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D-Day Transport Restored, Takes Flight

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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“That’s All, Brother,” a transport C-47 aircraft that led the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, recently took its first flight in years, thanks to an extensive restoration project funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign and later donations.

According to the Commemorative Air Force, “That’s All, Brother” led a formation of more than 800 aircraft that dropped 13,000 paratroopers behind enemy lines. The aircraft returned to the sky on Jan. 31 of this year.

Road to Restoration

Restoring the warbird to its place in the skies almost didn’t happen, however. Prior to 2015, the C-47 spent over a decade in a boneyard with other derelict aircraft. But, in 2015, Matt Scales, a U.S. Air Force historian, discovered the aircraft's story by researching the tail number on the back of the plane.

Once the CAF, a nonprofit flying museum known for restoring military aircraft, heard of the discovery, an endeavor to restore the aircraft was kicked off. Starting with a Kickstarter campaign that raised $400,000, the CAF then also received assistance from over 3,000 ownerships and foundations that, all told, amounted to $3.5 million to get the warbird back in working order.

“It was a Herculean effort,” said Joe Enzminger, CAF CenTex Wing leader. “We did it to honor the men who flew this plane and the women who helped build it.”

“That’s All, Brother” was extensively corroded, which meant that nearly every single inch would have to be restored to full functionality, as it was in 1944, in order for the plane to be able to fly again.

Richard B. “Doc” Heckert, maintenance officer of “That’s All Brother,” said that the C-47 was the state-of-the-art airliner in the world in 1935-36. The plane was so popular, it was even flown by Russian and Japanese armies.

“We estimate that we have put more than 22,000 hours into this restoration project so far and the work continues,” said Bob Stenevik, President/CEO of CAF. Stenevik added that much of the work completed to date had been carried out by Basler Turbo Conversions in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Enzminger also noted that enough C-47s were built that finding parts and pieces was still feasible, but anything that could not be found had to be built.

Future Plans

Moving forward, the plane’s exterior will be updated to emulate what its 1944 appearance, along with interior and detail work.  

In June 2019, “That’s All, Brother” will take to the skies for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, flying along with several other World War II aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean. There are also plans to offer aircraft tours, as well as attending aviation events and conducting education programs leading up to the anniversary.

For now, “That’s All, Brother” has come home to roost at the Central Texas Wing of the CAF in San Marcos, Texas.

   

Tagged categories: Aerospace; Corrosion; Historic Preservation

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