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C-82 military cargo plane draws those wanting to see old friend

November 12, 2006|by DON AINES

"I wish I had this before I flew it," Frank Lamm said Saturday, eyeing a copy of the pilot's flight operating instructions for the C-82 handed to him by Richard McNeal, a retired Fairchild crew chief and pilot.

Lamm was one of the three pilots who last month crewed the C-82 military cargo plane, known as the "Packet," from Wyoming back to where it was built in 1945.

Now part of the collection of the Hagerstown Aviation Museum at Hagerstown Regional Airport, this piece of local and aviation history drew hundreds of aviation enthusiasts, former Fairchild workers and the just plain curious to an open house on Saturday.

The Federal Aviation Administration approved the C-82 for a ferry flight back to Hagers-town, meaning "only necessary things were required to be functional," Lamm said. Since the list of people with experience flying a C-82 is a short one after 60 years, the FAA gave him a letter of authorization in lieu of a license to fly it, he said.

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"This is the last flying one, and it hadn't flown in five years," Lamm said. Whether it ever will take to the air again is a question without an answer at this point, the Virginia pilot said.

"I never flew one of these until I picked this one up," Lamm said, adding that it was not difficult due to its similarity to the later C-119 "Flying Boxcar." Fairchild built 223 C-82s in the 1940s, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

"I was in the Air Force from 1949 to 1952, and we worked on these aircraft when I was in," said Herb Taylor, one of many who climbed into the cockpit. "It's like an old friend coming home."

Scores of people lined up to walk through the cargo bay, with its distinctive clamshell doors, or squeeze into the cockpit of the twin-boom airplane.

"People came from all over just to work at Fairchild. It was good to a lot of families," said Barry Peters of Hagerstown, whose uncles worked at the plant.

Many Fairchild retirees contributed to the $140,000 raised to buy the C-82 at auction on Aug. 23., said John Seburn of Greencastle, Pa., the museum's treasurer. It cost about $50,000 more to get it fit to fly, along with insurance, permits, fuel and other expenses, he said.

The museum eventually wants a building at the airport to house the C-82 and other aircraft in its collection, which now are spread out in available hangar space, Seburn said.

For more information about making a donation, call the museum at 301-733-8717.

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