Military News

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A grasshopper's final hop

by Senior Airman Zachary Cacicia
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs


11/17/2015 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- From a storage facility in Ohio to a museum in Delaware, a piece of U.S. Air Force heritage has a new home.

A C-17A Globemaster III, operated by the 3d Airlift Squadron, 436th Airlift Wing, transported a Taylorcraft L-2M "Grasshopper" aircraft from storage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force on Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, to the Air Mobility Command Museum on Dover AFB, Delaware, Nov. 13, 2015.

"It was somewhat nostalgic," said Lt. Col. Brian Moritz, 3d AS director of operations. "To know that someday I'll be able to take my kids to the AMC Museum and show them a plane that I helped bring to Dover."

To get the "Grasshopper" to Dover AFB, Mike Leister, AMC Museum director, and Jon Andrews, AMC Museum volunteer, travelled with the C-17 and its aircrew to accomplish this mission. The aircrew was comprised of Moritz; Maj. Paul Schimpf, 3d AS pilot; Maj. Michael Arnold, 3d AS assistant director of operations; Master Sgt. David Grant, 3d AS instructor loadmaster/training and tactics flight chief; Airman 1st Class Taylor Trapp, 3d AS loadmaster; Tech. Sgt. Yajairo Calderon, 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief; and Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Mathis, 736th AMXS flying crew chief.

Andrews retired from the Air Force as a senior master sergeant with 24 years of experience as a loadmaster on the C-5 Galaxy, the C-130 Hercules and the C-141 Starlifter.

"This is actually a very easy load," said Andrews. "Its wings have been taken off and palletized, and the actual fuselage of the airplane is on its own landing gear."

An empty L-2M weighs 900 pounds. With the wings removed from the fuselage, the loadmasters were able to push the L-2M off of the K-Loader into the cargo bay of the C-17.

For Andrews, this was a meaningful experience.

"Well this is my first flight on a C-17, so just that part alone was amazing," he said. "Even more, this is with my old squadron (3d AS); I'm tickled."

The AMC Museums falls under the umbrella of the Air Force Field Museums system and is guided by the National Museum. The National Museum has an L-2M already on display in its World War II Gallery, so this L-2M was an extra placed in storage. According to Leister, he believes this L-2M has been in storage at the National Museum for more than 20 years.

"This museum system is set up that if they already have an airplane in storage or at a place where it is not being taken care of, they'd rather give us that airplane than us going out and getting another one," Leister explained. "This is how the AMC Museum received this L-2M."

The Taylorcraft L-2M "Grasshopper" was used during World War II as a trainer for U.S. Army Air Forces glider pilots.

"Amongst other things, it was used to train glider pilots who were being groomed to fly cargo gliders into combat," said Leister. "But you didn't want to start them out with the big cargo glider."

Leister explained that a glider pilot trainee and an instructor would take the L-2 up to a certain altitude on its own engine power. They would then cut the engine to practice deadstick maneuvering and landing.

The WACO CG-4A Glider is one of the gliders that these pilots would go on to fly during the war. An example of a restored one is currently on display at the AMC Museum.

"We stick very closely to our mission, which is 70 percent airlift and air refueling history, 20 percent Dover Air Force Base history and 10 percent general Air Force history," Leister said.

Because it was used to train glider pilots, it fits within the AMC Museum's mission of preserving airlift and air refueling history.

"One of the joys of getting a new airplane is discovering its history," Leister said.

As of now, the exact provenance of this L-2 is unknown.

"We have to get the ID plate off of it and then do a research check," explained Leister. "We didn't want to bother the Air Force Museum with trying to find it; but we know how to do that research. We've done it on every other airplane that we've gotten."

Furthermore, prior to seeing the L-2 for the first time at Wright-Patterson AFB, Leister had no real knowledge of the exact condition the aircraft was in. All he really knew is that it is missing its propeller. Knowing this, the AMC Museum has already found a replacement, with restoration work already being conducted on it.

"They (National Museum) told us the aircraft is in good condition," said Leister. "

Leister explained that complete examination and evaluation will be conducted by the AMC Museum's restoration team.

"Front to back; inside and out, anything that needs to be fixed, will be fixed," he said.

Once the restoration work is complete and proper suspension mounts are fabricated, the L-2M "Grasshopper" will be hung from the AMC Museum's hangar ceiling for permanent public display.

For additional information on the AMC Museum, please visit their website at www.amcmuseum.org or call (302) 677-5939.

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