Canadian Warplanes 9: WACO Gliders

WACO CG-4A Hadrian Mk. II Glider

(IWM Photo E(MOS)1235)

WACO CG-4A Hadrian Mk. I Glider, RAF (Serial No. FR557), under tow at the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment, Sherburn-in-Elmet, Yorkshire, England.

The Waco CG-4 was the most widely used American troop/cargo military glider of the Second World War. It was designated the CG-4A by the United States Army Air Forces,[1] and given the service name Hadrian (after the Roman emperor) by the British. The glider was designed by the Waco Aircraft Company. Flight testing began in May 1942. More than 13,900 CG-4As were eventually delivered. The CG-4A was constructed of fabric-covered wood and metal and was crewed by a pilot and co-pilot. It had two fixed mainwheels and a tailwheel. The CG-4A could carry 13 troops and their equipment. Cargo loads could be a 1⁄4-ton truck (i.e. a Jeep), a 75-mm howitzer, or a 1⁄4-ton trailer, loaded through the upward-hinged nose section.

Douglas C-47 Skytrains were usually used as tow aircraft. A few Curtiss C-46 Commando tugs were used during and after the Operation Plunder crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.The USAAF CG-4A tow line was 11⁄16-inch (17-mm) nylon, 350 feet (107m) long. The CG-4A pickup line was 15⁄16 inch (24 mm) diameter nylon, but only 225 ft (69 m) long including the doubled loop. In an effort to identify areas where strategic materials could be reduced, a single XCG-4B was built at the Timm Aircraft Corporation using wood for the main structure. From 1942 to 1945, the Ford Motor Company's plant in Kingsford, Michigan, built 4,190 Model CG-4A gliders for use in combat operations during the Second World War. The Kingsford plant built more CG-4A gliders than any other company in the nation at much less cost than other manufacturers. The other primary builders of the Model CG-4A gliders were located in Troy, Ohio; Greenville, Michigan; Astoria, New York; Kansas City, Missouri and St. Paul, Minnesota. (Wikipedia)

(USAAF Photo)

U.S. Army Air Forces Douglas C-47A Skytrain (43-15174 in front) from the 88th Troop Carrier Squadron, 438th Troop Carrier Group, 53rd Troop Carrier Wing, 9th Troop Carrier Command, tow Waco CG-4A gliders during the invasion of France in June 1944. On 6 June 1944, the squadron dropped the 101st Airborne Division's 502d Parachute Infantry Regiment soon after midnight in the area northwest of Carentan, France. Glider-borne reinforcement missions followed, carrying weapons, ammunition, rations, and other supplies. The Douglas C-47B-15-DK, s/n 43-49507 (c/n 26768), is today on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, painted as 43-15174 of the 88th TCS. 43-49507 was the last C-47 in USAF service and was retired at the museum on 30 June 1975 with a total of 20,821 hours flying time.

WACO CG-4A Hadrian Mk. II Glider (32), (Serial Nos. 9501, 9503, 9505-9530, KH944-KH947).

(City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM640-S1-: CVA 260-1521)

WACO CG-4A Hadrian Mk. I Glider, Vancouver, British Columbia, ca 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo,  MIKAN No. 4233994)

WACO CG-4A Glider, ca 1960s.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4233997)

WACO Hadrian CG-4A Glider.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3607731)

WACO CG-4A Hadrian Glider "Voo Doo", being prepared for a transatlantic flight from Canada to the UK, c Dec 1942. Wing Commander Richard Dickey Seys was commissioned from the RAF to pilot the glider on its maiden voyage. Alongside him would be his Canadian co-pilot: Wing Commander Fowler Gobeil. At first, the pair flew the glider from Montreal to North Bay, Ontario. Then, they flew from Montreal to Maine and back. Following this trip was a venture out to Goose Bay, Labrador. After this, they took the glider from Montreal to the Bahamas, crossing a distance of 1,187 miles. At this point, they had already broken the world record for distance covered in a glider in a single sitting.

In June of 1943, the mission was put into motion. Before takeoff, the lead plane was overloaded with fuel. At the same time, the glider was overloaded with 3,360 lbs of equipment, blood plasma for the Soviet, and the two men. Additionally, a third aircraft in the form of a Catalina Flying Boat joined the other planes as a precaution. Once every craft was fueled, filled, and manned, they set off. The first leg of the journey was from Montreal to Goose Bay. Throughout the first stages of the trip, the group experienced massive amounts of turbulence and three major winter storms. The conditions were strenuous at best for the nylon rope that connected the aircraft to one another. Despite this, the glider was able to make a good landing at the end of the stint.

