A historic piece of Wisconsin aviation history will soon make it’s way back to the Badger state.
People of a certain age probably remember North Central Airline, and now a plane with the goose on the tail is coming home.
“Anybody who grew up in the 50s and 60s in Wisconsin knows of North Central,” Randy Krentz, a volunteer at the Aviation Heritage Center in Sheboygan County.
North Central was a regional airline in many small cities in Wisconsin, with roots that go back to Clintonville in 1947.
“When I was a 5-year-old kid, my grandparents took me on my first plane ride in a DC from Oshkosh down to Milwaukee to go to the zoo and back,” said Krentz. “”I can remember very vividly the stewardess had to give you Chicklets gum so you could chew it and clear your ears.”
The DC-3 was the staple of North Central; one of the finest, most historic aircraft ever built, but without the modern amenities like air conditioning and pressurized cabins like we expect today.
Jon Helminiak is the Director of the Aviation Heritage Center, and is working to bring back a piece of this Wisconsin history.
“There are only about 2 or 3 of those aircraft that North Central once flew in existence, and we happen to now own one of them,” said Helminiak.
Jon is in Arizona this week, on his way to an Airfoce Base in a California desert to do some work on the newly purchased aircraft. After extensive research, they found out the plane did indeed fly for the airline between 1953 and 1968.
The owner agreed to sell the plane for $175,000 to the aviation center, $25,000 below his original asking price, knowing the plane would be returned home to Wisconsin.
The plan is to bring the old bird back to airworthy status, not much work since previous owner did extensive restoration on the plane and cockpit.
“We’ll do an engine run in a couple weeks, and then fly it to Arizona where we will paint her in North Central colors,” said Helminiak.
Eventually they will land her in the old stomping grounds, in Sheboygan County, to give aviation enthusiasts a front row seat of how the commercial airline industry took flight in Wisconsin.
The Aviation Heritage Center still needs to raise $40,000 dollars before the plane can fly back to Wisconsin. If that goal is reached, the plane could be in Sheboygan County this summer.