Swissair DC-4 "Unterwalden" (HB-ILU) - DA.C

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Old 07-20-2021, 06:26 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Swissair DC-4 "Unterwalden" (HB-ILU)

Swissair DC-4 "Unterwalden" (HB-ILU) - Herpa Wings

The real airplane


Serial number : 27289
Type : Douglas DC-4 C54E-DC
First flight date (airframe) : March 16, 1945
Delivery date (Swissair) : April 2, 1952
Exit date : October 10, 1959 (sold to Balair)
Airline : Swissair
Registration : HB-ILU
Name : Unterwalden
Engines : 4 Radial Engines, Pratt & Whitney R-2000-2SD-13G Twin Wasp

Airframe timeline (d/m/y)

16.03.1945 USAF 44-9063
16.11.1945 Taken back by Douglas Aircraft Company
08.02.1946 Bought by Pan AM as Clipper Monsoon N88887
02.04.1952 Acquired by Swissair as HB-ILU
10.04.1959 Sold to Balair
--.12.1969 AER TURAS (Ireland) EI-ARS
--.07.-10.1972 Norwegian Red Cross
--.04.1977 Air Falcon;
--.08.1977 Globe Aero Ltd. N88887
--.01.1978 Royce Wayne McCarty. Parked in Malta
--.12.1978 Ludwig C Vogel Inc.
--.02.1980 Transair Ltd.Transair Ltd.
--.11.1982 Rebecca S Ruccius
--.08.1983 National Air Cargo ZS-LMH
--.07.1987 re-registered N88887
--.12.1987 Liberia World Airways EL-AJP
--.12.1987 Danzas Air
--.10.1988 Galaxy Enterprises
--.11.1988 Rebecca S Ruccius
--.05.1989 Warren Basler
--.01.1990 Memorial at Frankfurt Airport as USAF 44-9063 for the Berlin Airlift


As from the early fifties

The high Range of the DC-4 allowed flights from Europe to the US, and thus Swissair started its Service to New York with HB-ILA. It bought 4 DC-4's at first, buying a 5th one (a used C-54) after two of them had to be written of due to accidents. This review's history section will focus on the 5th one, HB-ILU "Unterwalden". The story of the future "Unterwalden" begins on 16 March 1945, when the C-54 rolled out of the Douglas Aircraft Company's production hangar. In the last weeks of the Second World War, this military transport aircraft carried material and troops to Europe, and a little later back to the USA. Quickly after the end of WWII, the United States Army Air Forces no longer had any use for it. Douglas bought the aircraft back, converted it into a passanger DC-4 and sold it to Pan American Airways in early 1946. There it was given the name "Clipper Monsoon" with registration N88887.

On 2 April 1952, Swissair took delivery of the "Unterwalden". Only a short time before, the national airline had begun naming its aircraft after cantons. The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the Swiss Confederation. The Central Swiss canton Unterwalden was given the honour this time and also the first to take their turn after the airport cantons. But far more important for aircraft history : the "Unterwalden" was a nothing less than a DC-4. Machines of this type had made transatlantic traffic possible and became famous when supplying isolated Berlin with food by airlift in 1948 and 1949. The airports of Zurich-Kloten and Basel-Mulhouse had been newly built especially for this aircraft model. It changed a lot of things, especially regarding passanger experience, because the DC-4 was not only larger and heavier than earlier models, it was also the first aircraft in which food could be warmed and served hot on board.

As said before, the "Unterwalden" did not come directly from the factory to Swissair. It had been manufactured in the spring of 1945 as a US military transport and shortly afterwards converted for civilian use. For six years it was in service for the legendary Pan American Airways, and it was rare for Swissair to buy second-hand aircraft. Swissair however had just lost two DC-4s in accidents, and new DC-4s were no longer being manufactured. The second-hand market became the only choice for acquiering DC-4's. From its entry into service with Swissair, Unterwalden was given the registration number HB-ILU. She flew for Swissair through Europe, to America, the Middle East and the Far East. However, when it crossed the Alps, the passengers felt uncomfortable due to the lack of a pressurised cabin, and they had to be supplied with supplementary oxygen at high altitudes. Those who refused a mask sometimes fainted. This problem did not exist during for example flights to America, where she flew the lower layers of air, but travelling with the "Unterwalden" was definitely an experience during any flight.

