2/15/1946: Maiden Flight of the Douglas DC-6

Today, in 1946, The Douglas DC-6 took to the skies for the first time.



February 15, 2024

DALLAS — Today, in 1946, The Douglas DC-6 took to the skies for the first time. The aircraft was a development of the DC-4 with increased performance, greater payload, and a pressurized cabin.

Initially intended for military service, the DC-6 was commissioned for the US Air Force as project XC-112 in 1944. This would be the version that would operate the inaugural flight.

However, by the time Douglas had designed the airliner, the Second World War had ended, and the military no longer required the type.

Pan Am bought 45 DC-6B's. Photo: Pan Am Historical Foundation

Passenger Model

Douglas converted the type into a passenger variant, and the DC-6 was born. The civilian variant flew on June 29, 1946, with deliveries to American Airlines (AA) and United Airlines (UA) in November of that year.

In 1952, Pan Am (PA) introduced the upgraded DC-6B onto transatlantic flights. It was also one of the first aircraft in the world to fly regular round-the-world scheduled service. The aircraft proved popular with airlines across the globe, from Ansett (AN) in Australia to Wardair (WD) in Canada.

Delta promoted its DC-6 fleet as "None Faster, None Finer to and thru' the South." Photo: Delta Museum

World Beater

By the mid-1950s, the type was gradually replaced by the DC-7 and soon the emerging airliners of the jet age, such as the Boeing 707 and Douglas’s DC-8.

However, the DC-6 would outlive the DC-7, especially with cargo operators, owing to its more economical engines. Indeed, the DC-6 was renowned as one of the world’s most significant piston-engined airliners. Between 1947 and 1959, Douglas built 704 DC-6s, 167 of them military versions.

Featured Image: President Harry Truman’s first presidential aircraft, "The Independence." Photo: Public Domain via Kirtland Air Force Base