In 1919, some fellows in Michigan took the first of a series of steps and missteps that would ultimately lead to an airplane factory in Ohio. For about five years, starting in 1928, that factory was the largest manufacturer of passenger airplanes in the world. When success came, the company bore the name Advance Aircraft Company but it had previously been the Weaver Aircraft Company and its planes were known as WACOs. Still are. Get the history, including those steps and missteps, here.
On Saturday, I met my uncle Eldon for breakfast and, when he told me the annual WACO Fly-In was happening just a few miles up the road, a visit just automatically followed. The first plane pictured is the 1929 "Taperwing" made famous by Joe Mackey. Mackey put in a bigger engine, made a few more modifications, and proceeded to let air show attendees see just what he and the WACO could do. In 1936, Mackey was the U.S. entry, and Grand Prize Trophy winner, at the International Air Games in Paris. The next picture shows a reproduction of the 1921 WACO 4. Early WACOs were something akin to numbered experiments and number 4 was the first one that actually flew. The original has been lost but in 1974, Ray Vaughan, one of the men who flew it, set out to build this copy from a few photographs and his remarkable memory. Ray died before the plane was completed but it was wonderfully close. A group in Troy took on Ray's project and completed the plane in 1992.
There were another 15-20 WACOs at the field when I was there. Most were moored in the field where they could be closely examined and admired but now and then one would head into the sky. For $65, anyone could take a ride in a genuine WACO. That wasn't in my budget this time but it sure looked tempting.
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