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WWII planes vandalized at Cape Cod Airfield

The Douglas DC-3 served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and was a favorite among pilots. (Bernard Spragg/Flickr)

Two airplanes that were used during World War II were found vandalized this past week at the Cape Cod Airfield, according to the owner of the aircraft.

“Those airplanes in particular are veterans of the war,” said Cape Cod Airfield manager Chris Siderwicz, who noted the DC-3s are both close to 80 years old. “It is so disrespectful to them and to me.”

Siderwicz estimated the damage to the two airplanes to be between $10,000 and $15,000. The parts to fix the planes are difficult to come by, he said.

Siderwicz said he didn’t file a police report because he didn’t think police could do much about it. But a post detailing the vandalism on the airfield’s Facebook page has garnered more than 200 comments and has been viewed more than 180,000 times, he said.

“We really appreciate everyone reaching out to us about this unfortunate situation,” airfield staff wrote in a separate Facebook post Sunday. “We’re shocked at how much support we’ve gotten and are truly grateful by everyone’s offers and well wishes.”

While Siderwicz said he has no idea why anyone would damage the planes, he believes that it was done on purpose, citing the extent of the damage.

The elevator, or the flight control surface near the wing of an aircraft, was crushed on one of the planes. A DC-3’s elevator is made of aluminum alloy frames covered with fabric.

“They’re fragile, they need to be as light as possible,” Siderwicz said.

On the other plane, a bracket was broken on a trim tab, a piece of metal near the rear of the plane that helps the pilot control the aircraft. The trim tab also had eight rivets torn off.

It would have had to take one strong person or two people to be able to damage the trim tab, Siderwicz said.

“It’s a serious felony to tamper with airplanes,” he said. “It’s dangerous; it’s not like scratching someone’s car.”

Siderwicz said it’s unclear when the vandalism happened. He said he discovered the damage only after walking out to check on the planes on April 6.

The propeller-driven DC-3 model aircraft are rare, Siderwicz said, noting they were used by the Allied forces in World War II.

One of the planes is the only Douglas Sleeper Transport, meant for overnight journeys, left flying in the world and one of only eight known in existence, a Facebook post from Cape Cod Airfield said. The other was specifically built for the U.S. military for use in the war. After the war, both airplanes became commercial aircraft.

Together, these two airplanes have flown more than 130,000 hours, according to the Facebook post.

The two airplanes were bought personally by Siderwicz, who restored them and brought them to the airfield.

Siderwicz bought one of the planes five years ago and has been flying it regularly in the summer months. He purchased the second one three years ago and spent hours refurbishing it.

“I haven’t flown it yet,” he said of the second plane. “Now I have to do [the refurbishing] all over again.”

Siderwicz fell in love with DC-3s when he worked for Provincetown-Boston Airlines. The airline had 12 DC-3s, and he spent thousands of hours flying them.

He moved on to fly jets for Eastern Airlines and US Air, but the DC-3 remained a favorite. In fact, the two planes he owns used to be owned by Provincetown-Boston Airlines.

Siderwicz calls them beautiful aircraft with neat lines and a rugged, legendary reputation. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the DC-3 a workhouse that was vital to winning World War II.

“They’re special, capable airplanes,” Siderwicz said.

The damages sustained from the vandalism were not in the airfield’s budget, especially since the business, which offers private rides in replica 1930s biplanes, trips to Provincetown in Cessna planes and tandem skydiving, is closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Repairing the airplanes is going to be challenging but possible, Siderwicz said.

“To try to maintain two 80-year-old airplanes is hard enough, let alone addressing the additional abuse,” Siderwicz said.

Since the outbreak, more people have been traveling through the town-owned trails behind the airfield, Siderwicz said. Still, he is not sure if the vandalism was caused by someone who was using the trail.

More people also are walking on to the airfield without permission, which can be dangerous because it houses private airplanes and is still open, he said.

“We want to let people know these are tough times for everybody, but we still need to operate safely,” Siderwicz said. “We don’t want to discourage people from getting fresh air.”

Although Siderwicz is not looking for any money to help with the repairs, he hopes that whoever did the damage is found and held responsible.


© 2020 Cape Cod Times