C-97G Angel of Deliverance First Flight Imminent

(Photo by Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation via Greg Morehead)
United Fuel Cells

(Photo by Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation via Greg Morehead)
(Photo by Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation via Greg Morehead)

By Greg Morehead

Already admired and respected for their beautiful Douglas C-54 Skymaster, Spirit of Freedom, the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation (BAHF) is ready to fly the only certified and airworthy Boeing C-97 in the world. The Stratofreighter will be the organization’s second heavy cargo aircraft dedicated to honoring USAF Cold War heritage. Similar to the C-54, the new aircraft will make use of the interior cargo area to present an on board Cold War museum/exhibit. The Angel of Deliverance museum will include areas highlighting Cold War events, including the Berlin Airlift, Korean War, the “Red Scare” and McCarthyism, Cuban Missile Crisis, Space Race, Vietnam War, arms race, and the Fall of the Soviet Union. These significant milestones represent the period from 1948 through the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Boeing C-97G ser. no. 52-2718 came off the Seattle, WA assembly line and was accepted by the USAF on April 27, 1954. She was manufactured as a KC-97G aerial tanker and was assigned to air refueling units across the United States. From 1954 until being retired to Davis Monthan AFB in 1976, her home stations and deployment locations included bases in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, New York, Wisconsin, and Utah. After being dropped from USAF inventory as surplus in 1977, 52-2718 was auctioned on the civilian market in 1986 and converted to a C-97G with the removal of the refueling equipment and the addition of cargo doors. In 1988 the big girl was seized by the US Marshal Service and subsequently auctioned to Grace Aire, Inc., which used ‘718 on humanitarian missions to South America and to carry fish in Alaska.

The BAHF purchased ‘718 on April 22, 1996, and had it paid off by November 1997. In October 1998, BAHF transferred the cargo plane from Moses Lake, WA to Greybull, WY for inspection and restoration. In September 1999 the FAA signed off on the Approved Inspection Program and in 2000 the aircraft was painted in the colors of YC-97A 45-59595, the sole C-97 used in the Berlin Airlift. In 2001 she was moved to Aberdeen, SD and Millville, NJ, and then the aircraft was flown to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY in May 2002, where she currently resides.

(Photo by Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation via Greg Morehead)
(Photo by Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation via Greg Morehead)

The restoration reached effective completion by the time the first engine runs took place in October 2016, and crew training began in earnest. Although the original plan was to fly Angel of Deliverance in late 2016, the delay has allowed BAHF founder Tim Chopp and his team to continue their efforts to improve and beautify their portly angel. The final speed bump to the first flight is obtaining final determination from the FAA on the crew currency requirements. Technically the aircraft needs pilots current in the type; however, no one in the entire world is current in the C-97. Pilots and flight engineers with extensive experience and type ratings are ready to go as soon as the FAA confirms their acceptance.

C-97G Angel of Deliverance_4
(Photo by Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation via Greg Morehead)

The Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation appeals to C-97 veterans and their families, as well as families and friends of Cold War veterans, and all patriotic Americans to help Angel of Deliverance achieve her mission of becoming the only flying C-97 and to educate people across the country about a pivotal time in American and USAF history. Tim Chopp said, “Kevin Kearney, the Foundation’s Vice President and member of the board of directors, coined the very appropriate phrase: ‘Be part of something BIG.’”

The C-97 is certainly big, and so is the mission the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation is dedicated to. To learn more and to provide financial support, visit: www.spiritoffreedom.org

Thanks to Greg Morehead and Warbird Digest for allowing the reproduction of this article. Subscribe to Warbird Digest – Each issue comes with 68 full color pages.Restoration News – Stunning Photography – World Wide Warbird Coverage, including: Fighter, Bomber, Jet, Trainer & Liaison, Museum News, Operator Information  Request your subscription today, click the banner below!

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  1. My grandfather flew the Yc-97a in Berlin… In fact, at his funeral, a few mates showed up and told me it was him who taught them how to fly the 97 and the 54’s….☘?

  2. Great aircraft.I have a C-97 slide rule and all I need is a DD365f Wt&balance form and I could probably work the Wt and bal.Would need a starting index!!!