1959 : Career with Balair

In 1959, Swissair sold the "Unterwalden" (and another aircraft) to Balair. In exchange, it received 40 percent of the still young airline. (Swissair would became later on a majority owner of Balair.) Balair mainly brought sun-seekers to the Mediterranean and enabled many Swiss to take their first beach holidays. It also transported guest workers from Spain and Italy to their old homeland at Easter or over the Christmas holidays. In 1960, Balair was asked by the UN and the Red Cross to help in the Congo crisis (a period of political upheaval and conflict in the Republic of the Congo between 1960 and 1965, starting almost immediately after the Congo became independent from Belgium). A civil war had broken out and for ten hours a day, the "Unterwalden" was on duty with food and medicine, and during the years that followed, it flew again and again for humanitarian purposes. This caused also something unexpected to happen : the airplane becoming a film star. The "Unterwalden" made a special appearance in the 1964 movie "Flug in Gefahr", the first German-language aeroplane film, in which both pilots suffered food poisoning, and one of the passengers had to land the plane. A little later, her time as a passenger aircraft definitely came to an end. Balair still used her for cargo flights and eventually sold her to an Irish cargo transport company in 1969.

Post-Swiss life

In 1972 it was sold to Norway, years later it was in service for small transport companies and private individuals, then it was often sold on after a few months and almost disappeared from the radar in the sources. In 1983, the "Unterwalden" arrived in South Africa. There, the flying antique was used for transports to neighbouring countries and across the continent, until it was acquired by an English investor in 1988. He soon ran into financial difficulties, but by good fortune came across the Basel forwarding company Danzas, which subsequently took over the aircraft. Now the "Unterwalden" should have brought flowers from Holland and Spain to Switzerland, but Danzas failed to get into the flower trade and the "Unterwalden" failed to get off to one start or another. So she flew from Basel once more to Spain, once to Rotterdam and at the beginning of May 1988 for the last time to Zurich. There one of her four propellers broke down. With only three engines, she then bumped back to Basel, where she rusted away for over a year.

Once again, a new use was found for the old crate instead of the impending scrap yard. A last flight brought it to Frankfurt in 1989. Since then, she serves as a memorial to the Airlift. And as a memorial, it is still in use in a certain way. I think I am correct in saying that she was returned to her original outfit as a US Army carrier with registration 9063, but forum member StillAir, who takes care of her airframe, can no doubt tell us much more about that.


Below : The Unterwalden during loading, somewhere between 1952 and 1959

Below : Loading of musical instruments from the Czechoslovak Philharmonic Orchestra in Geneva-Cointrin.

Below : Hostesses and stewards in training outside the HB-ILU on 12 march 1955.

Below : The unterwalden used as model for a 50's promotional Swissair poster.

Below : The Unterwalden in Basel 1964 being stripped to be repainted after returning from the Congo.
This photo shows her red/white Swissair/Balair colours for the last time.

The scale model


Brand : Herpa Wings
Year : 2021
Scale : 1/200
Serial nr : 571357
Material : Metal diecast, assembled
Comes with : Rolling gears, antennas, stand


Hope you liked it...

Cheers, Deephalo

In case you missed my other recent reviews :
MSR777, D-AIHB, Baerke and 1 others like this.
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Old 07-20-2021, 06:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swissair DC-4 "Unterwalden" (HB-ILU)

Another one of your great reviews, and a very nice model too.

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Old 07-20-2021, 06:54 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Swissair DC-4 "Unterwalden" (HB-ILU)

Thank you Neil.

It is indeed a true gem. As far as my experience with the small metal Herpa models is concerned, I must say that I have never been disappointed.
Also this model is highly recommended. Being a Swiss-o-phile, I was waiting for it for many months and I am happy it finally came available.

Cheers, Deephalo

Last edited by deephalo; 07-20-2021 at 12:55 PM.
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