By Joe Humphrey
A volunteer who attracts multiple planes to the Zephyrhills airport each year wants to bring a World War II aircraft to the city permanently.
John Bolender, organizer of the annual Bivouac and Barracks event and a volunteer at the Zephyrhills Airport Restored Barracks Museum, received city permission on Monday, July 11 to display a C-47 at the south entrance of the airport.
“It’s my plane,” Bolender said. “I’m giving it to the city.”
Bolender received the plane from a military group and has it stored at a friend’s place in Florala, Ala. He plans to raise the necessary money, $6,000, to relocate the plane from Alabama. Another $3,000-$4,000 would go toward renovation of the craft.
The city would only need to provide liability coverage for volunteers who work on the plane.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the C-47 “one of the most vital pieces of military equipment used in winning the war,” according to Boeing. The Skytrain, as it was known, had multiple functions beginning in World War II. According to Boeing, the plane could
– Carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo
– Transport a fully assembled jeep or 37mm cannon
– Transport up to 28 soldiers in full combat gear
– Hold 14 stretchers and three nurses as a medical airlift plane
Bolender said the plane would anchor the museum and also provide more visibility for the airport.
“A lot of people don’t know we have an airport,” he said.
The event he organizes each year brings several vintage aircraft to Zephyrhills, but this would make one a permanent fixture. The display would be static, meaning visitors would not go inside the plane. Still, it would be an upgrade to the museum.
“It will be an anchor for our museum,” he said. “It will also be an asset to the entrance to the airport.”
In sharing his plan around town and at the Zephyhrhills Historical Association, Bolender has already met one person who worked on the planes in the service and another who jumped out of them. Bringing the plane to town strikes Mayor Cliff McDuffie as a good idea, “as long as we can get volunteers to renovate it.”
The model took its first flight in December 1941 — just two weeks after Pearl
Harbor. It has a 95-foot wingspan and measures about 64 feet long. It’s cruising speed, according to Boeing: 160 miles an hour.
To volunteer or for more information, contact Bolender at (813) 788-5969.