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Thread: Postwar Waco CG-4 Operations

  1. #1

    Postwar Waco CG-4 Operations

    I tend to watch a lot of old, obscure aviation movies just to see what kind of airplanes might be parked in the background.

    Watched an interesting one today... "Top of the World." The plot itself was pretty stale, but it showed some WWII/postwar planes operational that I don't think I'd seen anywhere else.

    It has an LC-126 (military version of the Cessna 195) on skis, landing in an open field and taking off again. It has four SAR B-17s in arctic colors. It has neat footage of a F-82 Twin Mustang, including takeoffs, air-to-air, and landing. It has a passel of C-47s, including one landing on wheel/skis. The movie ends with a flypast of early-production B-36s...no jet engines.

    What was the most surprising to ME was a set of scenes showing operational use of a Waco CG-4A glider in the Arctic. I hadn't known the US used them after WWII, though I later found it mentioned in Wikipedia. The glider was used to pick up a crew abandoned on the ice cap, including an aerial pickup (which they didn't show very much of, so I suspect never actually happened).

    But the movie has a lot of scenes with the glider, including one great shot of it landing at an intermediate airport...the shot is down the runway with a telephoto lens, with the glider turning back and forth in the distance to lose altitude, and rolling up to the camera at the end. The neat thing is, the F-82 is sitting in the foreground for the entire shot...interesting juxtaposition of little-known airplanes from US history. There's even an air-to-air scene with the F-82 passing the C-47 pulling the glider.

    Some interesting footage....

    Ron Wanttaja

  2. #2
    Thomas Brown's Avatar
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    Very interesting Ron! Where can I find that video? Would like to see it!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Brown View Post
    Very interesting Ron! Where can I find that video? Would like to see it!
    My TIVO picked it up on the THIS TV network....

    Ron Wanttaja

  4. #4
    EAA Staff / Moderator Hal Bryan's Avatar
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    Looks like it occasionally shows up on TCM as well:

    http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/17817/Top-of-the-World/

    No official DVD release that I've found, and Google shows a reference to some now-removed grey market copies on iOffer.

    This is definitely one I'll have to add to my collection - thanks, Ron!

    Hal Bryan
    EAA #638979
    Online Community Manager
    EAA—The Spirit of Aviation

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Hal Bryan View Post
    Looks like it occasionally shows up on TCM as well:

    http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/17817/Top-of-the-World/

    No official DVD release that I've found, and Google shows a reference to some now-removed grey market copies on iOffer.

    This is definitely one I'll have to add to my collection - thanks, Ron!
    The movie itself is rather turgid, but that's the advantage of TIVO... ex-wife comes on screen, hit the commercial-skip button.

    The long shot of the Waco landing with the F-82 in the foreground is worth it, though. The shot has to be at least 30 seconds long, showing the Waco weaving on final, killing altitude, then touching down and rolling out. For a while there, it looked like it was going to hit the Twin Mustang... I was thinking, "Hmmm, snow-packed runway, probably no tailskid steering on the Waco, probably no brakes either...." Just an artifact of the telephoto lens, I guess.

    Another extremely cool old movie TIVO found for me is "Dirigible," a 1931 flick. This is about a US Navy dirigible flying to the South Pole to rescue some crashed explorers. At the beginning, there's a hellaciously cool scene depicting an open-house at Lakehurst, the center for Navy lighter than air operations. There's one shot showing, like, two Navy dirigibles and about five Navy blimps. There's an extended scene later, showing a fighter hooking on to a trapeze below the Akron or Macon and being hauled aboard. There's a great scene where a dirigible gets pulled apart by a storm, the interior shots are great.

    A bit of trivia about "Dirigible": The Antarctic scenes were filmed on a massive set on an airport near Los Angeles... it was probably 500 feet wide, and 1000 feet long, with ~50 foot high "ice cliffs" as the backdrop. Imagine the actors, wearing arctic gear, filming the movie in a Southern California summer....

    Two props up. :-)

    Ron Wanttaja

  6. #6
    EAA Staff / Moderator Hal Bryan's Avatar
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    A movie can be just about as turgid as it wants to be if it's got good flying or unusual airplanes in it. (If you come across a 2012 AirVenture souvenir program, I wrote an article about 5 of my favorite, but slightly more obscure aviation films.)

    I've got "Dirigible" and agree - two props up!

    Hal Bryan
    EAA #638979
    Online Community Manager
    EAA—The Spirit of Aviation

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    The long shot of the Waco landing with the F-82 in the foreground is worth it, though. The shot has to be at least 30 seconds long, showing the Waco weaving on final, killing altitude, then touching down and rolling out. For a while there, it looked like it was going to hit the Twin Mustang... I was thinking, "Hmmm, snow-packed runway, probably no tailskid steering on the Waco, probably no brakes either...." Just an artifact of the telephoto lens, I guess.
    Couldn't resist. Here's a screen grab of the Waco at the end of its landing run. It's just starting to turn away from the Twin Mustang when the scene changes.
    waco.jpg

    Ron Wanttaja

  8. #8

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    You have to bundle up real good when you conduct winter ops in the arctic in a CG-4.

  9. #9
    Would really like to see that movie, just for the glider action.

    The glider shown is not the CG-4A. The CG-15A was used for these arctic operations. In the captured still shot you can see a huge hump on top. This was not standard on the CG-15A, but was a gasoline heater to keep the glider warm so the spark plugs did not freeze up. They tried to do snatches, but apparently the low temperatures made the 15/16" nylon line a it brittle and it broke every time they tried. They did do regular tow off. Gliders were used in the airborne until near 1948 or so. The Glider Branch engineering operations at Wright Field, later Wright-Patterson Field continued until shut during 1952. They had to finish the XG-18 and XG-20 glider projects in order to build the C-120 and C-123.

    C Day

  10. #10

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    Check out this guys YouTube Channel

    He has pages and pages of olld footage of aircraft and aviation events.
    For folks like us it is a massive time suck.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/Bomberguy

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