TROY — The WACO Aviation Cadets is a multi-year educational program for students 10-16 years old and is held at WACO Air Museum & Learning Center. This program offers students a path to aviation education and activity that will inspire students to set challenging goals and develop their capacity for achievement.
The focus of this year’s project will be on a restoration project of a one-of-a-kind WACO. Each student will be mentored by adults in restoration skills as they work together on the 1946 WACO RPT.
The WACO RPT was built at the WACO Factory in Troy in 1940 as the sole low wing airplane ever manufactured by WACO. It was a prototype aerobatic trainer for the USAAF trials. The project was halted when a large order for UPF-7’s came in. It was sold in 1962 and was transported to Hannibal, Mo., where a 125hp Warner Scarab engine was replaced with a 165hp Kinner engine, and a canopy and winglets were added.
The airplane traded hands a few times, eventually being owned by the late Dean W. Mitchell of Wisconsin. Mitchell, or “Wally” to his friends, purchased the Capitol Airport in Brookfield, Wisc. in the mid 1970’s and continued to own it until 2006. During this time, this hard working family extended the grass runway and laid a hard surface air strip as well. The family is known for always seeking to improve and promote aviation and its heritage. As well as being a member of the OX5 Aviation Pioneers, Wally was a member of MAAC (Midwest Antique Airplane Club) which was founded to promote interest in antique airplanes and encourages preservation, restoration and flight of classic aircraft.
Upon the death of Mitchell, the five Mitchell children — Gary, Sharon, Dennis, Beverly and Shirley — donated his airplane to WACO Learning Center, in January 2018, for the purpose of being restored to original appearance by youth, under the tutelage of those experienced in WACO aircraft restoration. The history and the stories of the 1940 WACO RPT will be told to visitors, world-wide, as it prepares to make a debut in the lineup at WACO Air Museum.
This project is made possible by the donation of the Wallace Family, and by a grant received from the National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA). Aviation Cadets is also sponsored in part by The Duke Foundation. The Dean Wallace Mitchell legacy will continue through this project as the youth involved are introduced to history, vintage aviation, and restoration techniques.
The goal of Aviation Cadets is to launch students into a lifelong path of high achievement and fulfillment. The students are motivated and excited to see their names on a plaque in the museum next to their handiwork. If you or someone you know is interested in WACO Aviation Cadets, please call the museum at 335-9226 or Visit the LEARN tab at www.wacoairmuseum.org.