  3. I spent some time in C-97s and I was in the Navy out of Kingsville NAS, Texas 1961/63. I went to Spain on one and return state side on another. Cold, noise to beat a band, but was a good free ride, the best. Would love to ride yours, saw them in Vietnam and go a ride there to japan and back. get her up, would love to see her fly. Al Clayton. usn/ret/

  4. I recall the C-97 types when I was a kid spotter back in the 50s and 60s. Also various airlines flew the civvy ones. A beautiful aeroplane and I hope we get a chance to see it in the UK.

  5. Curious about how they will get it out of Floyd Bennett, given that it is now only reported open for official City of New York (NYPD, FDNY) helicopter operations only. Are any of the runways still certified for use or will they require recertification? Will this be a re-location flight to somewhere with a suitable length runway for continued operations or a return to Floyd Bennett?

    • There will be no return to Floyd Bennett. The initial flight is heading to MJX. (Toms River, NJ)

      We will be the last fixed wing to use the runways at FBF.

    • They have a choice of 3 runways to use so I guess they will wait until they are ready to depart and work with JFK Tower. US Park Police will be there to make sure the runways are closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. I’m hearing around 4PM Wednesday May 31 but also could be any time after 1 so to play it safe I’ll get there around 12:45. This should be very cool. I used to hang out there back in the 90s when my kids were young. And FYI FDNY does not fly helicopters. NYPD Aviation only and they are now hangered at the former USCG Air Station Brooklyn facilities.

  6. the Israeli Air Force flew some in late 1969 may be somebody there still has some flying experience.

  7. Never had experience of the military ones – but plenty on the civilian Stratocruiser Model 337 with BOAC. The chin radomes were fitted to ours just before they retired them.

  8. It’s great that they are restoring them to being airworthy but only 1 of them for now.
    These giants look like a pregnant B-29 bomber back in WW2 and share just about the same airframes and powerplants too,although a bit different from the P&W Wright cyclone engines that are being kept up with the 2 B-29’s we have flying.
    The newest one is DOC” and she flew for the first time last year on 7/16/16 in Witchita KS.
    Let’s bring these old birds back men and preserve our American history right now.

    • The C-97 was a derivation of B-29, and both the B-29 and the XC and YC-97) used the Wright R-3350. And just as the B-29 underwent major structural and powerplant (R-4360 replaced the R-3350) rework to emerge as the B-50 ( originally B-29D) , so did the production Civilian Stratocruisers (Boeing Model 377) and the Military C-97A-J’s (Boeing Model 367) upgrade to the major changes of the B-50 vs. the B-29.

  9. I flew the C-97 out of Travis AFB with the 55thAir Transport from 1956 to 1958. Travis to Hanida in Tokyo caring troops and dependents. Great airplane.

  10. Flew many hours on the C-97 and KC-97 as FE out of Floyd Bennett with the NY Air Guard. Great reliable comfortable airplane, hard to believe we did computations with a slide rule which I still have!

  11. We had a C-97 at Wiesbaden AFB in Germany back in the late 50’s and early 60’s it had the worlds largest aircraft camera , it did a lot of cold war photo work flying up and down the berlin corridors It was with the 7405 TH support Sqd. 7499 Support GP.

  12. Hi
    Until 1978 ,I was a flight engineer on c 97 and b377.as part of the Israeli air force.
    can I have contact to the air crow how fly today the c97
    Reuven Havar
    m +48784066245

  13. Was with the 7405th SP SQ out of Wiesbaden flying EC97’s along the Iron Curtain and all 3 corridors from 1967 to 1971. Glad to see one of the girls still flying. One of our EC97’s was sent to Israel and was shot down. All the others are now old beer cans! Thanks for your work.

  14. I was a recipe engine mechanic during my first four years in the USAF and worked in the KC-97 engine shop at Earnest Harmon AFB, Newfoundland and later at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. When I re-enlisted, I cross trained to Nav equip technician and wound up working on the APS-42 radar on this same plane. Lots of memories brought up by your restoration. Great job!

    • Thanks very much for writing in Mike. I’m glad that the article brought back happy memories for you, and it certainly sounds like you had an interesting career. We look forwards to seeing “Angel of Deliverance” on the circuit. She has a major story to tell, and one which needs to be kept alive.

  15. I have been friends with Tim Chopp since he was in high school. There have been so many times I have seen “Spirit” (C-54) in the air and now the two of them will be in Reading, PA in June, joined by the two B-29’s. What a show that will be!

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