A very long time ago, my best friend, Paul, rather jinxed me. He introduced me to one of the airplanes I have always wanted to fly, rebuild, own, and showcase: the Waco UPF-7.
The UPF-7 is a training airplane built by the Waco Aircraft Company of Troy, OH. It first came about in 1930 and remained in production until the early ’40s. The United States Army Air Corps used the airplane and designated it as the PT-14. The government also used the UPF-7 as a trainer in the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP).
The best way to refer to the airplane is by the designation, UPF-7. Some have called it a Waco. Now there is something important you need to know about the pronunciation of the name, Waco. “Wake-o” is a town in Texas; “wack-o” is someone not quite right in the head; “Wock-o” is an airplane. And this airplane, the UPF-7, is one of the best ever produced by the Waco Aircraft Company.
Many regard the airplane as one of the best biplanes to come out of the barnstorming era. It had a generous wing area of 244 square feet, which, coupled with a 220 horsepower Continental radial engine and a gross weight of 2650 pounds, gave the airplane good performance for working in and out of short, grass, fields.
The barnstormers of the 1930s would place two passengers up front in the spacious “front hole.” Each paid between $2 to $5 each for the ride. And for that princely sum, the barnstormer treated them to the sight of their town from above, or showed them what their homes looked like from the skies. If they were up to it, he may have even treated them to a wingover, or maybe even a loop or barrel roll.
The best time to fly with the barnstormers was right at sunrise, or sunset. There was little wind, no turbulence, and the flying was comfortable in the cooler air.
The UPF-7 was a fine plane capable of a 128 mph top speed. Cruising speed on the airplane was 114 mph and she could carry enough fuel to fly 400 miles.
While the Depression era economics of the 1930s influenced the price for a new UPF-7, today, a refurbished airplane can cost as much as $185,000 for a pristine model. A sum of about $110,000 might fetch a lesser airplane.
As old as I am today, because Paul educated me in the ways of the old days, I still dream of UPF-7s. Maybe one day, I may manage to find one sitting in a barn somewhere in mid-America in need of restoration. I could put the sweat equity into rebuilding a classic.
Or maybe I will win the Lotto…
© 2011 J. Clark