C-97 in Dodgeville, Wisconsin




While visiting Wisconsin, my father in law encouraged me to visit a big airplane parked outside of a motel in Dodgeville (which is also home to Land’s End).  It sounded interesting, and eventually we got up there.  We initially thought it was a C-124, but things didn’t quite fit, like the loading doors.  By the time we got to the cockpit area, I looked at the console and made a mental note that the Air Force must have been really good with parts re-use in the 50s, since that cockpit panel looked just like the one from a C-97 I have in storage.  On the way out, there was a historical display, then DOH!  We were on a C-97.  Very interesting, since my father flew these in the 1950s.

This particular instance started life as a KC-97G-80-BO, then was refurbished as a C-97 in 1974 (?).  The current configuration is as a hospital ship.  Apparently it featured in a commercial in Los Angeles with Farrah Fawcett; her alleged autograph is on the belly of the airplane.  Soon after, it was bought by the owner of the inn and parked outside as the mother of all gate guards.

I have no idea who takes care of the airplane (there’s a donation jar, but nothing about who collects it), but it’s in very good shape, like a time capsule from 1953.  Another site discussing the plane complains about birds taking roost, but apart from some bird shit on the tail, I saw little indication of this.  It was a bit dirty in the cockpit, but not horrifyingly bad.

All of the avionics are original-issue.  Nothing modern in this thing.  The exterior is accessible, as is the interior and cockpit, via a permanent set of stairs built up next to the airplane.  The lower cabin area and cargo areas are sealed off.

As an airplane, I found the cockpit noteworthy.  It’s quite large (larger than a 747’s), with excellent visibility.  It has four flight crewmember stations (commander, copilot, flight engineer, navigator), with the F/E station dominating the arrangement.  The F/E has a full desk facing forward as well as a smaller one toward the main panel.  The main panel on the right is bracketed by a comm/lighting panel on the left.  Behind the F/E main panel on the right is an alley leading up to the F/O position.  Along the way, there’s a hydraulic reservoir as well as an observer’s seat (this cockpit access validates a story heard long ago, that a Russian crew managed to recover from a hydraulic failure by peeing into the reservoir in whatever they were flying.  I could see that happening here).  I wasn’t able to find any legacy refueling controls such as you’d find on a KC-135 fuel panel.

There is a receptacle for a periscopic sextant, as well as a downward-facing bombsite-like periscope that the navigator presumably uses for ground fixes.

The airplane is N227AR (S/N 52-2764) , and it can be found at the Don Q Inn north of Dodgeville, at N42°59.516’ and W90°08.454’.  Dodgeville’s municipal airport (55C) was closed in 1987.

I have many more photos than these (and in much higher resolution).  If interested, drop me a note.


A funny thing happened on the way to ...