Man Purchases WWII-Era Plane from Topeka Flight Museum

An unnamed man in Michigan has recently purchased a vintage aircraft from a flight museum in Topeka. The aircraft in question is a rare O-46 from the Second World War. Despite its age, the plane is in nearly perfect condition. According to Dan Stephens, who holds the title of director of sponsorships at the American Flight Museum (which is currently housing the aircraft), it is incredibly uncommon to find a plane that has been this well-preserved.

Although the plane looks great on the outside, it is still going to need two or three years’ worth of restoration. This is because of the plane’s 1000-horsepower radial engine. The man who purchased the plane aims to make it airworthy, which means that the engine is going to have to be rebuilt. As such, the new owner will have to send a team to the flight museum to disassemble and retrieve the plane. Once it has arrived in Michigan, the buyer will be able to begin the long restoration process. Stephens has stated that there are only four such aircraft remaining, and the buyer’s long-term goal is to have this one featured in air shows.

The O-46 is an observation craft. The model was originally built in 1939 and, like many planes of the era, was constructed primarily out of fabric and aluminum. The current condition of the plane is largely due to the twenty years it has spent in a flight museum, ensuring minimal wear and tear. The aircraft was originally meant to be used by a crew of three men. Two men would pilot the plane, while one spotter would fulfill the plane’s purpose by taking photographs from the lower part of the aircraft, the reports.

In terms of general mechanics, the O-46 observation aircraft is quite different from modern planes. At the time of its manufacture, planes did not have the benefit of hydraulic controls. As such, the O-46 (and many other planes in the flight museum) had to be made out of lighter materials if they were to maintain a high level of maneuverability. This is a major factor in the rarity of mint-condition aircraft of this sort.

The O-46 will only remain at the American Flight Museum in Topeka for one or two more weeks before being transported to Michigan. If all goes according to plan, the aircraft will be back in the skies within a couple of years after leaving the flight museum. This will effectively make this the only working O-46 in existence.

Ian Harvey

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