A Waco's Happy Ending
How an abandoned World War II glider found love in Long Island.
- By Joshua Stoff
- Air & Space magazine, September 2002
NASM Neg. #2002-3809
(Page 4 of 4)
By far the largest and most tedious part of the restoration was the wing. We were fortunate to have obtained original spars, some ribs, and all the metal fittings we would need. Nonetheless, re-creating that wing just went on and on. The wooden truss-like ribs were complicated, and we had to make a lot of them. When the frame was finally complete, we had to cover it completely with dozens of thin plywood sheets. And then the wing had to be covered entirely with cotton fabric—seemingly acres of it—which then, like the fabric on the fuselage and tail, had to be doped and painted.
After that, it was time for the finishing touches. A local artist applied nose art, copied from a photograph we had of a CG-4 that flew on D-Day. For our 15 mannequins, we had to spend over $10,000—as much as we’d spent on the acquisition and restoration of the aircraft itself! We also were able to locate original and reproduction World War II gear and weapons so we could make the mannequins look as realistic as possible.
At long last, some seven years later, our glider was complete. We sent valuable leftover parts back to the Silent Wings Glider Museum and also to the Yankee Air Force Museum in Belleville, Michigan, which had embarked on a CG-4 restoration of its own.
Because we were constructing a new museum building, we could not display our CG-4 immediately. We wrapped it up and put it in temporary storage. Now we had only one critical problem left to solve: How do we suspend the large and heavy glider, especially since its structural integrity was questionable? When new, the CG-4s were robust, but this one had been extensively restored, and most of the steel components were at one time severely corroded. Attaching cables directly to the glider could pull it apart. We hired a structural engineer, one recently retired from Grumman and familiar with aircraft materials. He devised an internal steel skeleton; the glider was bolted around it and suspension cables were attached to its top. The skeleton is able to carry the entire load safely and as unobtrusively as possible.
Last April, prior to the opening of the expanded and renovated Cradle of Aviation Museum, the Waco CG-4 glider was gently raised up and hung in position. We were surprised to see that it had turned out to be quite a majestic-looking aircraft. It was a tribute not only to those who built and flew these craft but also to those who lovingly restored this particular example decades later.
Today it hangs next to an elevated walkway from which visitors can study its cutaway side. The copilot can be seen reaching up for the tow release handle. One airsick soldier is being berated by his buddy, while an old lieutenant shouts last-minute instructions to his young platoon. The Waco glider will be forever flying, filled with soldiers caught in a moment of nervous excitement just before landing on D-Day.