Waco Timeline

Waco Backstory

During its own golden age in the 1930s, the Waco Aircraft Company built and sold more planes than all other commercial companies combined. The reason? Look to the company’s official riff: “Ask any pilot.” Our UPF-7 delivers an example of why the company was so successful, combining wood, steel, and fabric construction with an open cockpit, sturdy Jacobs engine, and Hamilton propeller. It was easy to maneuver and offered an exceptionally stable flight experience, making it the perfect plane for passenger rides, air performances, and basic pilot training.

1923–1946: A Flying Glance at the Waco Aircraft Company

Here’s a company that illustrates Louis Pasteur’s epigraph: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” After the end of World War II in 1919, there wasn’t much going on with military aviation. Four young men, led by the visionary Clayton Bruckner, decided to take advantage of the industry’s efforts to get civilians interested in passenger flight. After a number of failures, they found the design formula that worked, and in 1923 began producing planes that could handle aerobatic performance, racing, and more prosaic passenger flights. Their success extended beyond the private sector to building transport gliders used in most World War II invasions—not to mention selling many UPF-7s for use in the Civilian Pilot Training Program sponsored by the US government. Bruckner knew when to hold and when to fold—by 1946, he saw that small-passenger craft weren’t going to turn a profit in the post-war marketplace and stopped producing planes. The company continued to support existing flyers, and then closed in 1953, with Bruckner a rich man who’d done well by and for his country.

1941–1953: Civilian and Military Aviation—Better Together

Our Waco UPF-7 began flying in 1941, a time when the US government knew that entry into World War II was inevitable but couldn’t stray from an official isolationist policy. The Civilian Pilot Training Program offered a quiet workaround to achieving readiness. How it worked: Civilian Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) purchased planes and then recouped their investment through government-funded training programs that included a yearly $1.00 lease for hangar space! The programs were designed to give college students a leg up when they entered the Air Force. After being purchased by the Unger Aircraft Association, our Waco likely spent many flying hours helping train future World War II Air Force pilots. It’s probable also that the plane was used to train pilots for the Korean War and general front-line defense duty. Not to mention people who simply wanted to learn how to fly! With the UPF-7, the Waco Aircraft Company had created a business tool that captured the private sector’s interest in flight, turned a profit, and indirectly served the military.

2002: Rediscovery—The Right Place at the Right Time

Our Waco was retired in 1953 and purchased by a civilian pilot. It then simply disappeared. Rediscovery came about as one of those “You’ve got to be kidding” experiences. While closing a 2002 deal for a Piper, a pilot acting for Rare Aircraft paid a visit to the Piper’s elderly owner. He was just about out the door when the owner’s companion said, “What about the plane you’ve got stored in that garage unit?” The pilot stopped in his tracks, got some directions, and found our Waco UPF-7 neatly packed into boxes that took up an entire storage unit. It turns out that the owner had dismantled the plane after purchasing it, intending at some point to realize the dream of restoring the plane himself. The plane (or rather, the boxes) traveled with him through three moves across 50 years—at this point, he was ready to sell. Rare Aircraft emerged with a double win: The Piper (which was still standing), and the UPF-7, a prime candidate for reassembly and restoration.

2006: Ready for Takeoff

Restoring any aircraft to flying condition can take thousands of hours, regardless of its condition. Our Waco was no exception, but because all parts had been preserved, the team at Rare Aircraft was able to retain most of the original steel framework. As with restoration for most biplanes, the plane’s original wood was replaced, along with the Grade A cotton covering (Dacron is now the standard covering used). Research into the plane’s provenance revealed that at some point, our Waco’s original registration number N32019 had been co-opted for use on another plane. Rare Aircraft obtained a new registration number from the Federal Aviation Administration—N32018. And now Kilo-7 has a Waco UPF-7 that’s ready for takeoff—one of fewer than 60 that exist today. Textend

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