WACO Aircraft remanufactures 1930s convertible biplanes with modern technology – and anything else the client dreams of adding
As a producer of 1930s sport biplanes, WACO Aircraft is a company rooted in the past but not stuck there. Originally founded in 1983 as the Classic Aircraft Corporation, WACO now takes its name from the Weaver Aircraft Company, a leading manufacturer of open-cockpit and cabin biplanes founded in 1920. Almost a century later in 2018, the Dimor Group acquired WACO with the intention of paying homage to the original company while at the same time propelling it forward into the 21st century.
“Since the new leadership took over we’ve doubled our workforce,” says WACO’s Marketing Coordinator, Alex Skiba. “We’ve been increasing production and increasing our staff, especially on the production and engineering side. The new owners have taken a different approach to what has always been a really classic, historic aircraft by reproducing it with brand new technology, features and safety aspects.
Headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan, WACO Aircraft has intentions of adding value to the entire aviation industry. An 86,500 square-foot addition is currently being constructed alongside the existing factory. Included in the expansion is a brand new fixed-base operator and restaurant offering unique amenities and experiences for both pilots and local community members.
“The new-production aircraft are built brand new from the ground up and are completely re-engineered,” Alex continues. “Although based on the original design, there have been numerous changes that result in increased performance, improved fuel efficiency, and enhanced safety characteristics. The planes are all now constructed out of all-weatherproof material, so you could actually fly in the rain and snow if you wanted to.”
This is what makes WACO-built planes remarkable. For while there are plenty of rebuilds and kit planes on the market, the company’s marriage of new technology with classic design means they are the sole FAA- and EASA-approved manufacturer of this kind of biplane in the world.
Currently, WACO produces two models of aircraft – the Great Lakes and the YMF-5. The latter is available to purchase either with normal landing gear or amphibious floats for clients looking for a seaplane. It is also equipped with an original but restored 300-horsepower cylinder radial engine produced in the 1930s by the Jacobs Aircraft Engine Company. The Great Lakes is available in a tailwheel configuration with a 180-horsepower aerobatic engine produced by Lycoming.
Numerous elements are fully customizable, ensuring that clients get not only the exact plane they want to fly but also a one-off. “You can completely configure the aircraft exactly how you want,” says Alex. “It can be certified for both Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). There are countless customizable options including the paint and paint design, premium leather interior, glass cockpit instruments and teak and holly flooring.”
Extended-range fuel tanks can also be added. According to Alex, most customers will fly recreationally, but it is possible to do cross-country journeys with the aircraft. And better still, anyone can buy one. “Unlike a car,” says Alex, “you’re not required to have a private pilot’s licence to purchase – several customers have purchased with the intent of hiring a personal pilot.”
So it seems taking to the skies in your very own biplane has never been so exciting, alluring or possible.