Topic Author
Posts: 4224
Joined: Sat May 22, 1999 3:49 am

TAP C-54 Skymaster's Saga!

Mon Feb 13, 2006 6:45 pm


Take a look to this wonderfull and very rare photo:

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Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Frank Hudson

Recognise that airplane? Yes, the good old C-54 Skymaster. I would like to share with you a bit how TAP ordered this airplane, the expectations TAP also had and what what the importance of this airplane for the future of TAP.
When TAP was formed the idea was to buy from war surplus the good old faithfull C-47 Dakota and also to get a few 4 engine C-54 Skymasters to start a service to Brazil. Portugal at that time was already served by Panair and their L049's, so it would be like a chance to compete with them. The request was donne to KLM and what TAP asked KLM was to find out " an airplane closest possible with the DC-4-1009 " and KLM indeed filled that request but unfortunetely the airplane that TAP got was the C-54A, an airplane with a very limited range and equiped with P & W R2000/7 a very, very infamous engine that gave a lot of problems to TAP.
When the first C-54A Skymaster was presented in Portugal TAP technitians already knew that TAP could only operate this airplane with a mere 20 passengers in any South Atlantic crossing...very bad from the start. Also the possibility of using this airplane in Africa was restricted due to a lack of infrastructures both in Angola and Mozambique! So the only market TAP could use the C-54 was flying to Europe. So what we had in late 40's was the use of the C-47/C-53's to Africa and the C-54 to Europe, first in Paris Le Bouget on the 10th. August 1948 and London Northolt on the 27th. May 1949. TAP received 4 C-54A's Skymasters with the following registrations and serial numbers:

CS-TSA C/nr: 3072
CS-TSB C/nr: 3059
CS-TSC C/nr: 3069
CS-TSD C/nr: 7487

If you notice closely, the first 3 C-54A-DO's were infact from the very early batch builted in the early months of these C-54's were already obsolete then!!! It's worth to notice that TAP lost a C-54A ( CS-TSB ) during 1948 without any loss of people ( there are reports that it was an heavy landing on a trainning flight... ).
In 1954 the C-47/C-53's finnally left Africa routes and the C-54's went on those routes just for a mere year. TAP had already ordered the L1049G Super Constellation to boost their network to Africa. In 1955 TAP received their brand new Super Constellations and the old faithfull C-54 Skymaster would stay until the end of the 50's. Between 1958/1959 TAP leased another L1049, this time an H model that was used in Africa, but also in Europe. So we can say that after the arrival of the Super Constellation TAP kept the C-54 Skymaster in Europe but also got the reinforcement of the Lockheed in the network. TAP received two mote L1049G's in 1961 and that was the swann song for the C-54. With these 2 new Super Constellations TAP could finnally retire the C-54 Skymaster and at the same time operate an all L1049G Super Constellation fleet until the arrival of the first jet. TAP had two options on the jet, or they could get long-haul jets ( and that was quite hard because both Douglas and Boeing had their line already full ) or they could keep the Supr Constellations on the long-haul business for a while and get in a short notice short/medium jets, and that was the option TAP did, ordering 3 Caravelle VI-R.
Resuming, the C-54 Skymaster was "the plane" to open Europe to TAP, it was a good plane for that route, it gave the chance to TAP to use the most modern navigation aids at that time and that acknowledgement would clear the way for TAP - when they received the Caravelle VI-R - to spread their european network to further destinations like Switzerland, Belgium, Danmark etc, etc.
CV990, the Maserati of the skies!
Posts: 72
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2005 2:24 am

RE: TAP C-54 Skymaster's Saga!

Mon Feb 13, 2006 7:08 pm

Hi CV990,

Thanks for this great post!!!!!

It's always great to know more about TAP history.
More info like this will always be more than welcome!!

Regards  bigthumbsup 
Posts: 531
Joined: Wed Jul 07, 2004 6:17 pm

RE: TAP C-54 Skymaster's Saga!

Mon Feb 13, 2006 9:33 pm


Great post, very informative.

BTW, do you know what happened to these planes? I hear one of them is still at Alverca on a not so goot shape, but maybe this is just a rumour...
Posts: 2238
Joined: Sat Jan 14, 2006 10:53 am

RE: TAP C-54 Skymaster's Saga!

Mon Feb 13, 2006 9:40 pm


Thanks for the interesting information.

It sounds like it was just as well TAP did not try to compete with Panair on the South Atlantic route, as Panairs "connies" were not only faster, but pressurized! When one looks back on it, it is really amazing how much pioneering did get done back in the old days, despite all the obstacles.

While I did not personally see any of TAP's piston powered aircraft, I remember well their beautiful 707's. In my minds eye, I can still picture one I saw on the ramp at JFK years ago---another wonderful memory.
"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough!"
Tan Flyr
Posts: 1579
Joined: Sat Aug 19, 2000 11:07 pm

RE: TAP C-54 Skymaster's Saga!

Tue Feb 14, 2006 12:54 am

Jose, Great post! How long did the research take you?

Alswys great to learn more about an aircraft.

Topic Author
Posts: 4224
Joined: Sat May 22, 1999 3:49 am

RE: TAP C-54 Skymaster's Saga!

Tue Feb 14, 2006 2:15 am

Hi guys!

Thanks for your feedback! That gives of course motivation fto share a bit of the past of TAP to some of you!

PhotoLPPT - All TAP C-54's passed to Portugal Air Force! One of them still exists at Alverca for the Museu do Ar. Actually that C-54 is the oldest airframe in existance.

ImperialEagle - Yes, TAP couldn't NEVER MATCH Panair airplanes during most of the time. Panair used the L049, latter they upgraded to the DC-6 and the DC-7C. TAP actually did a research flight to Brazil from the 30th. March 1955 during a few days there. TAP did observation flights to the airports of Recife, Natal, Fortaleza, Caravelas, Victória, Galeão, Curitiba, S. Paulo and Salvador. The plane used was the same of the photo, CS-TSC. Only in April 1965 TAP would eventually arrive ( now regulary ) to Rio de Janeiro on the Lockheed L1049G Super Constellation.

TAN FLYR - Well I've been doing this for some years. I got a good book regarding the begging of TAP written by a TAP pilot from the early days. I also had good information from TAP Museum...and of course, once a while we get some new information. This photo here in the A.Net engine was a pleasant surprise!

CV990, the Maserati of the skies!
Topic Author
Posts: 4224
Joined: Sat May 22, 1999 3:49 am

RE: TAP C-54 Skymaster's Saga!

Thu Feb 16, 2006 4:57 pm


Well looks that we found " a missing link " regarding TAP C-54 Skymasters. I'm talking about the accident of CS-TSB. I found now that the date of this accident was 3rd. September 1948.
Now for those that have production list books you can add that.
It's great to see that we closed another "open issue" about portuguese aviation.
CV990, the Maserati of the skies!

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