Commemorative Air Force: A Restored Plane From World War Two Gives Visitors Flights And History Lessons

Douglas C-47A. <a href=>Photo Credit</a>
Douglas C-47A. Photo Credit

A Douglas C-47A flew in Oran, Algeria. It was assigned to the 60th Troops Carrier Group and the 11th Troop Carrier Group in World War II. Last week, the plane was in Visalia, California, giving flights and tours to visitors and teaching about how it helped the US war effort.

According to Howard Williamson, the C-47 team chief, the main reason they bring the plane to people is to teach them the history of it.

Six people took part in flights on the C-47 including Pierson Villasana, 13. The flight was a birthday present for the aficionado of WWII-era aircraft. Villasana said that he enjoys comparing older designs of aircraft to the modern versions. He enjoys learning all things about WWII and the Vietnam War. His mother said that he’d always been a fan of WWII planes so they couldn’t miss the chance to let him fly in one.

The Commemorative Air Force out of Arizona made the opportunity possible. They made multiple stops in California before arriving at the Visalia Municipal Airport on Wednesday morning. The Commemorative Air Force is a non-profit organization that began in the 1950s. Their stated goal is to preserve one of every type of aircraft that flew in WWII.

Larry Perkins is the pilot of the C-47. He says this is his favorite transport plane to fly. He’s been flying them as a volunteer, pilot examiner, and other roles for 53 years.

So far, the 500-member Commemorative Air Force team has collected and restored seven warplanes that are capable of being flown. They use the planes to honor the airmen who served in them and to educate people about military aviation.

The plane that landed in Visalia was used to transport supplies, equipment and weapons in the war. It also transported paratroopers, towed gliders and rescued orphans and prisoners of war from Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy.

The crew that flew it earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for dangerous work they performed behind enemy lines. Some of the missions that they flew were for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). One of those missions was Operation Halyard. During that mission, they rescued over 500 US airmen from German-occupied Yugoslavia, Visalia Times-Delta reported.

The C-47 that visited last week was known as “Old Number 30.” It is 64 feet long and 16 feet tall with a wingspan of 95 feet. It has 29-gallon oil tanks on each wing. It gets its power from a Pratt and Whitney 14 cylinder engine that has 1,350 hp. Top speed for the plane is 160mph. Williamson said that it is important to the group to keep these planes flying. They see them as “national treasures.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE