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Love Affair with a Stearman

The primary reason I fly a jet is because I need to get where I am going quickly. Is it fun to fly? Absolutely! But what if I didn't need to go anywhere? What airplane would I fly? I, like most pilots, have a very long list. Some I have rented or 'borrowed,' and some I have owned, flown for a while, had a little fun with, then passed them on to their next 'caretaker.' I have always had a soft spot for airplanes with round engines and lots of character. I am a World War…

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I would give anything to experience flying a Stearman.
Plan yourself a trip to Northern California, Columbia Airport (O22) for the ride of your life! See:
There is a 1943 Stearman PT-17 just waiting for you there!
David, you have tempted me beyond all reason. May just kick such an adventure to the top of my bucket list. Thanks for the tip.
joel wiley 1
But wait until the Rim fire is out. You might want some scenery visible.
..or if the east coast is closer, visit the "Battle for the Airfield." Absolutely epic. Have gone two years in a row (first year we went both days). Search youtube for videos.
As a Navy cadet in 1943 my instructor landed the Stearman at a grass field, left the engine running, set the brake, and we climbed out for a cigarette and talk. "Cadet Brown," he said, "that is probably the safest plane ever built, but if you try hard enough it will kill you."

I miss those stalls, loops, inverted spins, snap rolls, night flying, crosswind landings in that honest bird.

jim button 2
thank you for your article, it helps bring the stearman to life. My uncle Lt Henry Rosine already had a pilot license (age 15) before WWII but one of my favorite photos is of him standing in front of a USAAF stearman. He grew up on a 7 acre farm with four brothers and our family stories tell of grandma chasing him with a hoe after he landed once on the farm (no one knew he was taking flying lessons). grandma was mad that he had wasted money. He flew 35 missions as a/c commander of b17 with 100th bomb group (12 O'Clock High) then became an Eastern Airlines pilot after the war. Google him (to honor him) for link to 100th bomb group website
Jim Murray 2
What a wonderful story. There was another biplane from that era, a Meyers. After flying Aeronca 7AC Champs and a Piper Cruiser, I had a number of occasions to fly a Meyers OTW-145, a totally different experience. It was at the Shakopee airport near MSP. I even wore a white scarf and a leather helmet with goggles. A fun airplane and so easy to fly. Loved the stick. Do any OTW survive?
Jim Murray, the Meyers is a nice aircraft, the main gear has a wider spread than the Stearman. There are still some Meyers flying and you might be interested in this site.
Jim Murray 1
Thanks, Sandy. There are more OTW-145s still around that I would have thought. The one I flew was owned by a NWA pilot and kept at the Shakopee airport. I flew it in early 1962. He sold it later to someone in Iowa. The last time I parked it there were two guys waiting for it. They jumped in and flew off but only got two cornfields away before they ran out of gas and bought the farm. The plane survived with only a bent propeller and the guys fortunately weren't hurt. When I learned to fly checking the gas tank and dipstick was something drilled into me. I never ran out of gas!
Toby Sharp 2
Thanks for the story Ted!
My Grandfather trained in a Stearman, PT-19, I believe. They owned an airport in North Philadelphia (Boulevard Airport) in the 30s-40s. When the war started, he and his dad moved to Gettysburg and started the Gettysburg College School of Aviation, training hundreds of cadets to go to war. I have so many photos and newspaper clippings from that time (Granddad saved everything) that I feel like I was there - and wish I had that time machine for real - just to experience that era. Thank you for this article - just makes it more real. And one day I want to finish my private, find a Stearman, and feel it the way they did.
...he also said, "There is no excuse for a ground loop in a Stearman. Think of your rudder pedals as a wedge under your wing. If you start one just push a wedge under the wing that drops."

I never had a ground loop either.
I have a friend here in South Carolina who has one in mint condition. It is beautiful. He offers flights fo sightseeing or photography. Man you talk about a thrill ride he will also do rolls if you want. I also have the pleasure of knowing a pilot who learned to fly and earned his wing in a stearman, he went on to become a test pilot for the Air Force. You talk about some stories to be told, he has them. His name is Curly, he lives in Charleston SC. I could listen to him all day talking about his journey.
I had a couple of Stearman rides in the front seat long ago. Seems we climbed out, cruised, rolled and looped and landed around 85 knots, maybe slower. My stick time was minimal and after flying some in a Citabria the first upside down in a an open cockpit was breathtaking as the harness slack of very little was achieved. A lot of airplane. Wind in the wires is a hoot!
Zany4God 1
There is a biplane flight of 4 planes, ready at your service at the Museum of Flight, Boeing Field, Seattle. With just a day or two notice the pilot, "Ken," will bring his Stearman to the field for a flight over Seattle. He has a couple other planes there for daily use, but the Stearman "PT-17" is available.


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