Westmoreland air show adds Beaver-based World War II transport plane

January 16, 2018

A C-47 transport plane that flew missions in World War II’s European Theater is set to make its debut this summer in the annual air show at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

Dubbed “Luck of the Irish” by its original Air Force crew, the Douglas C-47B Skytrain is among vintage aircraft that have been preserved by Air Heritage Inc., in association with the Air Heritage Museum at the Beaver County Airport. It’s expected to fly in for a static, ground-based display during the Shop ’n Save Westmoreland County Airshow, set for July 28-29.

“It should be pretty cool,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which operates the Unity airport and its annual air show. “It’s big. It looks like a DC-3.”

“The C-47 was the mainstay in the Air Force to drop troops or cargo. This one has done both,” said Jack MacMahon, who serves on the museum board and is its air show manager. “It’s the same thing a C-130 does today.

“We’ve worked on the airplane for about five years. We’re anxious to get it out on the road. We’re pretty proud of it,” he said.

MacMahon said the museum hopes to have the plane’s inspection completed within the next month so that it can return to the skies by June. “We have to get a crew checked out in it,” he explained.

MacMahon noted the museum is the first nongovernmental owner of the Luck of the Irish. After it was retired by the military, the plane was used by Lee County’s Mosquito Spraying Division in Florida.

The museum has a detailed record of the plane’s nearly 100 wartime missions — including 25 combat resupply flights, launched from bases in Welford Park, England, and Bretigny, France. It also flew 13 missions to evacuate allied troops and German POWs.

“We were lucky enough to find the pilot, who was still alive and sent us a lot of information,” MacMahon said.

The museum received a copy of the 75th Troop Carrier Squadron War Diary, listing all the plane’s missions since it was delivered to the squadron on Sept. 30, 1944.

Highlights included two missions on Dec. 24 and 26, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, when it dropped supplies for troops surrounded in Bastogne, Belgium. It also towed two gliders filled with troops as part of Operation Varsity, a drop of airborne forces meant to support an allied push across the Rhine River in late March 1945.

Later, the plane was one of three C-47s that delivered the Victory Edition of Stars and Stripes to air bases throughout the region.

The Air Force Thunderbirds aerobatics demonstration team will headline this year’s Westmoreland air show. Visit palmerairport.com to reserve a VIP pass for the event.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.