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Historic World War II-era Douglas C-47 plane gets makeover in Michigan

Yankee Air Museum's C-47 transport plane gets an exterior restoration

The starboard fuselage of the plane (Dave Callanan)

OSCODA, Mich. – The Yankee Museum’s first airplane, a World War II-era Douglas C-47 Skytrain, is getting restored by the Kalitta Maintenance division of Kalitta Air in Michigan. 

The plane flew into Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport on June 9 to get a new finish and a fresh coat of paint. The plane was prepared by washing off its severely weathered paint and careful detail work was done by hand.

“This project is going well, very well,” structures manager for Kalitta Maintenance, Greg Ruby said. “Our team is loving this project. It’s unique for them and they’re learning about historical aircraft design and manufacturing techniques.”  

Greg Ruby, Structures Manager of Kalitta Maintenance, providing maintenance instruction (Dave Callanan)

Once the plane was stripped of its old paint, it was closely inspected and was in great condition for its 73 years of age, Ruby said. The Yankee Air Museum C-47 crew has been on hand periodically to check the condition of the aircraft and consult on its maintenance. 

“My dad was a World War II veteran and he would be very proud of this project,” account executive with Sherwin-Williams Aerospace Coatings, Bill Hensley said. “He passed away a number of years ago, but it would make him happy that this history is being preserved."

A wide view of the detailed inspection of the entire plane with flashlights, magnifiers and decades of experience at work. Engine covers are in the foreground (Dave Callanan)

The Sherwin-Williams Company is supplying the paint and related products for the restoration, while Kalitta Maintenance is providing the technical expertise, skilled labor and facilities for the project.  

“The coatings to be applied are military grade,” technical service representative with Sherwin-Williams Aerospace Coatings Fernando Hernandez said. “When the plane is done, it will be fit for service as everything we are supplying meets military specifications.”

Careful attention was given to assure the paint mixtures replicate World War II colors and are consistent from start to finish, Hernandez said.

“The next time you see her, she’ll have color and we will be reinstalling the control surfaces and getting her ready to fly again,” Ruby said. “We’re very pleased to be part of this project and make a contribution to aviation history and the Yankee Air Museum.”

This C-47 transport aircraft was first delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1945. It was acquired by the Yankee Air Museum in 1982 after the variety of roles it filled in the Air Force. After a 20-month restoration, the plane was able to fly again in 1984. 

The Kalitta Air donation is providing the first exterior restoration in 34 years, and it will last a lifetime.