The WACO Bi-Plane

The WACO biplane was said by some to be the plane that Kirby “Sky King” Grant learned to fly, instructed by “barnstormers” in the 1920’s. One online report says that Kirby Grant “got his license” from the FAA in 1929.


The history of the WACO stretches from the 1920s to the beginnings of United Airlines. Although the company had several names through its history, beginning with the Weaver Aircraft Company, the name most associated with the plane is WACO, pronounced “WAH-COH”, and not like the city in Texas. The WAH in WACO rhymes with “Water”.  The name could come from the initials of the Weaver Aircraft Company… or not, depending on which account you read. Some sources say that the name comes from a field near Troy, Ohio, which is where the company moved from its beginnings Lorain and Medina, Ohio when Mr. Weaver left the company. The company finally closed in 1965.

There were many different WACO models built by Weaver Aircraft Company in Ohio, from the early open cockpit to a 3 seat closed cabin model and it eventually morphed into a mono-wing glider. Some models of the WACO were designed and never built, some, only a handful were made. For many of the WACO models only 3 or 4 every flew.

There were models used for mail and military use.  The early models featured tubular metal fuselage but wings made of wood and covered with cotton fabric.

The most prolific was the WACO Model  9, with some 270 built, including the Miss Pittsburgh, which was discovered and restored by OX 5 Aviation Pioneers, and is now displayed at the Pittsburgh International Airport, Landside Terminal.  The WACO 9 featured a stall speed of just 32 miles per hour, due to the large wing surface of the double-wing bi-plane design, but could still reach an altitude of 5,000 feet, cruise at 72 mph with a maximum speed of 100 mph with its OX5 engine. It was even equipped for EDO floats.

While some stunt pilots liked the WACO, many, like Walt Pierce, much preferred the  Stearman.

But the WACO lives on in the R/C world, with the Horizon Hobby E-flite UMX Waco BL BNF that you can see at many AMA model aircraft club fields, powered by an electric motor.  Some surviving WACO aircraft can also be seen at air shows around the world.

Tim Trott

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