DC-6 USA trip Westbound in 1953 United Airlines style

Still in hype of the Christmas flight I feel like taking the PMDG DC-6 for a x-USA trip Westbound in the footsteps of the United Airlines as they flew it in 1953.


  • I never really few over US with the exception of some well known places (Aspen, Telluride, Catalina Island…)
  • I feel a bit ashamed that I spent so little time in the excellent DC-6
  • There is still a lot to discover about the DC-6 as I want to slowly venture into the AFE business (one step at a time) so that in the end - perhaps - I will be able to fly the DC-6 without the help of this automated flight engineer
  • I could put in use some period navigation besides the VOR-VOR way; e.g. Radio Range Navigation and (!) Celestial Navigation (just check @Deacon211 fantastic hair-rising AARs from this years Christmas flight)
  • There is a plethora of historic timetables out there and the United Airlines one fits the bill perfectly

Shall we?

This is the plan. I modified a bit the route in the West of the US to break some of the long-ish legs and also I am not entirely sure whether to make a stop in Milwuakee or in Chicago.

We kicked off this trip from Boston and will follow this timetable - leaving Boston at 7h00 ET.

In all honesty, Boston to La Guardia in New York was a feeder route operated by Eastern Airlines as the United started Westbound from New York only (if I read the timetable correctly :grimacing:). But since I wanted to fly one approach to New York, there we went :slight_smile:

Also, this feeder route was not flown by a DC-6 but by a Silver Falcon, “The world’s most advanced twin-engine airliner” as Eastern Airlines put it :slight_smile:

Never heard of this one. I just realize how much I do not know about aviation…

The order of the day is VOR-VOR navigation. An easy one in comparison to what will come next :slight_smile:

Leaving Boston behind.

I am the only passenger!

Not being sure about the cruise altitude for this rather short leg, I made it a function of descend profile of the DC-6. Allowing enough time for descend and deceleration, this dictated cruise altitude of some 12000 ft. Sounded reasonable.

Long Island. It looks like a nice place to live! (if you have the means, I suppose?)

Approach to La Guardia. I expected to have a glideslope guidance as well but alas… there was none.

Kai Tak vibes.

The next leg will take me to Cleveland, taking off at 8h30 ET from La Guardia.

As for the ticket prices - the New York to Cleveland one way was 26,10 USD in 1953 prices. That translates to some 300 USD in today’s prices.

On the other hand, one way from New York to San Francisco costed almost 160 USD in 1953 which is a little over 1800 USD in 2023.


Great report! I’m going to be very excited to see where you go with this. :+1:t2:

I still remember watching Eastern 727s landing at Newark as a kid. It’s good to see them flying again.


Hey, drop into my local (KOGD or KSLC) and I’ll take ya for a $100 simulated hamburger.


KSLC is one of the destinations so yeah, see you later :+1:


Were VORs in use in ‘52?


According to Wiki, VOR was developed as early as 1937 and deployed starting in 1946.


If the first leg was a feeder flight operated by Eastern Airlines, the flight from Laguardia to Cleveland actually is the first leg of the westbound trip flown by a United Airlines DC-6 flight 617.

The scheduled departure is 8h30 ET and the passengers will be served breakfast aloft, or so the 1953 timetable claims :slight_smile:

New York welcomes me with a beautiful morning. To my surprise, I could see a Luxair B737 at the gate right in front of me :smiley: This just can not be right?

So some half an hour later, after fiddling with some AI traffic settings, I concluded that they just did not matter and switched the traffic off completely.

The advantage of a deserted airport is that no one gets in the way and thus the departure is on time :+1:

This park seems to be quite Central?

A tribute to “Sully” and acknowledgement of his achievement.

At first I was not sure I liked photogrammetry in the cities. However, as this tech improved I have to say that despite its quirks (stutters - on my PC, the whole city pops up in view out of nothing…) I like it now.

Some seriously looking weather was a nice change to never-ending VMC I experienced in Asia in this year’s Christmas flight.

Existence of a (still) rather dense network of navaids was yet another nice surprise.

In the first post I claimed I would venture into operating the DC-6 on my own without a help of the AFE and I would test some less conventional navigation. Nothing of that happened in this flight, sorry :grimacing: So I resorted into VOR-to-VOR navigation again.

