Sticktime with Yankee Air Museum’s C-47 Skytrain “Hairless Joe”

During the 2019 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow, I had the opportunity to fly in Yankee Air Museum’s original aircraft, their C-47D Skytrain named “Hairless Joe”.

The C-47 is easily one of the most iconic allied aircraft of World War Two. General Eisenhower named the C-47 as one of the weapons that enabled victory for the Allies. Although the C-47 served in every theatre of operations, it is likely best known to most as the main jump platform for paratroopers participating in the D-Day invasion of France in June, 1944. When the museum made the decision to change the paint scheme of their C-47, they looked at a number of options. With many aircraft already paying tribute to C-47s from the European Theatre of Operations, Yankee Air Museum decided on an aircraft from the China-Burma theatre. Specifically, “Hairless Joe” from the 319th Troop Carrier Squadron, a part of the 1st Air Commando Unit. Hairless Joe was the aircraft piloted by then Maj. Richard “Dick” Cole, more well known as being the co-pilot to General Jimmy Doolittle in aircraft 1 of the April, 1942 raid on Tokyo. The freshly painted aircraft was unveiled at the 2018 Oshkosh show, with Mr. Cole in attendance.

The ride commenced with a short safety briefing outside the aircraft, and included use of safety belts and escape procedures. Riders boarded via a step ladder and were seated paratrooper style in the spacious cargo cabin of the aircraft. The door was closed, and the engines coughed to life. Internal temperatures inside the aircraft quickly rose due to outside temperatures combined with the P dark green color. We quickly taxied to the runway and the rush of air cooled the inside. The engines came up to full power and the tail quickly rose up to level the aircraft. We climbed briefly and the word was given that we could move about the aircraft.

The cramped cockpit area of the C-47

Riders were able to view outside via the cargo the windows and then move forward to sit in the radio and navigator positions. Riders also had the opportunity to stand just behind the pilot and co-pilot positions. It was magical to be flying along in a historic aircraft such as the C-47. It was extra special for me since I had previously met Mr. Cole, and now had a second connection to his service life. I could also vaguely imagine standing up and clicking my parachute release to the static line like one of the brave men during D-Day.

The view from one of the read windows in the C-47 cargo area.

The time passed quickly and the crew informed us to get buckled back into our seats for landing. Shortly thereafter the aircraft slowed as the main landing gear extended and eventually made connection with the runway. We briefly taxied back into the area we loaded and de-planed.

Although my flight was brief, the experience will last with me for a lifetime. I wish to thank the Yankee Air Museum and Executive Director, Kevin Walsh, for the opportunity as well as World Airshow News’ Canadian Editor, Kerry Newstead. For more information about the Yankee Air Museum or purchasing a ride in one of their historic aircraft, visit their website at

My article originally appeared in World Airshow News. I have added additional supporting photos.

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