By Gordon R. Page
There is something to be said about aviation in the 1920s and 1930s, the period between the two world wars that came to be known as the Golden Age of Flight. Air races and daring record-setting flights dominated the news. Airplanes evolved from wood and fabric biplanes to streamlined metal monoplanes and many were requisitioned by the military to assist in World War II.
The Waco aircraft company initially started in 1920 under the name Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio but changed its name to the Waco Aircraft Company in 1928-1929. The Waco name was extremely well represented in the U.S. civil aircraft registry between the wars, with more Wacos registered than any other aircraft company. Production types included open cockpit biplanes, cabin biplanes and cabin sesquiplanes (known by Waco as Custom Cabins) as well as numerous experimental types.
The heart of the Waco cabin biplane family is the C series (C for Cabin). It was first introduced in 1935 and remained in production until 1939. The first models received the designation of PDC and employed a Jacobs radial rated at 170 hp. The subsequent model that was produced in the greatest numbers during 1931 was the QDC, which was powered by a 165-hp Continental. Other engines used were the 165-hp Wright, 210-hp Kinner, and 210-hp Continental. The design of the C series continued unchanged until 1935 when its constant-cord wing design was swapped for an elliptical design. After that, the various models were powered by the 320- hp Wright Whirlwind and the 330-hp and 285-hp Jacobs.
In 1937 the N series was introduced and was essentially the same as the C series with the
exception of tricycle landing gear. The F series was intended to replace the C series by virtue of its design refinements. The most noticeable of these changes was the elimination of the slanting wing struts and the use of wires instead. The S series was put into production in 1935 when the C series changed to the elliptical wing design. The S series was initiated to replace the old C series and retained the use of a constant-chord wing structure. Whew! You almost need a special decoder ring to know what all of the Waco variants are.
But it is certainly worth knowing what makes each Waco cabin bi-plane special. It is one of the most recognized and glamorous bi-planes of the Golden Age era. The Spirit of Flight has had a Waco cabin bi-plane on the wish list since the author got a flight in one years ago, and thanks to our friend and museum supporter, Mike Walton, a Waco is now part of the Spirit of Flight collection. Mike donated his 1937 Waco cabin, serial number 4588 to the collection knowing it would be used for living history ride experiences. It is now under restoration to flying condition. Look for the classic Waco to be on display soon at the Spirit of Flight museum facility soon.