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Historic ‘Beach City Baby’ C-53 Looking for Permanent Home at Venango Regional Airport
The Airport and Vintage Wings, Inc. have a tentative agreement to house the “Beach City Baby”, a Douglas C-53 Skytrooper that was used to transport U.S. troops during World War II.
If restoration work goes as planned, the plane would be flown to the airport in July or August of 2018.
The two men working to bring the “Beach City Baby” to the airport are excited about the prospects.
Bill Buchna, the airport manager at Venango Regional – who is also a U.S. Air Force veteran and still serves the Army Reserve – said they were approached by Washington, Pa.-based Vintage Wings Inc., which was looking for a place to store its C-53.
“They contacted us to see if we had hangar space, and then they came up and liked what they saw,” Buchna said. “We would be very happy to have a vintage aircraft at the airport.”
“It would be a big draw here. People are really into this type of craft, and I think it’s important for us to remember the history of such aircraft that has meant so much in our history.”
Jason Capra, 33, of Oakdale, Pa., is the face of Vintage Wings and a board member of the non-profit group, and it’s not hard to see his enthusiasm.
“Right now, the pressure is on us to raise the money, so we can complete the work and get the plane to its new home,” Capra said. “Right now, the plane is sitting outside, which can be limiting to working on it.”
“But, when I put my mind to something, it usually gets done,” a confident Capra said. “This is a piece of living history, and we want to share this with everyone.”
Capra dreamed of being a pilot since he was five years old, and he’s been working on and flying planes since he was 19. He is currently a pilot for Republic Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines.
“My grandfather was a professional pilot, and he also served in the Pa. Air National Guard,” Capra said. “He was really into aviation and his enthusiasm was contagious to me.”
“Our goal is to create a flying classroom, a mobile living history museum. Static aircraft in museums serve a distinct and valuable purpose, but a flying aircraft with all its sights, sounds and smells simply can not be replicated in a museum,” Capra said.
“The cabin and cockpit will become a classroom with learning modules using key points in its distinct history that align with key points in aviation history. Guests will see the significance of its role as a Military C-53 in winning the war and as a DC-3A creating the model for the modern air transportation system. Flying into airshows, fly-ins and other aviation-related events, it will offer more than just a silent and empty cabin.”
Capra added that his group was able to contact the family of one of the men who had served on the C-53 during WWII.
“One of his grandsons donated the memorabilia from the plane to us, so that’s something that will also be part of the display. We were really excited to make that connection,” Capra said.
Buchna said while the county commissioners still need to sign off on the agreement, he is hopeful that things will work out.
“We were all very excited when they contacted us, and it may open other doors, too,” Buchna said. “It will definitely be a draw for people to come to the airport.”
Capra said Vintage Wings continues to work on fundraising, so it can finish the work on the plane and get it to Venango County.
“We are a 501c3 non-profit, and we do not have any employees. Our board is made up entirely of volunteers that share the enthusiasm for vintage aircraft,” Capra said. “Any money we raise goes into the plane.”
Capra said work on the plane is about 60 percent complete.
He really appreciates the efforts of Franklin resident Jim Aaron, who is also a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
“With the deepest thanks to Jim Aaron for getting this ball rolling, and for Franklin Venango Airport Manager Bill Buchna for believing in us, Vintage Wings Inc. is looking forward to our relationship and our partnership with the airport, EAA, and Civil Air Patrol to further advance the educational and historical side of Vintage aviation.”
For more information, or to make a donation, see Vintage Wings website at www.vintagewingsinc.com or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/497180673794873/permalink/816732078506396/.
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