Frank Pavliga’s 14-year project
May 23, 2013 – It’s been quite a while since a Waco 9 biplane has been to the annual EAA fly-in convention. In fact, Oshkosh has never seen one; it was Rockford 1962 Marion McClure flew his 1926 model to that year’s fly-in.
But this year, Frank Pavliga, EAA 111054/Vintage 19553, of Atwater, Ohio, plans to end the 51-year drought when he flies his one-of-a-kind Curtiss OX-5 powered 1925 Standard Waco 9 Miss Gilmore to Oshkosh for AirVenture 2013.
“It’s the only one flying as far as I’m aware,” Pavliga said. The original airplane, coincidentally serial No. 9, went through six owners from 1925-1937, but FAA records ended there due to an ownership dispute. Pavliga’s father, with whom he built a Pietenpol, acquired the airplane’s wings at an Academy of Model Aeronautics event in the 1990s. The actual rebuilding project started in 1998 and was completed last year.
Pavliga essentially recreated the airplane from scratch, using official Waco drawings from the Smithsonian, what he described as total access to a display example at the Ohio History of Flight Museum in Columbus, and considerable help from his aviation friends. Pavliga mentioned Andrew King, Kent McMakin, Ron Degnan, Tom Hegy, Al Holloway, Chad Wille, Mark Dickenson, Denny Trone, and Forrest Barber.
The 14-year project culminated in the first flight by former test pilot Barber at his airport in Alliance, Ohio, on April 13, 2012. Since then he’s put about 12 flight hours on NC1536 – Pavliga says the plane’s 1927 registration number was NC1538, but that was unavailable, so he chose 1536. “1538 should be hopefully available again in a few years,” he said.
Not surprisingly, there have been several nagging issues with the plane he’s had to work through, including a sinking carb float and some water leaks in the 90-hp liquid-cooled OX-5 engine, which at one time powered the Waco 9 Miss Pittsburgh displayed at the Pittsburgh International Airport’s Landside Terminal.
Pavliga chose to name the plane Miss Gilmore for the Gilmore Gas and Oil Company. “It’s a neat-looking logo, and very appropriate for the period,” he said.
The airplane cruises at 65 mph, lands about 30 (grass only; the plane has a tailskid), and has a climb rate of … well, it gets off the ground all right, he said. Visibility and ground handling are good, described as “extremely maneuverable.”
Flying the airplane is another story. “It flies like a really old airplane,” Pavliga said with a laugh. “In calm air it’s a pussycat. But any kind of turbulence shows how ineffective the ailerons are. They’re more of a suggestion.”
When it arrives at Oshkosh, Pavliga’s plane will be prominently displayed among a number of other unique aircraft in the Vintage area’s Round-Engine Rodeo attraction. Steve Krog, who’s leading this effort, said the Waco 9 will be featured in a VAA Airplane in Review program, and is planning to conduct a daily engine startup of the OX-5 engine so folks can get a chance to listen to the distinct sound of the V-8 liquid-cooled engine.
“If people want to see a very rare aircraft, they will want to see and listen to the Waco 9,” Krog said.
Pavliga said he planned to arrive in Oshkosh on the Sunday before opening day after stops in Indiana and the annual Pietenpol gathering in Brodhead, Wisconsin.