The Martin 404

A EAL Martin 404

The Martin 404

The Martin 404 was a short to medium range pressurized passenger airliner built by the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1950 and Introduced to the public in 1951.

When the production of an earlier model; the Martin 202 was halted due to persistent problems with the wing structural failure, the company made a decision to re-wing the improved version, which had already flown as the Martin 303 and call it, what else, the Martin 404.

The new Martin 404 had structural changes to the wings, pressurization and it was slightly lengthened to take 40 passengers. Like its predecessor the 202, the 404 was a cantilever monoplane with a standard tail unit; cantilever tail and single vertical stabilizer.

The Martin 404 also had the “Air-stairs” in the lower tail section for ease of passenger loading and unloading, tricycle retractable landing gear and was powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-CB16 radial piston engines.

United States Coast Guard and United States Navy as the RM-1G,  and later as the VC-3A, in addition to airline use initially in the United States, was primary for the Martin 404.

Eastern Air Lines which had ordered 60 were the first to receive delivery of the Martin 404, then Trans World Airlines which had ordered 40. The only other new aircraft from the production line were delivered to the United States Coast Guard which had ordered two as executive transports with the designation RM-1G later changed to RM-1 and then in 1962 to VC-3A. In 1969 they were transferred to the United States Navy and they had both been withdrawn from use by 1970.

A total of 103 aircraft was built at the Glenn L. Martin factory in Baltimore.

TWA operated their 40 404s under the name “Skyliner” on scheduled services in the eastern part of the USA between 1 September 1950 and the last flight on 29 April 1961. EAL operated their 404s in the eastern USA using the class name “Silver Falcon”. The first EAL schedule was flown on 5 January 1952 and retirement came in late 1962.

The restored Martin 404 in 2008 at Camarillo Airport wearing Pacific Air Transport markings shortly before its last flight to Chino Airport.

Later in their airline career, as they became displaced from the EAL and TWA fleets by turbine-powered aircraft, the 404s became popular with “second level” operators who needed to replace their Douglas DC-3s. One of the last ‘major’ US airlines with a large fleet of piston engine airliners was Southern Airways who operated 25 model 404s on a network of scheduled services from Atlanta in October 1961.

All Former Eastern Airlines aircraft. Southern Airways’ last 404 service was flown on 30 April 1978. Martin 404s were also flown by Piedmont Airlines former TWA airliners, Ozark Air Lines and Mohawk Airlines during the 1960s. Most of these planes were replaced in 1968 with Fairchild-Hiller/Fokker FH-227B aircraft. In February 2008 the last airworthy 404, an former TWA aircraft, was ferried to the Planes of Fame Museum in Valle, Arizona.

Another restored and potentially airworthy Martin 404 is now at the National Airline History Museum in Kansas City.

By, JR Hafer, aviation writer, 20th Century Aviation Magazine

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