Mid-restore That’s All, Brother on display in Vintage area
The Commemorative Air Force’s C-47 That’s All, Brother, which led the D-Day invasion into Normandy, is taking a break from its ongoing restoration to attend EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017.
Located on the flightline in the Vintage area just southeast of Boeing Plaza this week, the storied airplane has undergone 16,213 hours of physical restoration thus far, and the goal is to have it ready to fly back to France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019.
“We’re still actively fundraising for the aircraft, because all of the things that happen later this year are critical path items to get us on the timeline to Normandy,” said CAF curator Keegan Chetwynd. “It has to fly later this year so that we can spend next year putting time on the airframe and training crews to undertake that massive event. … 2019 will be the last major commemorative event attended by appreciable numbers of veterans, and we really want to reunite this airplane with them because it helps bring out their stories.”
The restoration is being completed in Oshkosh at Basler Turbo Conversions, a company that’s known for converting DC-3s into turbine-engine BT-67s and is thus very familiar with the DC-3/C-47 design. That’s All, Brother was sitting in one of Basler’s boneyards, queued up for conversion, before its history was discovered.
“There was just something about that airplane I thought was kind of special,” said Basler President Randy Myers. “I didn’t know what it was so I just kind of kept it on the back burner and brought the other ones in front of it to modify into turbine DC-3s. Then one day I get a call from the U.S. Air Force. They wanted to know if we had a certain serial number airplane on our ramp, and I said, ‘I think we do, I’ll go check.’”
After the discovery of That’s All, Brother made national news, the CAF reached out to Basler to purchase the airplane and coordinate its restoration. Keegan said the restoration has been a long road. Not only did the C-47 come to the CAF severely corroded, its 16 previous civilian owners had heavily modified the airplane to meet their own needs.
“With every civilian owner, more and more of the airplane’s original World War II configuration was stripped away,” Keegan said.
That’s All, Brother will be restored as close as possible to its D-Day configuration, from the inclusion of highly specialized WWII equipment, such as the British Gee system, down to original canvas bags that were used for storage. While the CAF continues to search for additional period-correct equipment and memorabilia, Basler’s physical work on the restoration has reached a significant turning point.
“We just got our props back,” Keegan said. “We just got our engines back two weeks ago, just covered the fabric control surfaces. The corrosion mitigation is done now, so for the most part what remains is actually to put the airplane back together, which is important because, up until this point, we’ve basically been tearing pieces off.”
It’s estimated that a total of 20,000 hours will be spent on the restoration. Should everything continue on track, That’s All, Brother will make its first flights in fall 2017 and continue on its journey to share WWII history.
“It’s maintained a healthy community of supporters, and people are enthusiastic, and it’s allowed us organizationally to cross beyond the people who are traditionally interested in airplanes,” Keegan said. “To reach the general public, who are just passionate and excited about history and about our identity as Americans, that’s been really, really important for us, and it’s been really exciting to be a part of.”