These days, long-haul flying is routine – even dull. But it wasn’t so long ago that travelling by air was a glamorous, romantic luxury reserved for the privileged few. And in the days of propeller-driven aircraft, flying the Atlantic was slow and potentially hazardous. After the first successful crossing by Alcock and Brown in 1919, it was another 20 years before regular air services were established between Britain and America.
By the late 1950s, however, transatlantic aviation was enjoying a golden age. In 1958, with the up-and-coming jet airliner still in its infancy, the prop-driven aircraft reached its apotheosis in the Douglas DC-6. Originally designed as a military transport plane, it proved amazingly capable with commercial airlines worldwide. More than 700 were built: many are still flying on cargo and fire-fighting duties.
One, however, is destined to carry paying passengers again – and in some splendour, too. British company Cloudmaster is restoring a DC-6 for a syndicate of private owners, who plan to operate it as a charter aircraft, as well as using it for their own pleasure. In its original form, the aircraft could carry up to 102 passengers. Its new interior, created by renowned designers Bannenberg & Rowell, will accommodate just 28 guests, with separate areas offering lie-flat beds, meeting areas, a VIP cabin, bar and lounge, as well as general seating.
It’s an extraordinarily ambitious, and challenging, project. The Cloudmaster team is undertaking a complete restoration of the airframe, avionics and all four engines to as-new specifications and standards. The aircraft also has to pass a complete set of flight trials and crew training before it can re-enter service.
We’ve been lucky enough to play a very small part in this amazing venture, by recreating the master logo artwork from the original design shown on the tailfin. It was a rare opportunity to be involved in something so unique and exacting. In industrial terms, ‘aerospace-grade’ is a generic expression for ‘the best in the business’, which fits exactly with our own fondness for working with top-quality materials and finishes.
We also love the story behind the project, and the spirit in which it’s being conducted: true to the original in its glamour and exclusivity, yet entirely contemporary in its intentions and execution. The team’s vision, determination and refusal to compromise through more than 30 months of technical, aesthetic and regulatory challenges is truly uplifting.