Note (4/15/2012): Much of the information below has been collected from various Waco experts who are active in the and from their very informative publications. I very much appreciate all these helpful friends...
Meet my new friend "Blue Bird". Isn't she just lovely? She got her nickname, partly because she is blue and partly because we have dozens of bluebird boxes (and wild Eastern Bluebirds) here at Bundoran.
The Weaver Aircraft Company was founded in 1920 by George "Buck" Weaver, E.J. "Sam" Junkin, and Clayton Brukner. The trade name WACO (rhymes with “taco”; “Way-co” is a town in Texas) is an acronym using the title letters of Weaver Aircraft Co. Originally located in Lorain, Ohio, the company quickly moved to Troy, Ohio, drawn by the concentration of aviation related businesses that had sprung up around nearby Dayton, home of the Wright Brothers.
The first Waco UPF-7 was produced at Troy in June of 1937 (hence the -7 suffix). The UPF-7 was designed as a pilot trainer, both for primary student training and advanced training phases, including aerobatics. The U-prefix variants were powered by a Continental W670-6A 220 hp engine, the Z-prefix indicates a Jacobs R755-B2 275 HP engine. 600 UPF-7s were manufactured between 1937 and late 1942.
The vast majority of them were delivered to civilian flight schools participating in the Government's Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) to train thousands of civilian pilots as a backlog in case of war. With its four connected ailerons for roll control and a crank-trimmed horizontal tail, it’s a joy for skilled aviators to fly. Its front seat can accommodate two passengers, in addition to the pilot in the aft cockpit.
The U.S. Army Air Corps acquired 14 UPF-7s, which were designated YPT-14. The CAA (Civilian Aeronautics Authority, the predecessor to the FAA) ordered 31 UPF-7s. These were assigned to government inspectors to monitor civilian aviation operations. Out of the original 600 UPF-7s built, there are approximately 80 in airworthy condition today. Compared to many other popular biplanes of this era, including the venerable Stearman—of which nearly 10,000 were built—the UPF-7 is rare and desirable to collectors, and the ZPF-7 even more so—less than ten are still flying.
In late 1942, Waco ceased production of powered airplanes. Between 1942 and 1945, Waco built over 14,000 Waco CG-4A troop/cargo gliders, which were used in both theaters during WWII. Aircraft production at Waco ceased entirely at the end of the war. “Blue Bird”, Serial 5440, was built as a 220 HP UPF-7 in October 5, 1940 and sold to Tacoma Flying Service in Tacoma WA. The current owner-pilot was born later that same year.
In the 1980s, Ken Kline of Sedona AZ owned it. Kline rebuilt the wings for Jimmy Franklin of Franklin Air Shows, but Kline died in mid-restoration of the fuselage. The 275 HP Jacobs engine mount was originally installed on Franklin’s famous air show Waco, but was removed when he added a 450 Pratt &Whitney instead.
The completion of Blue Bird’s rebuild to like-new condition was done by in 1991 with like-new wing spars, ribs, turtleback, ailerons, wood, flying wires, hardware, pulleys, & cables. The aircraft was covered in Ceconite fabric, has exquisite silver and blue paint, custom upholstery and custom cockpit covers. The front bench seat is set up for a co-pilot with dual controls or passengers two-abreast. The engine was converted to a 275 HP Jacobs, so the UPF-7 designation was officially changed to the very rare ZPF-7 that “Blue Bird” is now.
Its current engine, a like-new overhaul, was built in 2009 by Pete Jones’s team at and was installed in June 2009 by Harry Stenger’s crew at Aero Fabrication and Restoration, Bartow FL. The smooth cowling, not often seen on Wacos, is adapted from a Cessna T-50/UC-78 “Bamboo Bomber”.
in Staunton VA maintains “Blue Bird”.
Certification ATC #586.
Overall Length 23 ft 6 inches;
Height 8 ft 6 inches; Wingspan (top) 30 feet; Wingspan (bottom) 26'10";
Chord (both wings) 4'9"; Wing area 243.6 sq feet;
Engine: 275 HP Jacobs R755-B2 by Air Repair Inc.
