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The Waco CG-4A Combat Glider

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general history
technical details
surviving CG-4A's
Jim Rike's CG-4A


In April 1941, the Waco Aircraft Company was awarded the US Government contract to build nine- and fifteen-place gliders. The XCG-3 was an experimental glider with a wingspan of 73 feet, to carry eight men. After the succeful trials the Commonwealth Aircraft Company produced 100 gliders which were named now CG-3A, with a capicity of 9 men. All were used only at glider pilot training bases.

CG stood for Cargo Glider.

Waco developed a larger version of the CG-3A, the XCG-4. What made this glider so special, was the fact that the entire nose section including the cockpit, hinged upwards, thus enabling a large cargo to be unloaded fast and easy.
The trials of the XCG-4 being satisfactory, on 29 June 1942 the glider was designated CG-4A.
By the end of July 1942, the Army had given 16 companies contracts to build the CG-4A. At the end of the war, 23 companies were involved in the production. Each company build its "own" GC-4A, with a two character designation.

  • CG-4A FO : Ford Motor Company Kingsford, Michigan - 4 190 gliders build At 15 400 USD each, they were most successful in producing the glider. At Kingsford Ford manufactured station wagons. 4500 people were working around the clock in eight-hours shifts. At their peak, the workers turned out 8 G-4A’s a day.

  • CG-4A NW : Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation, Minneapolis, Minnesota – 1509 gliders built

  • CG-4A CM : Rearwin Aircraft and Engines, Inc. (later Commonwealth Aircraft, Inc.), Kansas City, Kansas – 1470 built

  • CG-4A GE : General Aircraft Corporatoin, Astoria, New York – 1112 gliders built

  • CG-4A GN : Gibson Refrigeration Company, Greenville, Michigan – 1078 gliders built

  • GC-4A WO : Waco Aircraft Company, Troy Ohio – 1074 gliders built

  • CG-4A PR : Pratt-Read and Company (soaring plane manufacturer), Deep River, Connecticut – 956 gliders built

  • CG-4A CE : Cessna Aircraft Company, Wichita, Kansas – 750 gliders built

  • CG-4A G&A : AGA Aviation Corporation (later G&A Aircraft), Willow Grove, Pennsylvania – 627 gliders built

  • CG-4A TI Timm Aircraft Company, Los Angeles, California – 433 gliders built

  • CG-4A LK : Laister-Kauffman (soaring plane manufacturer), St. Louis , Missouri – 310 gliders built

  • CG-4A RO : Robertson Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri – 170 gliders built

  • CG-4A RI : Jenter Corporation (former Rigdefield Manufacturing Corporation), Ridgefield, New Jersey – 162 glmiders built

CG-4A BB :Babcock Aircraft Corporation, Deland, Florida - 60 build. Six were damaged beyond repair in wind storm but they were
given credit for building them and were paid for them. So in fact, 54 gliders were ordered. Production facilities were housed in a circus tent. The average price was 51 000 USD each, whilst a P-51 Mustang cost about 58 000 USD !

  • CG-4A WA : Porterfield Aircraft Company (former Ward Furniture Manufacturing Company), Fort Smith, Arkansas – 7 gliders built

  • CG-4A NA : National Aircraft Corporation, Elwood, Indiana – 1 glider built

A CG-4A had about 70 000 parts, most of which were produced by subcontractors. To name a few:

  • Steinway & sons piano manufacturing : wings and tail surfaces for General Aircraft.

  • H.J. Heinz Pickle Company : wings for General Aircraft, sparcap strips for Ford

  • Anheuser-Busch Brewery : inboard wing panels for Laister-Kaufmann

  • Gardner Metal Products Company (producer of coffins): steel fittings for Robertson Aircraft Company.

At end of war only 16 companies were prime contractors for the CG-4A. All others were sub-contractors. Actually, by 1945, National, Timm, Ward and Babcock had been pretty much eliminated by 1945, leaving only 12 prime contractors.

The Royal Air Force received 1095 GC-4A’s – designated by the British as "Hadrian".

With a production number of 13 903, the CG-4A was by far the most produced glider in aviation history. The United Kingdom build 5 935 gliders (including the Horsa, Hamilcar and other types), Germany 3 995 (all types, including DFS 230, Gotha 242 …). Also in comparison to powered planes, the CG-4A production number is unique: more CG-4A’s were build than, for example, B-17 Flying Fortresses or P-38 Lightnings.

(many thanks to Charles Day, who contacted us and gave some updates from his own research. Charles is the author of Silent Ones, WWII Invasion Glider Test & Experiment, CCAAF, Wilmington, Ohio.