SAN ANTONIO -- The aircraft that led a formation of more than 800 C-47's to Normandy during World War II will soon be available for public tours in San Marcos.
The C-47 called "That's All, Brother" was sitting in an aircraft boneyard in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for more than a decade until U.S. Air Force historian Matt Scales found it in 2015.
The Commemorative Air Force, a non-profit organization that rescues and restores military planes, helped acquire the aircraft.
“Through the support of thousands of generous donors, we were able to rescue this historic plane from the boneyard and restore it to a wonderful piece of living history,” said Andy Maag, CAF Project Officer.
"This particular aircraft, 'That's All, Brother,' was the first aircraft to drop paratroopers to Normandy in 1944. It was literally the tip of the spear," pilot Rick "Doc" Hecker said.
Hecker is one of the pilots and the lead licensed maintenance technician for the aircraft while it's in San Marcos. He said he's had a passion for flying for as long as he can remember. He's a physician, mechanic, Federal Aviation Administration inspector and certified flight instructor.
"Aircraft have always been in my life. My mother tells me she took me on a ride when I was a baby and my dad gave me my first lesson when I was 8," Hecker said. "All aspects of the flying experience, from working on the aircraft to rebuilding them, it's all part of the same continuum, if I can use that word. You have to have a passion for it."
His father was a B-17 pilot during WWII and he followed his dad's lead. Hecker served in the Army for 26 years. Currently, Hecker owns a 1942 Boeing A-75N1 Primary Trainer and a 1943 Aeronca O-58B (L-3B) artillery spotter aircraft that he restored himself. Recently, he flew the "That's All, Brother" from Dallas to San Marcos. Hecker said to be able to fly a C-47 for the first time was a humbling experience.
"Aircraft to me are like living things. They need to be in the air, they need to be flying," Hecker said. "From a pilot's perspective, the worst thing that we can see is aircraft in museums with velvet ropes around them, where nobody is allowed to touch them."
The restored C-47 will be available for tours at the end of March. The Central Texas Wing, a unit of CAF, said they are hoping visitors will help them raise funds. The group would like to bring the aircraft to Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019.
"This airplane is structurally, probably one of the best C-47's out there right now because it went through extensive restoration. It should give us another short life of...50 years! It's already done 75, so it'll live over 100," Hecker said.