NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (May 27, 2022) – The Beach City Baby returns to Ohio this weekend for the first time since the World War II-era C-53 plane flew out of the Beach City Airport in October 2018.
It will be at Harry Clever Field Saturday and Sunday for free tours.
The historic aircraft had sat in Beach City along state Route 212 deteriorating for 26 years before Pittsburgh pilot and World War II aviation enthusiast Jason Capra happened upon while taking a roundabout way to get from Indianapolis to Pittsburgh on a work trip.
“I couldn’t believe first off that it was sitting there in 2015,” he said, “that there’s this vintage aircraft sitting essentially neglected. I felt horrible for it. I just couldn’t believe someone would have something like that and just let it go.”
Capra negotiated a price with the owner then spent two years raising funds first to purchase the plan then to make it flyable.
“We were out there almost every weekend for two and a half years straight, year-round, working on that airplane,” he said. “I slept underneath that airplane and inside it for almost two and a half years around the clock trying to get it out of there.”
Capra got the plane in the air in 2018 and restored it to its World War II glory at a hangar in Franklin-Venango Regional Airport in Pennsylvania.
“We essentially had a brand-new airplane,” he said. “It’s as close to out-of-the-factory as you can get for an 80-year-old airplane. It looks right now just the way it did when it was in World War II. It was a troop transport. We elected to restore the aircraft to exactly how it looked when it was in North Africa 1942-1943.”
The Beach City Baby came upon its moniker later in life. It entered the service in 1942, weeks after Pearl Harbor. It served in England, Africa and Italy during the war, and later was “Buckeye One,” the Ohio governor’s plane, from 1963 to 1983.
Capra made it his mission to learn all about the plane’s history and even gathered the adult children of all the service members who served on its crew.
“We’ve actually had all of the original World War II crew’s family at the airplane,” he said. “They actually got to sit in their dads’ seats in the airplane after it was restored. As you can imagine, that was pretty emotional for them and for us, too.”
“It’s sad to think about that all of these stories and these lives that have been touched since we restored it, and that was just neglected and sitting there rotting into the ground. It’s where it should be now and it’s doing its job, and that’s telling history and teaching future generations about what costs were paid to be an American.”
It will fly into New Philadelphia Friday evening. Visitors can take tours of the Beach City Baby Saturday from 9 to 5 and Sunday starting at 7:30 a.m. Donations to keep it running will be accepted. Capra says he’s also working on plans for a flyover in Beach City on Memorial Day.