|Predecessor||Weaver Aircraft Company|
The Waco Aircraft Company (WACO) was an aircraft manufacturer located in Troy, Ohio, United States. Between 1920 and 1947, the company produced a wide range of civilian biplanes.
The company initially started under the name Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio but changed its name to the Waco Aircraft Company in 1928/29.
WACO (referring to the aircraft) is usually pronounced "wah-co" (the first syllable pronounced as in "water"), not "way-co" like Waco, Texas, whose name is entirely unrelated.
Several companies operated under the Waco name, with the first company being the Weaver Aircraft Company, a firm founded by George E. Weaver, Clayton Bruckner, and Elwood Junkin in 1920 in Lorain and Medina, Ohio after they had already been collaborating for several years. In the spring of 1923 this became the Advance Aircraft Company in Troy, Ohio, after the departure of Weaver.
At some point (when is not at all clear from the records but 1928 or 1929) it was changed from Advance Aircraft Company to Waco Aircraft Company. The firm is often confused with Western Aviation Company, the name of four unrelated aircraft enterprises in Chicago, Illinois; San Antonio, Texas; and Burbank, California.
Waco's history started in 1919 when businessmen Clayton J. "Clayt" Brukner and Elwood "Sam" Junkin met barnstorming pilots Charles "Charley" William Meyers and George "Buck" Weaver. Although their initial floatplane design was a failure, they went on to found the Waco company in 1920 and established themselves as producers of reliable, rugged planes that were popular with travelling businessmen, postal services and explorers, especially after the company began producing closed-cabin biplane models after 1930 in addition to the open cockpit biplanes.
The Waco name was extremely well represented in the U.S. civil aircraft registry between the wars, with more Wacos registered than the aircraft of any other company. Production types including open cockpit biplanes, cabin biplanes and cabin sesquiplanes (known by Waco as Custom Cabins) as well as numerous experimental types.
During World War II, Waco produced large numbers of military gliders for the RAF and US Army Air Forces for airborne operations, especially during the Normandy Invasion and Operation Market Garden. The Waco CG-4 was the most numerous of their glider designs to be produced. At the same time Waco produced over 600 of its UPF-7 open biplanes and 21 VKS-7F cabin biplanes for the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which supplemented the output of the military training establishments. 42 privately owned models of sixteen types were impressed into service as light transports and utility aircraft with the USAAF under the common designation C-72/UC-72.
Waco ceased operations in 1947, having suffered the fate of a number of general aviation companies when an anticipated boom in aviation following World War II failed to develop. The final Waco relied on an experimental Franklin engine which, with the cancellation of other contracts became so expensive, the Aristocraft, which relied on it, was cancelled.
The Waco brand name was briefly revived, in the 1960s and early 1970s—for a scheme to produce, assemble, re-assemble or market a series of modern, all-metal Italian and French lightplanes (semi-monocoque, enclosed-cabin, low-wing, single-engine) under licence in the United States. The program was headed by a "Mr. Berger," and the enterprise was known (in 1968) as Waco Aircraft Co., a subsidiary of Allied Aero Industries, Inc., and based at Pottstown-Limerick Airport, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, with dealers in Connecticut, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, California, and Ontario, Canada. The European WACOs—in some cases replacing the original Lycoming engines with less-popular Franklin engines (Mr. Berger was involved with Franklin) -- were to be manufactured (or at least assembled or re-assembled) in the U.S. by WACO Aircraft Company at Syracuse, New York. Only several dozen (perhaps 65-150) of these European-origin aircraft were sold as WACOs before the death of Mr. Berger put an end to the program. These planes included:
The WACO Classic Aircraft company (unrelated to the original Waco) began building its WACO Classic YMF in 1986, an upgraded version based on Waco's original type certified design.
A large number of survivors exist, with the largest single collection residing at the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum at Dauster Field, Creve Coeur, near St Louis, Missouri.
Note: Waco civilian designations describe the configuration of the aircraft. The first letter lists the engine used, the second the specific type, and the third the general series. The coding system was changed in 1929 with several letters reassigned, and later with the introduction of the Custom Cabin series, the third letter 'C' was initially replaced with C-S (Cabin-Standard) and finally S. The numeral suffix represents the first year of production if it is 6 or higher (6=1936), or a sub type if 2 or less. Thus EGC-7 is a Wright R-760-E2 (350 hp (261 kW)) engined, cabin biplane airframe, custom cabin model first manufactured in 1937.
Many Waco Cabin Biplanes that were originally sold as civilian aircraft, were impressed into military service in World War II. The United States Army Air Forces classified theirs regardless of type as Waco C-72s, with type letters identifying specific models. Other countries used other designations for their own Wacos.