Not sure whether they were as abundant and with as strong a signal in 1953 as they are today, though I flew them nonetheless :slight_smile:

Appalachian mountains. Great geographical feature :+1:

You really enjoy a cloud if you see one after all these VMC-only flights I made recently, I can tell you!

Mosquito Creek Lake. I am getting closer to Cleveland.

Cleveland downtown and Lakefront Airport.


This guy has probably never heard about safety rules at this airport. A big boom has not happened, fortunately.

OK, so Luxair in Laguardia and now AirEuropa’s turboprop in Cleveland (moreover with the traffic set to none)? It must have been a long trip all the way down to here :smiley:

Next - either Milwaukee or Chicago. Still have not made my mind.


EAL operated the Convair CV-440. I don’t think that they operated earlier versions of the aircraft, but could be mistaken. When I was there 1979-89 I remember some of the senior crews talking about flying the “Connie”. Silver Falcon was most likely bestowed by the marketing department, like Whisperliner (L-1011) and Whisperjet (B-727). Passengers in the front, engines in the back, making the cabin more quiet than that of something like a DC-8.


I thought that was the “Tri-tanic!” :rofl:


Love it. I have to say that in general I like most airline’s vintage liveries more than their current ones!

Keep 'em coming!


Ha! There is at least one other name that was coined by cabin crews who frequented MIA-JFK/LGA/EWR. Unfortunately, not fit for public consumption. Perhaps Discord.


In the shot over TEB by house is just behind and to the right of engine 4. And that same house with pretty much the same dam* kitchen would have been there when DC-6s were a common sight on that route. (meant @apollon01…not sure how I quoted chipwich)


We have a discord?

Click on the megaphone icon next to the search magnifying glass icon.


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Oh dear I wish we saw more of these old-liners in MSFS…

I Like Yes GIF by Saturday Night Live


1953 Super Constellation cockpit walkthrough and flight. What a beast! Not a Whisperliner!


Christmas period is full of quality time spent with family leaving little time for virtual flying. However I managed to squeeze a leg from Cleveland to Chicago on my way to a place where Sunshine spends the Winter.

Technically it was actually two legs but more on that later…

In the end I settled on Chicago as a destination instead of Milwaukee thus making my first deviation from the 1953 timetable. I just could not do without seeing and overflying the Chicago downtown :innocent:

Now the question was Which airport? I know little about US in general :grimacing: and much less about its aviation history. My first thought was to go to O’Hare but then a second thought kicked in - Was United actually flying to O’Hare in the 50s? Well it was not. Its destination was Chicago Midway.

This airport was established in 1927 as Chicago Air Park (later renamed to Chicago Municipal Airport), and it served as Chicago’s primary airport until the opening of O’Hare International Airport in 1944. A new passenger terminal was opened in 1931 (according to my research it is long time gone) and shortly after it claimed to be the World’s Busiest. In 1941 it fully filled the square mile it is occupying until today and in 1949 it was renamed after the Battle of Midway. It’s importance suffered when in the end of 50s it was not able to handle larger jet traffic (707s and DC-8s) and with opening of new passenger terminal at O’Hare.

However, in late 50s it was still a VERY busy square mile!

Just looking at the United Airlines DC-6 bottom-right, I think I should update my livery accordingly.

Today, we are departing Cleveland at 11h05 ET with apparently no meal offered by the airline. Sorry!

As for navigation, I am also coming back in time and resort to Radio Range Navigation. Do you recall flying the beam with help of stations transmitting A and N morse signals which blend into a uniform tone when right on one of the four fixed beams? There we go.

Oh and I will go without a moving map as well. Just a map. No aircraft symbol or flight track.

Such trip requires a bit of planning and from Cleveland to Chicago I will use 4 or 5 RRN stations. This will depend on whether I fly Plan A or Plan B.

For Plan A (good visibility), I will need just four RRN stations to get to the south end of Lake Michigan from where I plan to fly along the shore towards Chicago downtown and then turn towards the field.

For Plan B (in case I do not break the clouds at 3500ft), I need a fifth station (whose beam I need to intercept on the way) which should guide me to the overhead descending and then flying a traffic pattern.

In the end I flew Plan C.

Let’s get moving.

This time I decided to take over some duties from the automated flight engineer. Getting the ship ready until take off, to be precise. For that, I reduced the in-game checklist (courtesy of roskud from PMDG forum) from some 179 items down to 72 items in total. Still safe? I hear you asking? Yes. I kept just the action items while makings sure clicking on Cold and Dark on the DC-6’s tablet relieves me from checking that some switches are in their cold and dark settings indeed.

