By Scott Hamilton
Sept. 21, 2020, © Leeham News: A Texas man with an affinity for the Douglas DC-6 purchased the last production model, DC-6B that is still in its original passenger configuration.
The DC-6B, delivered in the waning months of 1958, is the sister ship to the famous Red Bull DC-6B that continues to be flown occasionally at air shows.
This DC-6B, registration V5-NCG, has been stored in Namibia since 2010. It once was the presidential airplane for Yugoslav’s leader, Marshal Josip Tito. The plane was then donated to the Zambian government as the presidential aircraft for Kenneth Kuanda. This aircraft and the sister ship were purchased by Namibian Commercial Airlines (NCA). The sister ship, the second-to-the-last built, was sold to Red Bull. The proceeds were used to restore V5-NCG.
More recently, it served in tourist charter work. The aircraft has the original interior. This is a rarity in restored piston airliners.
James Mac Ivor owns Nighthawk Air Systems Inc. near San Antonio. COVID-19 delayed plans to return the airplane to the air. He also still must raise funds.
“I’ve been working on putting together four zero-time engines for the last three years,” Mac Ivor said. “I have four engines ready to go. They’re basically ready. Machine work is complete. I’m just waiting for final assembly getting together the baffles and other small parts to finish them up.”
Mac Ivor is still funding the project by himself. And he’s not even sure what he will do with the airplane once he gets it back to the USA. There hasn’t been interest expressed by other parties yet. However, Mac Ivor hasn’t advertised the aircraft but he’s willing to accept offers, trades or involvement in the project.
The value should be compared with a Boeing B-17 or Consolidated B-24, both four-engined military bombers dating to world War II because of its rarity and original configuration.
Mac Ivor points out that there are two Lockheed Constellations being restored, at a cost of millions of dollars. One is the Bataan, used by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The other is the Columbine II, used by President Dwight Eisenhower.
Flying on the air circuit is very difficult without a serious financial sponsor. Insurance, for one thing, he said, is a show stopper. Operating costs are also very expensive—upwards of $4,000 to $5,000 per hour.
Mac Ivor said, “I don’t really know what direction I’m going with it yet. There has been some interest but a considerable amount of resources, as mentioned, are required to operate the aircraft. However, it is not impossible.
Engines, propellers and components owned by Nighthawk to be installed on the aircraft are valued at more than $1m. Mac Ivor estimates that he needs an additional $500,000 to get the plane airworthy and ferry it back to Texas.
The DC-6B, in its tourism operation, was in beautiful shape. The airplane is low time since it was the last DC-6 off the Douglas line in Santa Monica (CA) and only used in presidential service. It accumulated only 10,000 hours total time. Delivered in November 1958, it was already the start of the jet age. The de Havilland Comet and the Boeing 707 entered service that October.
The airplane is a time capsule.
“The aircraft is unique because it’s completely original. It hasn’t been modified. It’s even got the original radio rack and original radios. The radios may or may not work, but they’re not being used. They were left intact to maintain originality,” Mac Ivor says.
Once the DC-6B is here, he hopes interest will be generated and permit operation in the future.
“There’s a small network of people that might be interested in this aircraft,” he said.
“I’ve got a couple more DC-6s in Africa that are never going to fly again,” Mac Ivor said. They may be salvaged for parts and engines. He has engines and spares that could keep the Namibian DC-6 in operation for years.
Getting the DC-6 to Texas will be a long trip. Namibia borders South Africa, Botswana and Angola. Its West Coast is on the South Atlantic.
“The main route I’m looking at is to avoid coming up the west coast of Africa, because it’s difficult operating through those countries and getting through European air space,” he said. “I ditched that idea a long time ago.
“What I’m looking at is going from Walvis Bay nonstop to Recife (Brazil) or stopping at Ascension Island. Fuel, however, would have to be barged to Ascension. It’s half way between Walvis Bay and Recife. It’s a little island there in the middle of the South Atlantic.
“I was considering stopping there and continuing on from there. If I did that, I might go farther than Recife. I haven’t quite picked it out yet. I can do as few as maybe two stops.”
Mac Ivor said he would clear customs in San Juan then head straight from San Juan to Texas.
Mac Ivor has an affinity for DC-6s. Nearly 30 years ago, he had ambitions to launch a cargo airline using this aircraft type. But 9/11 intervened and the project never got off the ground.
Still, he acquired several DC-6s, including a military version—the C-118. One partial C-118 has a VIP configuration, which he describes as an Air Force One-type interior. This fuselage section remains intact.
He also has a DC-6B forward fuselage that was delivered to Northeast Airlines and a DC-6A forward fuselage that was the first airliner delivered to Japan Air Lines after World War II.
All these aircraft and spares could be sold as a package with the Namibian DC-6B.