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; see note further down) 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; note that 9Q-CBK was issued twice, also earlier for c/n 10730 (destroyed in '78).
ATDB.aero website has: "converted C-54B-DC by SABENA at Brussels (f/f 16/12/66, re-delivered 3/67); temp. reg'd as 9T-THB".
See also www.planelogger.com/Aircraft/Registration/9Q-CBG/626923 - but when I checked a few years later (Oct.2018) I found reference of reregistration CBG to CBK removed, I think erroneously (Unsolved Aircraft Identies)
A 1978 photo of 9Q-CBK by Ron Mak can be found on his gallery, PAGE THREE.

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
A DC-6 swing-tail.... not many of those around...

Douglas made some versatile aeroplanes...! N434TA (cn 44434/515) is a DC-6BF/ST, ST for 'Swing Tail', which is obvious in this shot.
Life started normally enough for c/n 44434, with Western Air Lines in oct.1954 as DC-6B N91310. The Los Angeles Dodgers bought it feb.1961 and reregistered it as N180R in dec.1954. Thru Air Carrier Service Corporation in oct.1963 it went to Colombia as HK-1029, operating for Taxader Colombia (dec.1963). Two years later it went back to the US, registered as N12810 for Trans-Am Aeronautical and in aug.1965 for Charlotte Aircraft Corporation. It moved on to another continent immediately, to Europe, where it was bought by Spantax. It operated there as EC-BBK.

In Belgium it was converted to the Swing Tail freighter configuration. Aero Uranus, probably a broker, bought it in jul.1975, while Zia Equipment was registered as owner that same month and put tailnumber N434TA on it.
And Zantop started a lease as operator with it, again that same month. Confusing or what ?
Anyway, Northern Cargo took it to Alaska in march 1987 and has been using it ever since.

This photo was taken in august 1995, while its configuration was put to good use while loading these long telephone poles at Fairbanks,AK. I wrote some background info on the Douglas Swingtails, check it out.

See my page JUNE 2012 FAIRBANKS to see it still around, although stored and for sale for years.

UPDATE: N434TA was purchased by Buffalo Airways and flown to Yellowknife and on 26June13 seen parked at the Buffalo Airways hangar.
UPDATE (FEB.2017): After N434TA had arrived in Hay River in 2013, it was subsequently stored at Hay River for Buffalo Airways; see this Flickr link to a 28May 2016 photo.

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."

Fred Barnes responded in Sep.2020 to the items of propliners parts on my Red Deer 2019 page.
DC-6ST N867TA by Fred Barnes (1988)
DC-6ST N867TA by Fred Barnes (Anchorage, 1988)
Fred wrote: "Seen the item on your website of (Red Deer) DC-6F rear fuselage.
Likely from N867TA c/n 45202/880.
Only two DC-6s were converted to swing tail N867TA and N434TA, which were later in use by Northern Air Cargo (NAC).
Saw the rear fuselage of N867TA at Fairbanks FAI on 16Sep08 in the Northern Air Cargo parking area, where many other 'out of service' aircraft were parked/stored.
NAC did not want to sell either N434TA or the rear fuselage (swing tail) section from N867TA in case N434TA could be used in competition for 'long loads'.
Later N434TA was sold to Buffalo Airways and I guess the rear fuselage of N867TA was included and transported to Red Deer.
The hinges for the 'Swing Tail' were on the starboard side of the fuselage.
See above image of N867TA taken at ANC 05Jun88."

DC-6 N779TA by Fred Barnes (2008)
DC-6 N779TA photographed by Fred Barnes at Fairbanks (FAI) on 16Sep08.
Fred: "the rear fuselage section of N867TA can be seen in the background, behind the nosewheel. I did not make an image of the rear fuselage of N867TA. I did fly on the aircraft from LHR to HEL when it was in service with
Kar-Air as OH-KDA."

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

N867TA, NAC's 2nd 'Swingtail' did not so good; see my Red Deer visited for Propliners 2019.
And external link, for the NTSB Accident reports, choose Accident Synopses and fill in with Registration: N867TA.
Or perhaps an easier link is: aviation-safety.net/database/

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