On 27 June, after repairing the rope, they started their second spell. This time it would be to Bluie West One US Air Force Base in Greenland. Thankfully, this stretch only lasted 5 hours and was quite uneventful. The 3rd leg would run between Greenland and Reykjavik. Unlike the last stint, this part of the journey was filled with turbulence, rain, snow, fog, and ice storms. It got so cold inside of the glider's cabin that snow began to form on the inside. Worst of all, they had to do this with the knowledge that they were now entering an active war zone. Despite the constant anxiety associated with potentially getting shot down by a German fighter pilot, everyone finished safely.

Bluie West One, later known as Narsarsuaq Air Base and Narsarsuaq Airport, was built on a glacial moraine at what is now the village of Narsarsuaq, near the southern tip of Greenland. Construction by the United States Army began in June 1941. The first aircraft landed there in January 1942, as a link in the North Atlantic air ferry route in in the Second World War. The base had a peak population of about 4,000 American servicemen, and it is estimated that some 10,000 aircraft landed there en route to the war in Europe and North Africa. BW-1's importance declined post Second World War, but the U.S. Air Force maintained it as Narsarsuaq Air Base during the early Cold War years, when it served as a refuelling station for jet fighters and for helicopters crossing the North Atlantic. The runway by this time had been paved with concrete. Jets require a longer take-off run than do propeller-driven aircraft, and the air base used a small tugboat to move icebergs out of the way of planes taking off over the basin west of the runway. The advent of aerial refueling, and the opening of the larger Thule Air Base in northern Greenland, made the base redundant, and it was turned over to the Danish government of Greenland in 1958. It is currently known as Narsarsuaq Airport and served by regular flights from Reykjavík, Iceland during the summer season, as well as by commuter aircraft from Kangerlussaq and other Greenlandic airfields. There is no control tower, and ceiling is required, on all approach procedures.(Wikipedia)

The final session was from Iceland to Prestwick, Scotland, an area that was regularly frequented by the German Luftwaffe. The group was supposed to be escorted by fighter planes. However, no one showed. Despite the danger, the aerial convoy continued to fly across the remainder of the Atlantic. As they entered Scottish airspace, they came across hazards in the form of barrage balloons. Wielding strong steel cable designed to slice wings off of planes, these balloons were extremely difficult for the glider to avoid. In one instance, the glider had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid catastrophe. Admiringly, through sheer will and determination, everyone was able to make their final landing safely.

Upon completion of the journey, the duo became the first individuals to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a glider. The trip covered a total distance of 3,500 miles and took 28 hours to complete. Everyone involved was awarded an Air Force Cross for their efforts. Regardless of their endeavor, the idea for gliders crossing the Atlantic never materialized. The impracticability alone was plenty enough reason to scrap the idea entirely. This point was made clear when Voo-Doo was flown at a later date. Upon landing, it crashed and was damaged too much to be repaired. Sadly, its next destination was supposed to be a museum. (Austin Cassell)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3607724)

WACO CG-4A Hadrian Glider "Voo Doo", being prepared for a flight over the Atlantic, ca Dec 1942.

(IWM Photo TR 1159)

WACO CG-4A Hadrian Glider "Voo Doo", first glider to be towed across the Atlantic being unloaded at Prestwick in England, 31 Dec 1942.

WACO CG-15A Glider (1), (Serial No. 9504).

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583927)

WACO CG-15A Glider, USAAC (Serial No. 55594), Rockcliffe, Ontario, 9 Feb 1946.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583925)

WACO CG-15A Glider, USAAC markings, Griswold nose protection device, spoilers, wing covers and pitot cover. The glider is equipped with skis, at RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 6 Feb 1946.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583926)

WACO CG-15A Glider, interior view, 9 Feb 1946.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583928)

WACO CG-15 Glider pickup, Rockcliffe, Ontario, 19 Feb 1946.

WACO PG-2A Powered Glider (1), (Serial No. 9502).  PG-2A with two 200 hp (150 kW) L-440-7 engines.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583917)

WACO PG-2A Powered Glider, USAAF (Serial No. 514037), Rockcliffe, Ontario, 9 Jan 1946.

(Gordon Franklin Snider via the BCAM)

WACO PG-2A Powered Glider, USAAF (Serial No. 514037), Rockcliffe, Ontario, ca Jan 1946.  From a photo album given to the British Columbia Air Museum, that belonged to Gordon Franklin Snider, who was posted at Patricia Bay, BC.  He also was posted to the Experimental Proving Establishment at Rockcliffe, Ontario, in 1947, where he took this photo.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583915)

WACO PG-2A Powered Glider, USAAF (Serial No. 514037), interior, 9 Jan 1946.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583916)

WACO PG-2A Powered Glider, USAAF (Serial No. 514037), 9 Jan 1946.

(RCAF Photo)

WACO PG-2A Powered Glider, RCAF (Serial No. 9502).

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