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.
there is only two airworthy and operational DC-6B passenger liners remaining anywhere in the world. Coincidentally, these two aircraft were also the last two DC-6Bs 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 Commercial 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 supplier’s agent had offered NCA 40 tonnes of surplus DC-6 spares from Zambian Air Force stocks on condition that NCA remove the two DC-6Bs 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 sun-downer cruises.
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 wardrobe.
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.
In March 2000, Sigi Angerer, chief Flying Bulls pilot, spotted the DC-6B for sale in Africa in an airline magazine and quickly made his move. On July 7th 2000, the “Fish Eagle” took off from Windhoek and headed for Salzburg. The flight took 28 hours, with 4 stops, causing no problems. In 2001, restoration began and following thousands of hours of labour, the DC-6B left the workshop in all her glory three years later.
The plane received the American aircraft register N996DM shortly after its transfer to Austria. Thirteen years later, the DC-6B was finally given Austrian citizenship and now operates under the Austrian registration OE-LDM, making it the first DC-6B to ever receive an Austrian code. Everyone agrees the DC-6B is in better shape today than when she left her Douglas birthplace in 1958.
Length: 32,46 m
Wing Span: 35,81 m
Height: 8,73 m
Max Take-off Weight: 47,182 kg
Max Landing Weight: 41,363 kg
Empty Weight: 27,860 kg
Max Cruising Speed: 579 km/h
Normal Cruising Speed: 507 km/h
Approach Speed: 226 km/h
Landing Distance: 800-1,200 m
Take-off Distance: 1,200 - 1,800 m
Fuel Capacity: 21,050 Litres
Fuel Consumption: between 1,500 and 2,200 Litres per hour
Crew: 1 Captain, 1 First Officer, 1 Flight Engineer, 1 Flight Technician, 2 Attendants.
Powered by four Pratt & Whitney R2800 CB16 radial piston engines
Number of cylinders: 18 per engine (72 total of 4 engines)
Configuration: Air cooled double row radial
Displacement: 45,75 litres per engine
Diameter: 1,34 m
Length: 2,07 m
Weight: 1,086 kg
Compression ratio: 6,75:1
Fuel supply: Stromberg PR-58S carburettors, Water/Methanol injected with 2-stage supercharger
Output: Between 1,818 (2400 HP) and 1,893 (2500 HP) kilowatts per Engine depending on fuel octane rating
Lubrication System: Dry Sump
Fuel Requirement: AVGAS
Propellers: Hamilton 3 blade, variable pitch with Reverse Thrust