Comparing low and slow flight in an open cockpit airplane to one in an enclosed cockpit is like comparing an outdoor picnic to lunch in the cafeteria. Guess which one is more fun? Bob Juranich of Des Moines, Washington, has a picnic every chance he gets in his 1934 Waco YMF.
Juranich especially enjoys taking his freshly restored silver and black biplane around the fly-in circuit in the northwest.
The workmanship of the restoration has not gone unnoticed. Last August Juranich brought home the Grand Champion Award from the 50th annual Northwest Antique Airplane Club Fly-in at Pearson Airport, in Vancouver, Wash.
“It’s quite an honor,” Juranich said with a smile as he wiped the dust off the gleaming black surface. “The airplane gets attention wherever it goes.”
He can say that again. When he recently taxied his airplane onto the ramp of Clover Park Technical College at Pierce County Airport/Thun Field (PLU) in Puyallup, Wash., students from both the professional pilot and mechanics program came out to watch his arrival.
The Waco is the latest in Juranich’s collection of vintage airplanes. He and his brother Bill also own a Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser, a Starduster II, a Cessna 185, a Piper J-3 Cub, a Cessna 195, a Command-Aire and a 1929 C-5. Bill flew the Super Cruiser to the college and was accompanied by mechanic Bob Johnson, the man who oversaw the restoration of the Waco. The trip was a bit of a homecoming for Johnson, who earned his A&P ticket at Clover Park in the 1970s.
Juranich became enamored with the Waco design after seeing a 1935 YMF-5 owned by Barry Branin of Battleground, Wash., at the Northwest Antique Airplane Club Fly-In in McMinnville, Ore., in 2006. “After that I was hooked and I wanted one of my own,” he said.
According to Juranich, the YMF, NC14080, rolled off the assembly line in 1934 with serial number 4,209. “The first owner was Philip T. Sharples. He got it in June. Sharples was one of the founders of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association,” he reported. “He had several airplanes, including the Waco. He flew it for about a year until an incident that flipped the biplane onto its back. It was sent back to the factory for repairs.
“The next owner was Benjamin Brewster, grandson of the cofounder of Standard Oil,” he continued. “The airplane was based at Roosevelt Field in New York. That’s the same airport that Lindbergh launched from in 1927.”
Brewster sold the Waco to Stephen DuPont, who then sold it to a flying service that participated in the Civilian Pilot training Program. “The Waco had several student-induced accidents until the big one in 1943 that turned it into a project airplane,” he said. “As a project the airplane passed through several hands until I bought it in September of 2006 from Harold Johnson in Moraine, Ohio.”
The idea of rebuilding an airplane that hadn’t flown since 1943 was a bit daunting, noted A&P Bob Johnson, who is no relation to the previous owner. “But we knew the engine had been overhauled in the 1990s, and that’s a big part of the restoration.” The engine is a Jacobs L4 /R755-7, which is stock for the design.
The project began with stripping the aircraft all the way to the tubing. “Each step was carefully documented in a photo scrapbook,” Johnson explained as he flipped through the pages. Interspersed with the photographs are notes and diagrams of various components.
“The scrapbook is two-fold,” Juranich said.“Not only is it a record of all the work we’ve done, but if we need to go back in and make a repair, we won’t be struggling to remember how we did that bit of assembly.”
The covering is Stits process and was done by teens enrolled in the vintage aircraft apprentice program at the Port Townsend Aero Museum in Port Townsend, Wash.
The paint scheme is pretty much authentic Waco, noted Juranich. “All airplanes of this type were custom but most went with a factory design. Mine is described as black and white with a white panel. The silver pinstripe separates the black and white, but was our addition.” The Waco logo and the logo for Roosevelt Field are done in gold.
The cockpit is a conglomeration of vintage instruments, gleaming metal and polished wood. The workmanship of the panel is so smooth you just want to touch it.
The trim is actuated by an automobile-style hand crank. There are heel brakes in the rear compartment. The front cockpit is large enough to accommodate two people, if they like to snuggle. The Waco was originally designed to be a three-person airplane.
A complaint often levied at the owners of restored aircraft is the presence of non-vintage — yet necessary by today’s standards — avionics, such as a transponder. Juranich has gone to great lengths to preserve the integrity of the Golden Age of aviation design by placing the modern avionics behind panels so they are hidden when the Waco is on display. For example, the transponder and GPS are hidden behind the door to the glove box. The circuit breaker panel is hidden in a 1930s-era map case affixed to the bulkhead. Adding authenticity to the cockpit is a 1930s-era flashlight stowed in the pilot’s compartment. “I got it off eBay,” he said.
The interior is leather and screams luxury, like a vintage sports car. “It cost $8,500, which was a tremendous amount of money in those days,” Juranich said. “It was designed to be the sport plane for the rich guys.”
The whole reason to have an airplane like this is to fly it, and you’ve got to be authentic there too, said Juranich as he handed me a leather helmet and goggles. I took the front seat and Juranich climbed into the back. Soon that Jacobs roared to life and we were taxiing out of the gate. After the pre-takeoff checklist and one radio call, we were rolling down the runway. The tail came up quickly and we did not so much takeoff as levitated into the blue sky.
Juranich turned over the controls to me and the Waco danced through the sky. I spent a lot of time looking side to side because you sit really low in the cockpit when you are as short as I am, so there wasn’t a lot of forward visibility for me. Juranich remarked he wasn’t sure if I was still in the airplane after we did steep turns because he couldn’t see the top of my helmet.
Finally it was time to return to the airport. There were other people who were to get rides that day. “That’s what this airplane does best,” Juranich said with a smile.