The sound of radial engines filled the air at Waco Field in Troy, Ohio, just north of Dayton.
The nearly 2,400-foot-grass strip comes alive the third Saturday of every September, and even more so on September 16 as the Waco Air Museum celebrated the 100th anniversary of Advance Aircraft Co. moving production of the iconic Waco biplane to Troy. Organizers estimated that about 5,000 people attended, with 57 Wacos among 65 general aviation aircraft that flew in.
The taildraggers were coming home, where they rolled off the production line between 1923 and 1947. “They really started selling and manufacturing the aircraft once they arrived in Troy,” Royer explained. The company moved to the Dayton area to produce aircraft in what was then the heart of the aviation industry. Even though the company was doing business as Advance Aircraft Co. at the time, it was commonly known as Waco and the aircraft continued to be produced with the Waco name, from when the company was the Weaver Aircraft Co. Owner Clayton Brukner officially changed the name to Waco Aircraft Co. in 1929. The Waco was the No. 1 produced civilian aircraft in the 1920s and 1930s, according to Royer.
Robert Masone flew his 1940 Waco UPF-7 five hours from his home in Delaware to attend the anniversary festivities in Troy September 15 through 17. He met another Waco owner whose aircraft serial number was just 20 from his. Their airplanes were likely on the production line at the same time, Masone remarked. Now, they were together again, gathered front and center with all the Wacos for attendees to peruse.
The family-friendly event featured Waco rides; children’s activities; costumed characters walking around such as an astronaut, Star Wars’ Darth Vader and Stormtroopers, as well as historical figures including Brukner and Waco test pilot Fredrick “Freddie” Lund; and an evening meal with entertainment from swing dancers and a 17-piece orchestra playing 1940s-era music.
Waco Field, purchased and opened by the Waco Historical Society in 1997, sits just 2 miles from the original Waco factory. The field is open seven days a week, dawn to dusk, for pilots to fly in and visit the Waco Air Museum. Both are part of the National Aviation Heritage Area and are just 7 miles from popular propeller manufacturer Hartzell Propeller Inc. based in Piqua.
Hartzell; the National Aviation Heritage Area; Flight Outfitters; and Waco Aircraft Corp.—the current manufacturer of Waco aircraft in Battle Creek, Michigan—sponsored the event, which was designed to celebrate the iconic aircraft and its history. However, the fly-in also served as a way to introduce the public to aviation and to give aviation enthusiasts a better appreciation of Wacos.
“These pilots have put in so much work to keep these antique airplanes in the air, it’s not cheap to do so,” Royer said. “It takes a lot of fuel, it’s expensive to keep up on the planes themselves, so the fact that they are doing this is really a gift to the aviation community.”