Daehwan Lee installs wiring on a Waco fuselage. Waco Classic
has been building Waco biplanes for nearly 20 years, proving
they have the expertise necessary to revive an old airplane like
the Great Lakes.
HE NEW PRODUCTION VERSION of the Great Lakes
has all of the charm and nostalgia of one built in
1929 without the hassles of cotton fabric cover, a
cramped aft cockpit, and an oil-spewing engine
that lasted only a couple hundred hours, if you
were lucky. The new Great Lakes offers great
memories without the nightmares an 80-year-
old airplane can cause.
And the people at Waco Classic know how to revive an old airplane, modernize where necessary, but keep the heritage because
they have been building old/new Waco biplanes for nearly 20 years.
The Waco YMF- 5 is one of the most beautiful open-cockpit biplanes
ever designed, and the craftsmen and women at the Waco Classic
facility in Battle Creek, Michigan, create airplanes of such perfection
that the Ohio guys in the original Waco factory simply didn’t have
the technology and materials to match.
But the Waco YMF- 5 is a complex and expensive airplane, a prized
personal possession that is simply out of reach for most of us. So Waco
Classic President Peter Bowers went looking for a smaller, less complicated classic biplane that could be put back into production at a
much lower price. What he found was the Great Lakes 2T-1A- 2 that is
fully certified and can be produced at a cost half that of the Waco.
The Great Lakes was designed and built originally in the late
1920s in Cleveland. It is smaller than the other biplanes of the era,
and more nimble. Though it had a string of letters and numbers to
identify it, and variations of the basic airplane, it was known to most
simply as the Great Lakes, or the Sport Trainer.
The Roaring Twenties were still roaring when the first Great
Lakes with a Cirrus engine was delivered. The company piled up
hundreds of orders, and there seemed to be no end of demand, but
then the stock market crashed, and the Depression took hold.
It’s impossible to find a reliable count of how many Sport
Trainers were built by the original Great Lakes factory. I have found
numbers ranging from below 200 to as high
as 450 biplanes built before Great Lakes, the
company, went under as the Depression
dragged on. As was typical of the time, sev-
eral different engines were hung on the
Sport Trainer, including inline Menascos
and Fairchild Rangers that gave the airplane
a rather sleek appearance. But many were
powered by Warner radial engines that
shortened the overall length of the airplane
considerably, giving it the stubby look most
of us remember as the trademark of an origi-
nal Sport Trainer.