The Waco CG-4 was the most widely used American troop/cargo military glider of World War II. It was designated the CG-4A by the United States Army Air Forces, and given the service name Hadrian (after the Roman emperor) by the British.
|Manufacturer||Waco Aircraft Company|
|Built by||Cessna |
|Primary users||United States Army Air Forces|
Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
United States Navy
The glider was designed by the Waco Aircraft Company. Flight testing began in May 1942. More than 13,900 CG-4As were eventually delivered.
Design and developmentEdit
The CG-4A was constructed of fabric-covered wood and metal and was crewed by a pilot and copilot. It had two fixed mainwheels and a tailwheel.
The CG-4A could carry 13 troops and their equipment. Cargo loads could be a 1⁄4-ton truck (i.e. a Jeep), a 75 mm howitzer, or a 1⁄4-ton trailer, loaded through the upward-hinged nose section. Douglas C-47 Skytrains were usually used as tow aircraft. A few Curtiss C-46 Commando tugs were used during and after the Operation Plunder crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.
The USAAF CG-4A tow line was 11⁄16 inch (17 mm) nylon, 350 feet (107 m) long. The CG-4A pickup line was 15⁄16 inch (24 mm) diameter nylon, but only 225 ft (69 m) long including the doubled loop.
From 1942 to 1945, the Ford Motor Company's plant in Kingsford, Michigan, built 4,190 Model CG-4A gliders for use in combat operations during World War II. The Kingsford plant built more CG-4A gliders than any other company in the nation at much less cost than other manufacturers. The other primary builders of the Model CG-4A gliders were located in Troy, Ohio; Greenville, Michigan; Astoria, New York; Kansas City, Missouri and St. Paul, Minnesota.
The 16 companies that were prime contractors for manufacturing the CG-4A were:
- Babcock Aircraft Company of DeLand, Florida (60 at $51,000 each) 
- Cessna Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas (750) The entire order was subcontracted to Boeing Aircraft Company's new Wichita plant.
- Commonwealth Aircraft of Kansas City (1,470)
- Ford Motor Company of Kingsford, Michigan (4,190 units at $14,891 each)
- G&A Aircraft of Willow Grove, PA (627)
- General Aircraft Corporation of Astoria, L.I.,NY (1,112)
- Gibson Refrigerator of Greenville, Michigan (1,078)
- Laister-Kauffman Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri (310)
- National Aircraft Corp. of Elwood, IN (one, at an astronomical $1,741,809)
- Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation of Minneapolis (1,510)
- Pratt-Read of Deep River, Connecticut (956)
- Ridgefield Manufacturing Company of Ridgeville, New Jersey (156)
- Robertson Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis (170)
- Timm Aircraft Company of Van Nuys, California (434)
- Waco Aircraft Company of Troy (1074  units at $19,367 each)
- Ward Furniture Company of Fort Smith, Arkansas (7)
The factories ran 24-hour shifts to build the gliders. One night-shift worker in the Wicks Aircraft Company factory in Kansas City wrote,
On one side of the huge bricked-in room is a fan running, on the other a cascade of water to keep the air from becoming too saturated with paint. The men man the paint sprayers covering the huge wings of the glider with the Khaki or Blue and finishing it off with that thrilling white star enclosed in a blue circle that is winging its way around the world for victory ... The wings are first covered with a canvas fabric stretched on like wallpaper over plywood then every seam, hold, open place, closed place, and edge is taped down with the all adhesive dope that not only makes the wings airtight, but covers my hands, my slacks, my eyebrows, my hair, and my tools with a fast-drying coat that peels off like nail polish or rubs off with a thinner that burns like Hell.
Sedalia Glider Base was originally activated on 6 August 1942. In November 1942 the installation became Sedalia Army Air Field, (after the war would be renamed Whiteman Air Force Base) and was assigned to the 12th Troop Carrier Command of the United States Army Air Forces. The field served as a training site for glider pilots and paratroopers. Assigned aircraft included the CG-4A glider, Curtiss C-46 Commando, and Douglas C-47 Skytrain. The C-46 was not used as a glider tug in combat, however, until Operation Plunder (the crossing of the Rhine) in March 1945.
CG-4As went into operation in July 1943 during the Allied invasion of Sicily. They were flown 450 miles across the Mediterranean from North Africa for the night-time assaults such as Operation Ladbroke. Inexperience and poor conditions contributed to the heavy losses. They participated in the American airborne landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944, and in other important airborne operations in Europe and in the China Burma India Theater. Although not the intention of the Army Air Forces, gliders were generally considered expendable by high-ranking European theater officers and combat personnel and were abandoned or destroyed after landing. While equipment and methods for extracting flyable gliders were developed and delivered to Europe, half of that equipment was rendered unavailable by certain higher-ranked officers. Despite this lack of support for the recovery system, several gliders were recovered from Normandy and even more from Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and Wesel, Germany.
The CG-4A found favor where its small size was a benefit. The larger British Airspeed Horsa could carry more troopers (seating for 28 or a jeep or an anti-tank gun), and the British General Aircraft Hamilcar could carry 7 tons (enough for a light tank), but the CG-4A could land in smaller spaces. In addition, by using a fairly simple grapple system, an in-flight C-47 equipped with a tail hook and rope braking drum could "pick up" a CG-4A waiting on the ground. The system was used in the 1945 high-elevation rescue of the survivors of the Gremlin Special 1945 crash, in a mountain valley of New Guinea.
After World War II ended, most of the remaining CG-4As were declared surplus and almost all were sold. Many were bought for the wood in the large shipping boxes. Others were bought for conversion to towed camping homes with the wing and tail end cut off and being towed by the rear section and others sold for hunting cabins and lake side vacation cabins.
The last known use of the CG-4A was in the early 1950s by the USAF with an Arctic detachment aiding scientific research. The CG-4As were used for getting personnel down to, and up from, floating ice floes, with the glider being towed out, released for landing, and then picked up later by the same type of aircraft, using the hook and line method developed during World War II. The only modification to the CG-4A was the fitting of wide skis in place of the landing gear for landing on the Arctic ice floes.
- Prototypes, two built, plus one stress test article
- Main Production variant, survivors became G-4A in 1948, 13,903 built by 16 contractors
- One Timm-built CG-4A with a plywood structure
- One CG-4A converted with two Franklin 6AC-298-N3 engines by Northwestern
- One CG-4A converted with two 175 hp (130 kW) Ranger L-440-1 engines by Ridgefield
- Two articles: XPG-2 engines changed to 200 hp (150 kW) plus one CG-4A converted also with 200 hp (150 kW) engines
- Production PG-2A with two 200 hp (150 kW) L-440-7s, redesignated G-2A in 1948, 10 built by Northwestern
- Cancelled variant with two R-775-9 engines
- CG-4A transferred to the United States Navy (13 units)
- PG-2A re-designated in 1948
- CG-4A re-designated in 1948
- G-4A with different tow-bar, 35 conversions
- Hadrian Mk.I
- Royal Air Force designation for the CG-4A, 25 delivered
- Hadrian Mk.II
- Royal Air Force designation for the CG-4A with equipment changes
- Czechoslovakian Air Force operated 2 or 3 Wacos, designated NK-4
- Army Air Corps
- Royal Air Force
Accidents and incidentsEdit
- 1 August 1943: CG-4A-RO 42-78839, built by contractor Robertson Aircraft Corporation, lost its right wing and plummeted to earth immediately after release by a tow airplane over Lambert Field, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Several thousand spectators had gathered for the first public demonstration of the St. Louis-built glider, which was flown by 2 USAAF crewmen and carried St. Louis mayor William D. Becker, Robertson Aircraft co-founder Maj. William B. Robertson, and 6 other VIP passengers; all 10 occupants perished in the crash. The accident was attributed to the failure of a defective wing strut fitting that had been provided by a subcontractor; the post-crash investigation indicted Robertson Aircraft for lax quality control; several inspectors were relieved of duty.
- 42-43809 – On display at the Museum of Army Flying in Middle Wallop, Hampshire.
- 45-13696 – CG-4A under restoration at the Yanks Air Museum in Chino, California.
- 45-14647 – Cockpit section on static display at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.
- 45-15009 – CG-4A on static display at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base near Dover, Delaware.
- 45-15574 – On static display at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York.
- 45-15965 – On display at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo in Portage, Michigan. It is painted as 42–46574.
- 45-17241 – On static display at the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy.
- 45-27948 – CG-4A on static display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
- Replica – On display at the Fagen Fighters World War II Museum in Granite Falls, Minnesota.
- Replica – On display at The Fighting Falcon Museum in Greenville, Michigan.
- Unknown – On display at the Menominee Range Historical Foundation in Iron Mountain, Michigan.
- Unknown – CG-4A on display at the National Soaring Museum in Elmira, New York.
- Unknown – Cockpit section on display at the Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center in Fairfield, California.
- CG-4A on display at the Silent Wings Museum in Lubbock, Texas.
- Unknown – CG-4A on display at the Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum at Fort Campbell near Clarksville, Tennessee.
- Unknown – CG-4A on static display at the Yorkshire Air Museum in Elvington, Yorkshire.
- Unknown – On display at the Assault Glider Trust in Shawbury, Shropshire.
- Unknown – On static display at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
- Crew: two pilots
- Capacity: 13 troops, or quarter-ton truck (Jeep) and 4 troopers, or 6 litters and 4,197 lb (1900 kg) useful load
- Length: 48 ft 8 in (14.8 m)
- Wingspan: 83 ft 8 in (25.5 m)
- Height: 15 ft 4 in (4.7 m)
- Wing area: 900 sq ft (83.6 m2)
- Empty weight: 3,900 lb (1,769 kg)
- Gross weight: 7,500 lb (3,402 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 7,500 lb (3,402 kg)
- Max take off (Emergency Load): 9,000 lb (4,082 kg)
- Maximum speed: 150 mph (240 km/h, 130 kn) CAS[N 1] at 7,500 pounds (3,400 kg)
128 mph (206 km/h) CAS/135 mph (217 km/h) IAS at 9,000 pounds (4,100 kg)
- Cruise speed: 73 mph (117 km/h, 63 kn) IAS [N 2]
- Stall speed: 49 mph (79 km/h, 43 kn) [N 3] with design load 7,500 lb (3,400 kg)
- Never exceed speed: 150 mph (241 km/h, 130 kn) IAS [N 4]
- Maximum glide ratio: 12:1
- Wing loading: 8.33 lb/sq ft (40.7 kg/m2)
- Rate of sink: About 400 ft/min (2 m/s) at tactical glide speed (IAS 60 mph, 96 km/h)
- Landing run: 600-800 feet (180-244 m) for normal three-point landing; "Landing rolls of approximately 2,000 to 3,000 feet (610 to 910 m) are to be expected at the higher emergency gross weights..."
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era
- Airspeed Horsa
- DFS 230
- General Aircraft Hamilcar
- General Aircraft Hotspur
- Gotha Go 242
- Schweizer cargo glider designs
- Slingsby Hengist
- IAS about 158 mph (254 km/h)
- IAS about 85 mph 137 km/h
- about 60 mph 96 km/h IAS
- "...due to the possibility that windshield panels may blow in and other failures may occur."
- Fitzsimons 1978, p. 1199.
- "WACO CG-4A glider information." World War II Glider and Military Museum. Retrieved: 30 May 2015.
- Jackson, David D."WWII US glider manufacturing sites." Warbirds and Airshows. Retrieved: 30 May 2015.
- Diehl 2002, p. 81.
- Bednarek, Janet Rose Daly and Michael H. Bednarek. Dreams of Flight: General Aviation in the United States. 1,074 by Charles Day - "Silent Ones Clinton County Army Air Field"
- Andrade 1979, p. 96.
- "Waco CG-4." Fiddler's Green/ Retrieved; 29 March 2012.
- "Waco CG-4." niehorster.orbat.com. Retrieved; 29 March 2012.
- Raph, Jane Beasley. "My Aunt the Doper: "Gliding Gladys" in the War Factory." 'Phelps Family History Retrieved: 29 March 2012.
- "Silent Partner of the Plane." Popular Science, February 1944, p. 98.
- "Glider rescue from New Guinea Shangril-la." The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 July 1945.
- "Ice Cube Airport." Popular Mechanics, September 1952, p. 137.
- Gero 2010, pp. 24-25.