For taxi, I should probably get rid of the ground power cart.

Departing on time and leaving Cleveland on my six.

After take off I heard a faint N signal. That was OK. If only I knew whether N was to the North or to the South of the beam :grimacing:

Quick check of the RRN maps, correction to north and voila.

The RRN maps… They are actually great that they exist in pdf form. They plot all the stations with associated frequencies, beams and such (good). The headings are magnetic (good). But the magnetic variation is from 1944 (not good). Fortunately the RRN addon for MSFS converts the headings to true headings (good) so that the beams are still aligned. I just need to convert these back to magnetic headings (thus apply magnetic variation used by MSFS; not good)… which with help of some plotting in LittleNavMap is not such a big deal in the end (so GOOD!).

Here I was looking at the city of Toledo.

Not this one, though.

Is it the one referred to by Klinger in MASH?


And then on the map I saw that there was a town of Montpelier to my right.

Not this one, though.

The spelling is a bit different, I know :smiley:

And then the sim crashed on me.

Leaving See Ya GIF by Matt Partridge

Quite ironically just about midway from Cleveland to Chicago.

As it was already 11h30 pm anyway. I headed to bed.

Resumed the following day. Climbing to FL095 with some clouds around.

Just beautiful. Or perhaps que bonito as they say in Toledo or que c’est beau as they say in Montpellier. Not those ones :point_up_2: :point_up_2: :point_up_2:, though.

RRN is a good navigation method especially if you can cross check with land features if the weather permits. Which it did not as the flight progressed. A quick calculation made me start descending some 13 minutes outbound from Goshen station. While briefing the arrival I wondered whether I would break out of clouds by 3500 ft in order to fly the 10 nm finals as I planned under Plan A.

It did not look bad at all during the descend.

At 3500 ft I was not exactly clear of clouds. Just for a while and then again in the white. A bit like this joke goes:

Officer 1: Can you tell me whether our beacon works?
Officer 2: Yes. No! Yes. No! Yes. No! …

So naturally I executed Plan C - descend well below the clouds, intercept the beam towards Chicago station and proceed visually.

It worked like a charm :slight_smile: Here I am turning outbound in order not to miss overflying Chicago downtown.

Who in the flight sim community (perhaps of our age to be precise) does not get nostalgic when seeing this:

For comparison


Yeah… I feel a bit artistic today.

Finals. The weather is not so bad in the end. I made one of my better landings.

Greetings from Chicago!

If this flight had carried some 60 paying passengers (at 20 USD in 1953 prices each) from Cleveland to Chicago, it would have earned about 1200 USD in 1953 prices (14233 USD in today’s prices; not taking into consideration other incomes from cargo or mail). All that before cost and taxes. Not much, if you ask me.

It was quite a pleasant flight, minus the crash of course. Radio Range Navigation proved to be pretty precise especially when supported with stop watch and looking out of the window. The only disadvantage is that listening to beep-bip & bip-beep & beeeeeeee all the time makes you arrive like this:

Whats Up Ok GIF by Film Riot

For that very reason I am playing with the idea of checking CelNav for the next leg. Only Omaha with some 1h30 ETE is not very far for shooting hourly observations :grimacing: Will need to think about that!

See you hopefully soon.


Great report!

Midway is still a pretty busy airport! Southwest is/was a huge player there and it’s eye opening how closely they run the aircraft there.

Down on the end of 04R I think it was, there’s still an old Air Force hangar with a great set of Air Force wings mounted to the front. Really a great piece of nostalgia!

Can’t wait to read more!


Here it is. The old Air National Guard building. You can see the stylized wings right in the middle with the clock above it.

Very Art Deco!


These old Art Deco airport buildings definitely have their charm. I have no idea how many of them are preserved until today though I hope many are.

Check out these ones from the airports along my route.



Chicago Midway



And before you ask…

Red Wing created a MSFS 1935 series trying to recreate some of the prominent airfields around the globe as they appeared in 1935.


They actually look pretty good - check for yourself.

1935 Cleveland

1935 Chicago Midway

1935 Omaha

I considered getting these sceneries for the US but then backed off since the layout differed quite a bit between 1935 and 50s and runways would not be sufficient for a DC-6.

Though I can see getting myself this package once I dust off the Boeing 247D to recreate the routes it flew in the 30s :+1: