PCAM History – The First Thirty Years (Chapter 6)

July 1, 2019

by Lynn Hunt

Ilyushin IL-14 Crate on the ground at the Pacific Coast Air Museum
The IL-14 “Crate” today.

Much of the history of PCAM and some of the more interesting stories involve the exploits of our volunteers in pursuing and acquiring the aircraft that are now a part of our collection. One of the more interesting acquisitions was that of our IL-14 “Crate”. We first became aware of the aircraft after numerous trips to the Reno/Stead air races during the early 1990’s where it sat on the ramp along with its sister ship. We had learned that it belonged to the General Services Administration and in early 1994 we learned that they both would be available for sale to a museum. We visited the aircraft to learn more about its condition and the probability of flying it to Santa Rosa. We were impressed with its overall condition and agreed to pay the $3500 price to purchase it.

We organized a team of volunteers to travel to the aircraft to begin the process of waking the airplane from its slumber. Both engines were liquid-locked but once the oil in the cylinders was removed, they turned freely. We were able to adapt new batteries to the electrical system and once energized we were shocked at how much of the electrical system actually worked. By the second trip to Reno we had run the engines and exercised all of the flight controls. One of the major challenges that this aircraft presented was that all of the instruments were metric and marked in Polish. To make matters worse the only manuals we could find on the aircraft were written in German. Fortunately there is a commonality amongst most aircraft from one cockpit to another which helped us to figure out what the controls did. This might be fine for starting engines but we needed more information before we would attempt to fly it. The solution to our problem took a slightly circuitous route in the form of one Jacek Wilarski who had recently joined the museum. It turns out that Jacek was from Poland and was fluent in German. Better yet, he agreed to join the crew as an interpreter.

We were able to complete all of the preparations for flight including taxiing the aircraft and completing a gear swing. The FAA came to our aid by providing us with a Letter of Authorization in lieu of a type-rating so that we would be legal to make the ferry flight.

The flight to Santa Rosa was mostly uneventful, and was marred only by the smell in the cockpit of something burning shortly after take-off. Needless to say we were all concerned and prepared to abort the flight when Jacek discovered that the wing anti-ice had been turned on. With this corrected the odor quickly vanished and the aircraft settled down for a smooth flight to Santa Rosa. We were all impressed at how well it performed and it was welcomed into the ever-growing PCAM collection, one of the very few Il-14’s on display anywhere.

Other aircraft acquisitions would provide more interesting adventures but that’s another story.

A FAMILY-FRIENDLY PLACE WITH HISTORY YOU CAN TOUCH!

There’s always something great going on at the Pacific Coast Air Museum. We have Open Cockpit weekends once a month,  special events throughout the year, and regular hot dog lunches. We host school field trips, special group tours, birthday parties, and family get-togethers, all among our collection of historic aircraft and educational exhibits.

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