World War II aircraft restored and returned to Midwest City

MIDWEST CITY, Okla. (AP) — After playing a crucial role in World War II and years lying derelict in a school parking lot, an Oklahoma-built C-47 Skytrain is finally coming home.

Tail no. 42-92838 came off the assembly line at the Douglas Aircraft Plant in Midwest City on March 5, 1944.

That June, flying low over France, it delivered a stick of 17 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division on D-Day.

On Dec. 3, the restored aircraft journeyed from Newcastle to its new permanent home on Douglas Blvd. at Midwest City’s Veteran’s Memorial at Joe B. Barnes Regional Park. The move required coordination with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and at least three flatbed trucks to haul the plane in pieces, the Oklahoman reported .

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Former state Rep. Gary Banz worked for years to land the C-47 for Midwest City and is happy to see the plane in its new setting.

“It makes a lot of sense that it would finally end up here,” Banz said. “It was something that was made here, that went on to have a pivotal role in World War II and later as a corporate aircraft.”

When it arrived in Midwest City, it looked less like a plane and more like a collection of parts. The plane’s wings, fuselage and tail assembly were transported separately. “It’s a huge deal,” Banz said. “We have to have special permitting from the OHP and it will require an escort from Newcastle which is about 30 miles. It’s the product of a lot of people coming together.”

Workers built more than 10,000 C-47s during World War II. The aircraft, known as the DC-3 for civilian use, became a workhorse, delivering supplies and troops across both the Pacific and European theaters. After the war, the aircraft delivered payloads of food during the Berlin Airlift.

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The Douglas plant in Midwest City produced about 5,000 C-47s. The one now residing in Midwest City was quickly forced into action.

Banz knows at least two personal stories related to the plane. He was able to make contact with the daughter of the pilot who flew it on D-Day. He also learned of Pvt. Vincenzo Fiore of the 82nd Airborne Division, who was the fifth paratrooper to jump from the plane on D-day. The 19-year-old New York City native was killed in action four days later near St. Mere Eglise in western France.

Sold as surplus following the war, the airplane served as a corporate aircraft for Phillips Petroleum and Kerr McGee.

“It flew oil executives around the oil patch long before aviation became a staple,” Banz said.

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And that’s where its colorful history ends. The C-47 was part of a static display of aircraft at State Fair Park from 1976 to 2007. From there it was planned to be put on display on the campus of Metro Tech in Oklahoma City, but instead sat in the parking lot for 10 years as funding dried up for the project.

“There was some vandalism and it also got caught in a storm and was moved 15 feet and one of its wings wrapped around a light pole,” Banz said.

Currently, the plane is owned by Friends of the Oklahoma History Center and will be displayed in Midwest City thanks to an agreement between that organization and the city.

Compass Aviation Group, an aviation consulting firm in Newcastle, coordinated the restoration work with an assist from Landlocked Aviation Services which did the paint work and Allied Steel and Crane which helped move the plane.

Work included replacing some sheet metal and extensive paint work. The interior wasn’t touched. Compass also restored several aircraft at the 45th Infantry Division that were damaged by a hailstorm.

“It’s been a fun project,” Compass Aviation Group Vice President Kriston Maker said. “This is not what we normally do, but it’s something we’re capable of doing and it’s also a nice way to honor our veterans.”

The C-47 will be returned to the look it had when it flew on D-Day.

“The actual makeover was fairly easy,” she said. “It was mostly cosmetic. Stripping out old paint and putting on new paint and decals.”

A formal ribbon cutting will be held in the spring, Banz said.

“It’s going to take a little time to get it all back together, but we’re excited to finally see it back home,” he said.


Information from: The Oklahoman,