Although the C-47 looks much the same today as it did on June 6, 1944, it looked very different when it arrived at the museum as a donation eight years ago. It had been converted to a corporate passenger plane.
"We had to take an executive interior out," said the museum's president, W. Austin Wadsworth. "It had a dry bar, lounge seats, a table with a nice map of the Bahamas in there. It was beautiful."
The museum's restoration of the historic plane to its original condition has been a roughly $180,000 project so far. Most of the money went toward two rebuilt engines and the rest to parts, equipment and service. The museum is trying to raise a total of $250,000 for the restoration and return to Normandy.
One upgrade it did allow was the installation of two GPS systems to keep the aircraft on course.
"The avionics in the airplane are modern. We're not going to go with what they had in 1943," Wadsworth said. "They would have had probably a radio beacon receiver and a lot of dead reckoning."
There is still no autopilot, said Wadsworth's daughter, Naomi, who will be among five pilots — one including her brother, Craig — taking turns at the controls on the way to Europe. That's fine with her, she said.
"It's history. It's real flying," she said. "With a lot of the computerized, mechanized things that you see in the airliners today, the airplane basically flies itself. ... This is not a situation where you can be asleep at the wheel. You really have to pay attention."
Said her father, also a pilot: "You don't just grab something and push it. There's a kind of feel to everything you do in these old birds. It doesn't have a soul obviously, but you don't just tell it what to do. You ask it."