Combat Veteran C-47 Takes Flight

Sunset trip, the Turin Aviation Group's C-47B 43-48950 during her recent first flight. (photo by Moose Peterson)

In early December, a historic Douglas C-47 took to the skies again for the first time in many years, flying from Keystone Heights Airport in Starke to Tampa Executive Airport in Tampa, Florida. C-47B 43-48950 served with the famous IX Troop Carrier Command, 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, 315th Troop Carrier Group, 34th Troop Carrier Squadron during WWII and participated in several combat actions, including Operation Varsity, the largest ever airborne assault to take place on the same day and location. Thousands of aircraft and over 16,000 paratroopers took part in the March 25th, 1945 Allied push across the northern Rhine River into the heart of Nazi Germany.
Some of the patches for the units in which the Turin Aviation Group’s C-47B served. (image via Turin Aviation Group)
The aircraft belongs to the Turin Aviation Group, a multi-tier aeronautical consulting company with commercial and military expertise in a variety of different fields. The firm’s principal, Ed Franco, has a deep passion for vintage military aircraft, and is determined to get the C-47 back into stock military condition in time to take part in the 75th D-Day celebrations in France during June, 2019. The company also owns a number of other warbirds, including a pair of former Royal Air Force Percival Jet Provost Mk.5As (XW354 and XW435), Beech C-45H Expeditor 51-11602 and North American T-28A 49-1703.
C-47B 43-48950, airborne at last. The Turin Aviation Group’s Skytrain is now safely at her new home in Tampa, Florida. (photo by Moose Peterson)
Coming in to land at Tampa Executive Airport, C-47B 43-48950 arrives from Starke, Florida following five months hard labor to get her airworthy again. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
The C-47 on roll out. (photo by Moose Petersen)
C-47B 43-48950 on the taxiway during her trip to Tampa Executive Airport. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
Ed Franco embraces his co-pilot after completing the successful first flight of the Turin Aviation Group’s C-47B Skytrain 43-48950. It was a short hop from Starke, Florida to Tampa Executive Airport, where the Douglas transport will receive additional maintenance, as well as a complete reconfiguration back into her original wartime interior and markings. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
A group of young men inspect the Turin Aviation Group’s C-47 just after her arrival at Tampa Executive Airport following several months of intense effort to restore her to flying condition. The aircraft will now undergo further maintenance and reconditioning to bring her back to her original WWII configuration. To the left of the image, you can see the silhouette of one of the Turin Aviation Group’s brace of Percival Jet Provosts. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
While this first flight went perfectly, it was basically a positioning hop to get the aircraft from her previous home with the Wings of Dreams Museum to her new owner’s base in Tampa. Five months of intense effort was involved in getting the long-dormant WWII-troop transport-turned-bug-sprayer airworthy again. In an e-mail conversation, Ed Franco, told WarbirdsNews that this maintenance included, amongst many other details, fitting new carburetors, adjustments to the engines and fuel system, repairing the exhaust manifolds, servicing the hydraulic system, inspecting the wing and particularly the wing mating angle extrusions, repairing the fabric control surfaces, servicing the magnetos and of course replacing all 72 spark plugs on the R-1830 engines. Since the engines had not operated in several years, the restoration team first performed a “Green Run” before firing them up. This involved turning over the engines with the starter motor, with spark plugs removed from the lower pistons to prevent the potential for hydraulic lock from all the engine oil which naturally settles there after such lengthy lack of activity. This precaution helped make sure the engines didn’t incur damage during startup.
Working on the carburettors and other engine components. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
Engine cowlings are strewn on the grass as the team works on the powerplants. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
A technician observing and making adjustments during a trial run of the starboard R-1830. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
Working on the starboard R-1830 engine. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
Now that the C-47 is safely at her new home in Tampa, a lot more work needs to take place to get the aircraft fully certified for flight, and then returned to her former WWII configuration. Some of the maintenance required will involve fully re-covering the control surfaces, replacing hoses where necessary, as well as pulling the wings and propellers to ensure compliance with the latest Airworthiness Directives. Once she regains her airworthiness certificate, Turin Aviation will begin refurbishing the interior, which will include rebuilding the cockpit, navigator and radio operator stations, and installing paratrooper seats, litter stations, the celestial dome, and flooring. They will repaint the fuselage interior, while preserving as many of the original WWII-era decals as possible.
One of the many military placards which still lingers on in the fuselage. These decals and placards will be preserved where possible or exactly replicated during the restoration back to stock military condition. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
The last vestiges of a first aid kit decal. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
One of the original military decals inside the fuselage. This one is an instruction for Army Litters for transporting wounded personnel. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
The last vestiges of an original emergency exit sign inside the Skytrain’s fuselage. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)
A mllitary decal inside the fuselage concerning smoking. (photo via Turin Aviation Group)

They will repaint the aircraft exterior back to how she would have looked in 1944. As mentioned earlier, Ed Franco plans to fly the C-47 to Europe in late spring, 2019 to take part in the D-Day celebrations that year at Daks Over Normandy. It should be a major event, with at least twenty five C-47s expected to participate! In the meantime, members of the restoration team have also been researching the names of aircrew who flew 43-48950 during her service life. Among these men are Maj. James S. Smith (pilot), Long S. (co-pilot), Davis (Navigator), Vandernaalt (Radio Operator), and Peluso (Crew Chief). Presently, they are unsure if any of these men are still alive, but the team is just as keen to locate their family members as well, and hopefully to reunite them with the aircraft! We wish them much success in this noble endeavor.

It should be noted that in addition to their own personnel, Turin Aviation had countless hours of support in getting the Skytrain flying again from Porters Radials and the Wings of Dreams Museum.

WarbirdsNews would like to thank Ed Franco, Janel Norton and Moose Peterson for providing the details and images within this article.

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