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Martin Four-Oh-Four

By Robert F. Dorr 
Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: March 04, 2013 
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The Martin 4-0-4 sports new livery representing the series prototype, which first flew in October 1950. (Courtesy Stan Piet)
The Martin 4-0-4 sports new livery representing the series prototype, which first flew in October 1950. (Courtesy Stan Piet)

The Martin 4-0-4 airliner owned by Baltimore's Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum received a brilliant new, mostly yellow color scheme last October when it was painted to represent the prototype in the series, which wore civil registry number N40400. Derived from the unpressurized, 30-passenger Martin 2-0-2, the larger 4-0-4 was a 40-passenger, pressurized, air-conditioned prop liner viewed as a potential DC-3 replacement and a competitor to the Convair 240/340. Martin test pilots took the first 4-0-4 on its maiden flight on October 21, 1950. Martin initially built 103 4-0-4s for half a dozen airlines. Two of the aircraft went to the U.S. Coast Guard under the designation RM-1. Stationed at Washington National Airport for many years, they were redesignated VC-3As in 1961.

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The 4-0-4 was powered by two 2,400-hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-CB16 radials. After service with frontline carriers, many were sold to other users and one became an executive transport for Frank Sinatra. With a wingspan of slightly more than 93 feet and a cruising speed of 280 mph, the 4-0-4 was faster than its Convair competitor but costlier to operate. Its modest success and the happy memories it created for many airline passengers were overtaken by the jet age.

The museum's 4-0-4, previously owned by the short-lived Systems International Airways, is one of about 10 that survive on static display. "When we received the plane, its exterior paint finish was in poor condition," said museum spokesman Gene DiGennaro. "The interior was in excellent condition. Between 2001 and this past summer, the 4-0-4 received very little care and the exterior finish went downhill." The repainting project was made possible by a $25,000 grant from Lockheed Martin. Because no color photo of the prototype exists, the museum used a photograph of a contemporaneous model and descriptions in literature to come up with the final color scheme.



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