Whiskey 7 plane at Geneseo Airshow
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The National Warplane Museum in Geneseo is home to a 79-year-old C-47 (or "Whiskey 7") plane, and News10NBC got to take a ride on board Thursday ahead of the annual Geneseo Airshow.
"This is a very historic plane," said Rob Gillman, co-pilot of Whiskey 7. "This is a national treasure."
Nicknamed "Whiskey 7" for the large W7 on the outside of the plane, this meticulously-maintained aircraft has a remarkable history. It was the lead plane in the second wave of D-Day, on June 6, 1944. Twenty-three paratroopers jumped out of it in the middle of the night, landing in Northern France.
"It was a true combat situation," said Whiskey 7 pilot Peter Treichler, who also flies a modern commercial plane professionally. "They were being shot at, airplanes were being shot down, so it was a very hazardous mission for both the men who were in the airplane jumping into France, as well as the aircraft, and the pilots."
And yet, this Whiskey 7 war plane survived the attacks thanks largely to its toughness and durability.
"The airplane is legendary for its durability," said Treichler. "That’s why they still operate today. There’s still several of these airplanes flying, even in active commercial service flying freight and things like that because of the reliability and the durability of the aircraft."
While there have been some minor upgrades and adjustments over the decades (to the radio, for example), most of the original fixtures and elements are exactly the same as they were during WWII. The green paint on the interior walls, the canvas seats, the controls in the cockpit, and the overhead wire where soldiers would clip their parachute packs before jumping — all still incredibly intact.
Even the seat belt buckles are from the WWII era.
Look at these original seatbelt buckles on board #Whiskey7. Needed a tutorial from a crew member to get it locked ?? This plane (and these buckles) was built in 1943, and not much has changed about it since. Hear all about our flight tonight at 5:30 on @news10nbc pic.twitter.com/HCbfqKUut7— Emily Putnam (@whec_eputnam) June 2, 2022
"All the controls on this are mechanical," said Treichler. "Whereas, a modern airline has hydraulic controls, so it takes a little bit more muscle to move the airplane around."
Before boarding, Treichler noted the myriad differences between the experience of flying on a modern commercial plane vs. Whiskey 7.
"When you fly in an airliner and you go up to altitude you have pressurization, you have air conditioning and things like that," said Treichler. "You have none of that on this airplane. So, we fly lower, we’re not gonna be up at 30,000 feet, we’re gonna be a couple 2 or 3,000 feet and the cabin’s gonna be ambient pressure, and you’re gonna feel the airplane moving around a lot more."
There was some brief shakiness on the way up, but soon the plane was flying smoothly over Monroe County, Lake Ontario, Wayne County, Sodus, then back to where it launched.
After about 30 minutes in the air, it started to descend back down to the AvFlight hangar on Scottsville Road from where it took off, and a tiny Rochester skyline greeted the passengers and crew in the distance.
The #Roc skyline seen through a window on board #Whiskey7 ?? ?? pic.twitter.com/rgoHqQWoFy— Emily Putnam (@whec_eputnam) June 2, 2022
This Whiskey 7 plane will be featured both days of the 41st annual Geneseo Airshow, Saturday June 4, and Sunday June 5, presented by the National Warplane Museum. Members of the public are welcome to book flights on board Whiskey 7. Tickets are between $125-150 per passenger.