” berths. The VC-118 was formally commissioned into the USAAF on 4 July 1947, and was nicknamed “Independence” for President Truman’s hometown in Missouri. Probably the plane’s most historic flight occurred when it carried the President to Wake Island in October 1950 to discuss the Korean situation with Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

The 165 C-118A Liftmasters produced were about six feet longer than the “Independence.” C-118As played a key role in “Operation Safe Haven” during which 14,000 Hungarian refugees were airlifted to the U.S. in 1956-57. In the transport configuration, the C-118 could carry up to 74 fully-equipped troops or up to 50,000 pounds of cargo.

In May 1953, after nearly six years of White House service, the “Independence” was retired as a Presidential aircraft and subsequently served several Air Force organizations as a VIP transport. It was retired for display at the USAF Museum in 1965.

Douglas C-118 Liftmaster Specifications

Official DesignationDouglas C-118A (R6D) Liftmaster
Primary RoleMilitary transport
Secondary RolePresidential transport
National OriginUSA
Original ContractorDouglas Aircraft Corporation
Wingspan117 feet, 6 inches
Length106 feet, 9 inches
Height at Tail28 feet, 9 inches
EnginesFour Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radials
Horsepower2,400 shp each (with water injection)
Cruise Speed265 mph
Max Speed360 mph
Range4,000 miles
Service Ceiling27,200 feet
Operating WeightUnknown
Max Payload50,000 pounds or 74 troops
Max Takeoff Weight108,000 pounds
Date Deployed1947
Total Produced165 aircraft