The history of Waco can be traced back to 1919 when businessmen Clayton J. Brukner and Elwood Junkin and barnstorming pilots Charley Meyers and George Weaver met and designed a floatplane that unfortunately was a failure. Unperturbed they established the Weaver Aircraft Company in 1920.
In 1923, when Weaver left, the company's name was changed to the Advance Aircraft Company. During 1929 the name was again changed to the Waco Aircraft Company and Waco went on to become the largest manufacturer of aircraft in the years leading up WWII.
Militarily the USA was not ready for WWII and like in many other countries large numbers of civilian aircraft was impressed into service. Waco's did not escape the call to duty and 42 privately owned models of sixteen types were impressed into service as light transports and utility aircraft with the USAAF under the common designation C-72/UC-72.
Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force / commons.wikimedia.org
During the war Waco continued production, supplying more than 620 biplanes for use by the Civilian Pilot Training Program and almost 14,000 of its Waco CG-4 military gliders. The CG-4, that could carry 13 troops and their equipment and was usually towed by a C-47, was the most widely used United States military glider of the war. The CG-4A cargo version was able to carry a 75 mm howitzer or a ľ ton truck. Waco's were first used in July 1943 during the Allied invasion of Sicily and they participated in the Allied airborne landings in Normandy as well as other important airborne operations in Europe and in the China Burma India Theatre.
The end of the war was the nail in the coffin for a large number of general aviation manufacturers. Large numbers of surplus military aircraft were available for a song and the expected boom in civilian aviation never materialised. Waco by then was working on its Aristocraft. The Aristocraft had an unusual configuration with an engine mounted at the front driving a pusher propeller at the rear. The expensive Aristocraft could nor save the company and in 1947 Waco, once the biggest manufacturer of aircraft, closed its doors.
Waco RNF. Photo © Willie Bodenstein
Fortunately the original manufacturing plans were filed by the Waco Aircraft Company with the Library of Congress and thus available. In 1983 the Classic Aircraft Corporation, a family owned company, was formed to manufacture Waco products. The companies name was later changed to Waco Classic Aircraft and its aim was to revive the Golden Era's open cockpit flying experience and to bring the Waco YMF back to the market as A FAA certified aircraft.
Accomplishing its aim was no easy task. No company has ever taken a 50-year-old design and manufactured it as a new FAA certified aircraft. Whilst maintaining the sanctity of Waco's original masterful design its team of professionals modernized the aircraft with more than 300 engineering changes, redesigning over 1400 drawings and building new tooling for production.
Waco Classic Aircraft 2014 Waco YMF. Photo © Willie Bodenstein
The brand new YMF with a sturdy 4130 steel fuselage frame, modern hydraulic toe brakes and advanced avionics rolled of Classic's production line in March 1986. Certified by the FAA it was hailed as an aeronautic thoroughbred.
In 2009, the company introduced its first WACO YMF-5D Super. Powered by a Jacobs R-755-A2 300 hp (224 kW) engine and MT-Propeller this superior modern day barnstormer boasted even more improvements, such as greater internal width, more legroom, increased useful load, a balanced rudder, large front entry door and an upgraded avionics package. The company is constantly re-engineering, modernizing and updating their designs to provide the safest, most reliable, highest quality biplanes available.
Thanks to Waco Classic Aircraft, a one-of-a-kind aircraft manufacturer, one of the world's most exhilarating biplanes from the golden age of aviation will for countless years to come continue to grace the skies.