- Associated Press, "Mayor and 9 Die in St. Louis Glider Crash", The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Monday 2 August 1943, Number 306, page 1.
- "Airframe Dossier - Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio (WACO)CG-4, s/n 42-43809 USAF, c/n BAPC-185". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Waco NZR Hadrian (CG-4A)". Yanks Air Museum. Yanks Air Museum. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Airframe Dossier - Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio (WACO)CG-4, s/n 45-13696 USAAF". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Airframe Dossier - Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio (WACO)CG-4, s/n 45-14647 USAAF". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "CG-4A". Air Mobility Command Museum. AMC Museum Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- Stoff, Joshua (September 2002). "A Waco's Happy Ending". Air & Space. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Airframe Dossier - Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio (WACO) CG-4A, s/n 45-15574 USAAF". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Waco CG-4A Hadrian". Air Zoo. Air Zoo. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Airframe Dossier - Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio (WACO) CG-4, s/n 45-15965". Aerial Visuals. AerialVisuals.ca. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "The WACO and HORSA Gliders". Airborne Museum. Musée Airborne. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "The WACO Building". Airborne Museum. Musée Airborne. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "SURVIVING CG-4A's". Belgian Aviation History Association Archaeology Team. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Waco CG-4A Hadrian". National Museum of the US Air Force. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "WACO CG-4A COMBAT GLIDER". Fagen Fighter WWII Museum. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "[Homepage]". The Fighting Falcon Military Museum. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "World War II Glider and Military Museum". The Menominee Range Historical Foundation. Menominee Range Historical Foundation. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "WACO / CG-4A". National Soaring Museum. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
- "World War II". Travis Air Force Base Heritage Center. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
- "Museum History". Silent Wings Museum. City of Lubbock, Texas. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "DON F. PRATT MUSEUM". Fort Campbell Historical Foundation. Fort Campbell Historical Foundation. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Waco Hadrian CG-4A". The Yorkshire Air Museum. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "Aircraft". The Assault Glider Trust. Assault Glider Trust. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- "MAIN EXHIBITS". Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
- Waco CG-4A 'Hadrian'
- Pilot's Flight Operating Instructions for Army Model CG4A Glider (TO No. 09-40CA-1).
- Erection and Maintenance Instructions CG-4A Glider (TO No. 09-40CA-2), 15 February 1943.
- "WACO CG-4A". airbum.com.
- AAF Manual No. 50-17, Pilot Training Manual for the CG-4A Glider. US Government, 1945, select pages available on Wikimedia Commons, Category:Waco CG-4.
- AAF TO NO. 09-40CA-1, Pilot's Flight Operating Instructions for Army Model CG-4A Glider, British Model Hadrian.US Government, 1944, available on Wikimedia Commons, Category:Waco CG-4.
- Andrade, John M. U.S. Military Aircraft Designations and Serials since 1909. Earl Shilton, Leister, UK: Midland Counties Publications, 1979. ISBN 0-904597-22-9.
- Diehl, Alan E., PhD. Silent Knights: Blowing the Whistle on Military Accidents and Their Cover-ups. Dulles, Virginia: Brassey's, Inc., 2002. ISBN 1-57488-412-3.
- Fitzsimons, Bernard, ed. "Waco CG-4A." Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare, Volume 11. London: Phoebus, 1978. ISBN 978-0-241-10864-2.
- Gero, David B. Military Aviation Disasters: Significant Losses Since 1908. Sparkford, Yoevil, Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing, 2010, ISBN 978-1-84425-645-7.
- Masters, Charles J., Glidermen of Neptune: The American D-Day Glider Attack Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-809-32008-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Waco CG-4.|
- 3D-model of Waco CG-4
- "Silent Partner of the Plane." Popular Science, February 1944, pp. 94-101. First large article on CG-4A published during World War II; rare photos and drawings
- "Glider Parade" Popular Mechanics,August 1944, pp. 14–15.
- The Assault Glider Trust
- Silent Wings Museum
- U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum, World War II CG-4A Glider Exhibit, Fort Bragg NC
- Detailed photos of the CG-4A in the National Soaring Museum
- More detailed photos of the CG-4A in the National Soaring Museum, including manual pages
- National WWII Glider Pilots Association, Inc.