C-53 Skytrooper “Beach City Baby” – Winter 2021 Restoration Update

Beach City Baby with her wings reattached. (photo via Jason Capra)

Here is the latest update from Jason Capra on progress with the resurrection of Douglas C-53 Skytrooper, Beach City Baby, under restoration with Capra and his team at Vintage Wings Inc. in Franklin, Pennsylvania.


If there was ever a year that we as a nation wished had ended sooner, it would be 2020. There was so much hardship and sadness that one could be forgiven for wondering if anything good had happened at all. However, being the consistently optimistic organization that we are at Vintage Wings Inc., we can think of many occasions where good things did indeed occur…

Working on one of the propellers. (photo via Jason Capra)

Since our last update in March 2020, C-53-DO Skytrooper Beach City Baby has made incredible progress on her return to the skies in her original guise.

The first and most notable achievement was the complete overhaul of both wings. Taking almost two years of dedicated labor from start to finish, the C-53’s outer wing panels are now in better-than-new condition. Jim Aaron deserves an especially large shout-out, as he spent many days each week dedicated to this singular task during this time. This was a monumental achievement, especially considering that Jim also fabricated and built the rotisserie jigs which we mounted the wings in for their repair. We re-attached the outer panels to the wing center section this past October, marking a major milestone in the C-53’s progress.

Another incredibly large step included the completion of new fluid lines in the aircraft’s center wing section and wheel wells. Joe Matz singlehandedly took on this task and completed it in consummate professional style. He needed to fabricate so many replacement lines to solve the problem of switching out the older, harder to find AC standard fittings for the later, more common AN fittings. This project took almost a year and a half to finish.

The wheel well, following repaint and the installation of all-new fluid lines. (photo via Jason Capra)
Another view of the myriad freshly remanufactured fluid lines inside the repainted wheel well. (photo via Jason Capra)

We also replaced almost all of the C-53’s wiring from the wingtips all the way to the main circuit breaker panel in the cockpit. This aforded us the security of certainty regarding wiring safety. Wayne Aaron and John Breitenbach were instrumental in this effort. We also successfully installed a modern, six-place intercom system inside of the original WWII intercom boxes, allowing all crew stations to communicate effectively with each other. This will be essential for our planned ride program and an opportunity for guests to hear what’s going on while in flight. Furthermore, our avionics panel is being wrapped up as I write and will hopefully be mounted and wired in this spring.

The fuselage interior is now almost completely restored back to its original wartime configuration. One of the cabin intercom positions is visible to the upper left of the doorway. (photo via Jason Capra)
The freshly re-wired main landing light. (photo via Jason Capra)
The wings have been completely rewired from the wingtips to the central fuse box. (photo via Jason Capra)

Another large accomplishment was the repainting of the outer wings, vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer and flight controls. As the winter months closed in on us in late fall, we had initially planned to paint the entire aircraft. However, with weather and temperatures working against us, we had to focus on painting just the areas which would allow us to continue working on the restoration through the winter and into early 2021. We also painted both wheel wells before the final installation of new wiring and fluid lines.

Recently, we also re-installed the primary flight controls and flaps. This included complete rigging for all primary flight control cables, cable tension, travel limits and trim systems, however, we await hydraulic system testing before we can finish the turnbuckles and final adjustments to the flaps.

Re-installing the flaps. (photo via Jason Capra)
Beginning the process of re-installing the primary flight controls. (photo via Jason Capra)

Restoration of the C-53’s interior to its wartime configuration is also coming to a close. Fabrication of the remaining floorboards is finished and we have located, restored and refitted original C-53 passenger seats into the cabin. The last of the floorboards were undergoing staining and varnishing in recent days, and will soon go back into the aircraft.

Some of the freshly-restored cabin seating, authentic to the C-53, after re-installation. (photo via Jason Capra)
More of the freshly restored cabin seating. (photo via Jason Capra)

As should be evident, the team at Vintage Wings Inc has been working incredibly hard to restore Beach City Baby to better-than-new condition so that she may enjoy many years ahead taking part in air shows and fly-ins to fulfill her greatest mission yet: one of remembrance and education.

As with any nonprofit and historical foundation, 2020 has been incredibly tough on fundraising. With the cancellation of all events and a hold on corporate donations, the team at Vintage Wings Inc. has had to dig deep internally. We have had to depend on individual contributions from supporters like you to keep moving forward; any and all donations, no matter the size, are greatly appreciated. Vintage Wings Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which relies heavily upon such contributions to survive, and every penny goes directly to the restoration and future operation of Beach City Baby. We hope readers will consider helping this true grassroots restoration effort today!

Please visit www.vintagewingsinc.com

LIFT FEB 2020

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