As WarbirdsNews reported a couple of weeks ago, Kalitta Air has been refurbishing the exterior of the Yankee Air Museum’s C-47 Skytrain at their maintenance facility in Oscoda, Michigan. Kalitta began their efforts, stripping the aircraft and prepping her for new paint on June 8th. By last Friday, June 29th, the aircraft was ready for her roll-out in front of museum volunteers and Kalitta workers, resplendent in her new livery honoring the 1st Air Commando Group which operated in the China-Burma-India theatre (CBI) during WWII.
“Being closely involved from the start, picking colors from two-inch square paint chips and then actually seeing the first applications on the plane was a bit unsettling,” said Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of Yankee Air Museum. “I don’t mind saying I was nervous coming here today, it’s kind of like picking up a date for the prom.”
Walsh spent countless hours over the past year researching aircraft of the 1st Air Commando Group. He found the task of reviewing artists’ renderings, historic photos and film dating back to the early 1940’s arduous, but necessary. According to Walsh, many aircraft serving in the CBI were painted in the field. “There were slight variations in color tones, both in the planes and the photos with which we worked,” he said.
Walsh was excited to see the museum’s C-47 in her new warpaint exclaiming, “When the plane rolled onto the ramp under the bright sun, my heart leaped. They nailed it. The colors mixed by Sherwin-Williams Aerospace Coatings are spot-on!”
The C-47’s upper surfaces are painted with Earth Brown No. 5, while the lower side is in Neutral Gray. The markings are Insignia Blue and Insignia White. The most distinctive feature of the new paint scheme is the set of five diagonal white stripes around the fuselage behind the wing. Combat aircraft operating in the CBI wore these stripes for quick identification in battle. “I really like it,” said Fernando Hernandez, a Technical Service Representative for Sherwin-Williams Aerospace Coatings. “The plane looks really strong. It has great presence on the ground and in the air.”
The Skytrain flew three test hops at Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport prior to departing for her home with the Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run Airport late last Friday afternoon. “We enjoyed working on the C-47,” said Greg Ruby, Structures Manager at Kalitta Maintenance. “It was something different for us, and it was interesting. I think everyone at Kalitta Maintenance, even security, kept an eye on the progress of the project.”
With the major exterior painting now complete, Walsh said that the Skytrain will soon receive her technical markings and squadron insignia. The iconic aircraft will be flying regularly over her home base in Ypsilanti in the coming days, with museum pilots going through their annual requalification on the type. “The plane is begging for nose art,” added Walsh. “We have a plan for that which we will reveal very soon. Until then, remember—the 1st Air Commando Squadron Insignia is a large question mark within a circle!”
WarbirdsNews wishes the Yankee Air Museum well with their newly-refurbished C-47, and looks forwards to seeing the aircraft in her fully completed livery. Be sure to check out another important project that the Yankee Air Museum has well under way, the preservation of their new home, which was once a part of the massive Ford bomber plant, turning out B-24 Liberators at the rate of one an hour during the height of production in WWII. www.SavetheBomberPlant.org
For a fascinating look life in the CBI, readers might enjoy seeing the following 8mm home movie clips taken by C-47 pilot John Sanichas during his service in WWII.