WWII-era transport plane, crew preps for D-Day anniversary trip

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An antique of the skies, called the 'Hit or Miss,' has a story all her own.

"Usually you see these aircraft in museums. You have retired airline pilots flying these things and that sort of thing. But for us, it's a little bit different," said Edwin Franco, owner of Turin Aviation Group in Zephyrhills.

He also owns the plane, a WWII-era C-47 transport.

The difference is the age of the plane's crew.

"What's a 20-something girl doing on a plane this size with this history?" asked 24-year-old co-pilot Sarah Gilbreath, sitting in the co-pilot's seat of this 73-year-old war bird.

This C-47 Skytrain, the military version of the iconic Douglas DC-3, was one of thousands that carried troops in Europe during World War II. Records show the Hit Or Miss was part of Operation Varsity in 1945, delivering American and British paratroopers into Germany.

After the war, the Hit or Miss was retired to Florida to become a mosquito control plane. Then it sat for many years until Franco bought it and hired the young crew.

"It's a piece of history," said David Barraco, here on an internship from an aviation academy in Italy. "Just to fly over there is going to be amazing,"

The crew plans to fly the plane from Zephyhills all the way to Normandy next summer for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It will take around 36 hours of flying time, but with many stops along the way for the crew to tell the story of the plane and the people who flew it in the war.

"They deserve more than anyone else in the world to be remembered and this aircraft to be remembered," said Sarah. 

The Hit or Miss will be on display December 1, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Zephyrhills Museum of Military History, located at 39444 South Avenue in Zephyrhills.