After more than three years of effort, the restoration of a C-119 “Flying Boxcar” at the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum is now just weeks from completion.

“We can finally see the finish line,” museum board member and project volunteer Pat Billey said.

Purchased in June 2019 and disassembled over the next several months at an airport in Greybull, Wyoming, the 40,000-pound aircraft was transported in several hundred pieces about 1,500 miles to a Columbus airport storage facility

“We had just started to put it together when we got interrupted by COVID-19,” said Skip Taylor, a museum member who is leading the C-119 project. “The last remaining part (wing box) did not get here until July 2021.”

Once all parts arrived, a core group of about 17 volunteers, as well as others, began working on the restoration three days a week in a hangar, Billey said.

But after being forced to put the project on hold due to the coronavirus, as well as occasional bouts of inclement weather when the plane was moved outside, museum volunteers started making up for lost time by increasing their work load from three to four days a week. As the long-anticipated project came closer to completion, a number of volunteers have stepped it up by working eight hours a day on the project.

Originally, the “Charlie 1-119 Project” was envisioned as an assembly job followed by a wash and wax, but the volunteers have done far more than that, Billey said.

For example, a volunteer electrical engineer rewired all the lighting, so when visitors arrive in the evening, all the navigational lights and landing lights will be on, Billey said.

All exterior painting has now been completed and the volunteers are finishing up renovating the plane’s belly this week. Debris and rot has been removed, the base of the exhibit area has been leveled out, and the construction scaffolding has been removed, Billey said.

However, work still needs to be done on the struts, as well as cleaning the landing gear, he said. Flooring on the flight deck need to be replaced before fully-restored original seats can be installed. Interior lighting, as well as insulation and permanent stairs, still need to be added, he said.

If there are no further unexpected delays, the renovation should be completed either late this month or sometime in August, Billey said.

But it may not open right away. The Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum is working with Columbus Board of Aviation commissioners to tie in the dedication ceremony of the 40,000-pound aircraft to an airport celebration either late this summer or early this fall, Taylor said.

While one might assume the volunteers are anxious to get the work behind them, Taylor says that’s not necessarily the case.

“We’ve created a little bit of a fellowship,” Taylor said. “All the volunteers come from different walks of life. It’s been fascinating to see everyone come together to work on something they have never done before.”

The “Flying Boxcar” will be on permanent display south of the long-exhibited McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II aircraft.

Located southwest of the Columbus Municipal Airport building, the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, 4742 Ray Boll Blvd., attracts several thousand visitors to Columbus every year. While there is no admission charge, the organization supplements its income with membership dues, donations and profits from their gift shop.