Houston & Peach

Museum of Aviation restoring its largest plane

WARNER ROBINS -- In the rear of the Museum of Aviation grounds rests a behemoth of an aircraft that is far from the best known of the collection but in its day was about as important as anything the Air Force flew.

In the 1950s and ’60s, the C-124 was the U.S. military’s primary airlifter, doing the same job as the C-5 and C-17 today.

The C-124 at the museum is one of only a few survivors of the model that crew members called “Old Shaky.” It is the museum’s largest aircraft and is undergoing a restoration.

About a month ago, museum staff members began the job by giving the plane a wash down, and now they are prepping it for new paint. The work is expected to be completed in about another month and is estimated to require about 400 man hours of work.

“It’s going to look 100 percent better,” said Dennis Oliver, chief restoration supervisor.

The work is about more than cosmetics. Restoration specialists are grinding out rust spots or replacing sections with sheet metal to fend off corrosion.

Erwin Ross and Anthony Faircloth were working on the plane Friday, painstakingly taping over windows and lettering in preparation for painting.

Jay Fullmore, a retired Air Force mechanic, is a museum volunteer who also is helping. He was serving in the Air Force when the plane was still flying.

“It’s always good to see an old aircraft restored,” he said.

Faircloth’s wife, Rhonda, has volunteered to restore the “Pack Rat” emblem nose art. The drawing of Mighty Mouse was the signature of the 7th Logistics Support Squadron that once operated the C-124 out of Robins Air Force Base, performing humanitarian missions around the world.

The four-engine propeller driven plane is 50 feet tall and 130 feet long. The last time it was painted was in 2000 when a group headed by museum volunteer Lovell Spackman raised $10,000 for the project. This time the museum is paying for the project on its own.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.