Propeller: 96” Schweizer, Model 5404/MA-96K-0
Top Cruise Speed 130 mph; Normal Cruise 110 mph; Stall Speed 55 mph; Range 250 miles; Fuel capacity 50 gallons; Fuel burn 12-15 gallons per hour.
FLYING “BLUE BIRD”
“A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Good advice—and we try to remember it.
Some days, under some conditions, we don’t fly “Blue Bird” at all.
Given that the 1937 Waco instruction manual begins with “Assemble the aircraft center section by bolting the...” and includes very little “How To Operate” information, we latter-day Waco aviators have to begin from a different place. Here's a compilation of Waco flying-tips, shared by He got it from an Old Master in the Waco, John King. Both are active in the near Warrenton Virginia. (There is a cool PBS show about these guys.) Airspeeds are in MPH.
Normal Air Speeds: Stall 55
Normal Cruise 110
Never Exceed 214
Acrobatic Entry Speeds: Loop 125; Slow Roll 120; Immelman 135
TAKEOFF: Stick fully aft, steering with the locked tail wheel, until the power comes up; then a check for static 1900 RPM and note the manifold pressure to be sure you're getting full takeoff power. NAIL the ground track EARLY, then, forward stick to get the tail up and flying…LEAD with right rudder, then go neutral stick until you reach flying speed, and then just fly it off. Try to note the speed at which you lift off, and the deck angle. The RPM will rise during takeoff, so climb at 70-80, then reduce power back to 1900 RPM, noting the deck angle and climb rate.
GETTING TO KNOW HER: Practice slow flight, noting power settings and control response. Practice stalls, noting speeds and control response - your objective is to learn to detect an approaching stall by the feel of the airplane—rather than by looking at instruments—so you'll be aware of a high sink rate and take corrective action instantly, should you get too slow whilst approaching or landing.
LANDING: Downwind for landing, slow to 75-80. Abeam the touchdown point at 600-750'AGL, traffic permitting, you do three things more or less simultaneously; you cut the power to near-idle; descend and gradually slow to about 60-65—trimming to that speed, and; start a continuous turn. Put your heels down on the deck, keeping your feet OFF the brakes, your toes on the rudder pedals, only. Stay relaxed, but always ready to use the rudder. You do not fly a 'normal' rectangular pattern.
You want to keep the runway in sight throughout a curved approach, only straightening out at the last possible moment, NAILING the track, or drift, then land where you remember the runway to be, using peripheral vision to stay straight. After becoming proficient, your objective is to fly an approach that requires a SLIGHT application of power to check your sink rate, or: just barely making it in power off, slipping as necessary to correct if too high or too fast.
ALWAYS have a touchdown point as your objective—every landing is a 'spot' landing. Fly it on to a wheel landing at just above three-point speed. Remember the deck angle for takeoff? That's what you're looking for. At touchdown, close the throttle, FREEZE the pitch attitude, and NAIL the ground track, using whatever visual clues are available. Use rudder as aggressively as necessary the INSTANT the airplane starts to head for the weeds.
NEVER use brakes during the faster part of the landing roll. Brake only when slow.
ROLLOUT: As the aircraft slows, ease in forward stick to keep the tail wheel off the deck, steering with the rudder; tail-high means a more effective rudder. Note, by experimentation, the speed at which the stick loses effectiveness, and just before then, gently lower the tail and begin to steer with the tail wheel—the stick now held fully aft.
On the rollout, if the aircraft weather-cocks up into a crosswind, remember that the stick held over steady—into the wind—will add a lot of drag from the downwind ailerons; this drag can be used to help steer the nose downwind, straight down the rollout line.
Finally, when rolling very slowly, unlock the tail wheel and gently apply brakes as necessary to make a turnoff.
Take a breath. Try to stop grinning.
Here's a short video of a takeoff in Blue Bird. and ... on the day I sold her, here's my last look at her