Douglas VC-118 “The Independence”
Published October 01, 2015
Note: Visitors are permitted to walk through this aircraft.
This Douglas VC-118 on display was the second aircraft built specifically to transport the President of the United States. A military version of the Douglas DC-6 commercial airliner, it was used by President Harry S. Truman from 1947 to 1953. At the suggestion of the aircraft’s pilot, President Truman named it The Independence in recognition of his hometown, Independence, Mo.
In 1947 U.S. Army Air Forces officials ordered the 29th production DC-6 to be modified as a replacement for the aging VC-54C Sacred Cow presidential aircraft. Different from the standard DC-6 configuration, The Independence included an aft stateroom for the president and a main cabin which seated 24 passengers or 12 “sleeper” berths. Other improvements included reversible-pitch propellers, weather radar, a radar altimeter, autopilot and other advanced navigation equipment. Water injection gave the engines more power at takeoff, and larger fuel tanks enabled it to fly nonstop to any location within the continental United States. The Independence had a unique, bright color scheme, recommended by the Douglas Aircraft Co., consisting of a stylized American eagle with the feathers carried down the fuselage to the vertical stabilizer.
The Independence was formally commissioned on July 4, 1947, and President Truman made his first official flight in the aircraft on Aug. 31 to an international conference at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. One of the plane’s most historic flights occurred in October 1950, when it carried President Truman to Wake Island to discuss the Korean War situation with Gen Douglas MacArthur.
In May 1953, after nearly six years of White House service, the U.S. Air Force retired The Independence from presidential service, and it became a VIP transport for several Air Force organizations. The aircraft was retired from service and placed on display at the museum in 1965. In 1977-1978, museum personnel restored The Independence and returned the aircraft to its former presidential markings and eagle motif paint scheme.
Crew: Nine (plus 25 passengers)
Engines: Four Pratt & Whitney R-2800s of 2,100 hp each
Maximum speed: 360 mph
Range: 4,400 miles
Ceiling: 31,200 feet
Weight: 93,200 lbs. (loaded)
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