DC4 & DC-6 Background Information

The Douglas 'swingtail' conversions

The history of the swingtails goes back to the 1960s. This conversion was an invention of the engineering department of the Belgian airline SABENA, after Air Congo had made a request to Sabena to reconfigure a DC-4 so it could transport larger pieces of freight and cars.

C-54B 9Q-CBG (c/n 10452) was picked for this and it lasted almost 6 months to complete this project in Brussels. After completion it led to a first flight on 16Dec1966 and (flight)testing led to a redelivery, in March 1967, to Air Congo.
It was still active when Air Congo changed its name into Air Zaire 19Oct71.
In July 1976 this DC-4 was sold to Zaire Aero Service, which kept it until Sept. 1984.
C-54 9Q-CBG / Richard Nash collection
This image of 9Q-CBG has no signs of its 'Swingtail'-conversion, so it must be taken before end-1966.
At that time it was sold to Kinair Cargo and received a new identity: 9Q-CBK. Unfortunately it crashed on 23Aug88 at M'Bamon Island in the Zaire River, near Kinshasa, and was written off.
ATDB.aero website has: "converted C-54B-DC by SABENA at Brussels (f/f 16/12/66, re-delivered 3/67); temp.regd as 9T-THB".
See also www.planelogger.com/Aircraft/9Q-CBG/C-54B-1-DC_Air Congo/626923


The next customer for the 'Swingtail conversion' was Kar Air of Finland, which had a fleet of 3 passenger DC-6Bs and operated charters in and outside Europe. To be more flexibale with its fleet Kar Air decided to reconfigure DC-6B OH-KDA (c/n 45202) to the Swingtail variant. Thus they would be able to operate both in passenger configuration as well as in cargo configuration.
Sabena had to rethink the idea, as the DC-4 did not have a pressurized cabin and the DC-6 did.

On April 16th, 1968 Sabena completed the reconfiguration and started flight testing. It was now capable of loading cargo with a length of 60 ft. (18 m.) and was designated DC-6B ST.
After completion of the flighttesting, it was redelivered to Kar Air and they operated it till Sept. 27th 1981. It was mostly used for cargo charters on behalf of the United Nations and on relief flights for the International Red Cross. Destinations were mostly found in Africa. On July 2nd, 1982 it was sold to Trans Air Link, who reregistered it as N867TA and operated it on cargo flights from Miami into the Caribbean. In 1986 it was sold to Northern Air Cargo, who used it until its crash on Sept.26th 2001 at Alpine, Alaska.

There was a 3rd and final reconfiguration and was carried out for Spantax.
The idea was the same, to be more flexable in utilisation of the fleet. DC-6B EC-BBK (cn44434) was the lucky one and on April 30th, 1968 it made its first flight after being converted to 'Swingtail DC-6'.
Spantax used it for both passenger- and cargo charters until July 1975, within Europe.
It was sold to Zantop and registered as N434TA on July 29th, 1975. Zantop used it to transport car parts from Detroit-Willow Run, for the local motor industry. But recession set in during the 1980s and Zantop stored the DC-6BF. Northern Air Cargo came along and bought it July 1987. At the end of the 1990s, early 2000, the airframe reached the end of its structural life and was stored at Fairbanks,AK.

Due to the loss of N867TA and the unique abilities of the swingtail-concept, Northern Air Cargo decided to pay for a full check up and restore N434TA to renewed airworthiness. This would take a lot of money (more, in fact, than the airframe is worth, but the unique loading facilities for cargo with lengthy dimensions should make it worthwhile) and time; it was to fly again in 2002.
On 30Sep08 Northern Air Cargo ceased operations with the Douglas DC-6 and all were put up for sale; restoration for N434TA was never completed (maybe it never got under way..) and remained stored at Fairbanks.
Also the rear fuselage of N867TA was found to be stored at Fairbanks (noted in Apr04 & Jun08).

Credit: Niels Borcharding / Editor Propliners Section, Scramble magazine

UPDATE (FEB.2017): N434TA Arrived Hay River in 2013 and was subsequently stored at Hay River for Buffalo Airways; see this Flickr link to a 28May 2016 photo. Not all hope is lost for this unique propliner!
Arthur Craig wrote me in Dec.2015:
"I was reading your article on the DC-6 Swingtails. I used to fly as Flight Engineer for Zantop in 1977 and flew their swingtail many times."



Links on this website:
My DC-6 photos, including one of N434TA at work in Alaska. You'll find more 'Alaska pages' on my website.
Some background info on the Douglas DC-6
And external link, for the NTSB Accident reports, choose Accident Synopses and fill in with Registration: N867TA.



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