Airplanes are the keys to the skies. We love all airplanes, and we are the current custodians for two World War II heroes: the Texan and the Stearman as well as a couple strange birds.
Boeing Stearman PT-17
Our Stearman was built for the Army Air Corps and was based at Arcadia, Florida, for training American and British pilots during World War II. Following the war, it was converted to a crop duster and continued its spraying adventures after being purchased by Brian's dad, Robert Aukes, and used as a crop duster until the engine stalled and it was landed in a field during the floods of '93. Robert and Brian - with help from many friends - restored it back to its original army configuration in 1995, giving it the number 429 out of respect for Bob's birthday. It was at this time Brian bought the Stearman from his father, and so it became his first airplane.
Brian has flown this airplane all over the Midwest, and can usually be seen flying upside down, cutting toilet paper, or doing some kind of aerobatic maneuver. In fact, Brian won the 1997 Aerobatics Champion award at the National Stearman Fly-In in this plane and continues to enjoy dancing in the skies.
Rachel is currently working on her tailwheel endorsement, so you may also see her practicing touch-and-gos and high-speed taxis at the airport.
Rachel's Comments: “As you fly just above the tree line, you can’t help but think back to the golden days when the skies were filled with casual barnstormers and sounds of radial engines. Every time I fly, a sense of freedom washes over me, and I never want to land. But, unfortunately the flights are always too short as the rumble of the round engine comes with the gurgle of gas being used. Oh, and the sunsets in the Stearman just can’t be beat.”
Boeing Stearman PT-27
Brian's Comments: "If you asked me before 2009 if I'd ever own an airplane with a picture of a man for nose art, I would've chuckled. But there's nothing feminine about this plane. It's like an old Harley Davidson that was too mean to stay on the ground. Instead of the rumble of potato-potato-potato, you get hte hard-hitting growl of round 450 hp. The Red Baron is highly modified, and there's no maneuver that it will shy away from. Without a doubt, it likes to fly as much as I do."
History of the Stearman
The Stearman Kaydet, a two-seater biplane introduced by Stearman Aircraft Division of Boeing in Wichita, Kansas, in 1934, became an unexpected success during World War II. Its simple, rugged construction made it ideal as a primary trainer for new American and some British pilots.
The Stearman has fabric-covered wooden wings, single-leg landing gear and an over-built welded-steel fuselage. Only radial engines were used. Between 1936 and 1944, Boeing build 8,584 Stearman Kaydets.
Stearman Kaydets were the most popular primary trainer during World War II by both the Navy and Army Air Corps, and the trainers were also sold to Canada, China, the Philippines, Venezuela, Argentia and Brazil for both military and civilian uses. Many were still in service in the early 1990s. Their slow, low-level flying capabilities made them particularly suitable for crop dusting and spraying.
Classification - Trainer
Power Plant - 220-HP Continental R-670-5 piston radial engine
Wingspan - 32' 2"
Length - 24' 3"
Gross Weight - 2,717 lbs
Top Speed - 186 mph
Cruise Speed - 106 mph
Range - 505 miles
Service Ceiling - 11,200'
North American SNJ-5 Texan
Our Texan, Smoke 'n Noise, was built for the Navy and used as an advanced trainer for U.S. pilots during World War II. It was trainer #9 at Brunswick Navy Base, a large blimp station in Georgia.
Following the war, it was sold to Mexico and there it spent the next 12 years as a trainer and used in missions. After it's tour of duty completed, it returned to the U.S. and was used for flight instruction near Leadville, Colorado. We purchased it in 2006 and have enjoyed making smoke and noise since.
Brian's Comments: “The Texan feels just like the front-line fighters of its day. It’s loud and agile and will take anything you throw at it. It also has attitude and will test your piloting skills. For instance, you get very little warning before it breaks into a snap roll. But, the moment of truth comes as you close the throttle all the way and raise the nose in the flare... and the runway disappears. It’s guaranteed that every flight in Smoke ‘n Noise will be an adventure.”
History of the Texan
The Texan was the U.S. military's advanced trainer from 1938 through the 1940s and primary trainer in the 1950s. It is considered the most successful training aircraft ever designed, earning its title, the Pilot Maker. Over 15,000 of the same basic design were produced, with 350 still flying today. In all, the T-6 trained several hundred thousand pilots in 34 countries over a period of 25 years.
The SNJ-5 Texan is the same as the Army Air Corps AT-6 Texan, except for the paint scheme and tail hook for Navy carrier landing training. During that time, it was also called the Harvard when used by the British Royal Air Force. The AT-6 (advanced trainer) was designed as a transition between basic trainers and first-line tactical aircraft. Though most famous as a trainer, the T-6 also won honors in World War II and in the early days of the Korean War.
Not as fast as a fighter, it was easy to maintain and repair, had more maneuverability and was easier to handle. A pilot's airplane, it could roll, loop, spin, snap and vertical roll. It was designed to give the best possible training in all types of tactics, from ground strafing to bombardment and aerial dogfighting. It contained such versatile equipment as bomb racks, blind flying instrumentation, gun and standard cameras, fixed and flexible guns, and just about every other device that military pilots had to operate.
Classification - Trainer
Power Plant - 600-HP Pratt & Whitney R-1340-AN-1 radial engine
Wingspan - 42'
Length - 29' 5"
Height - 11' 8 1/2"
Gross Weight - 5,300 lbs
Armament - 2 fixed-forward .30 cal guns, 1 flex-mount .30 cal rear cockpit gun
Top Speed - 205 mph
Cruise Speed - 170 mph
Range - 750 miles
Service Ceiling - 21,500'
Champion 7FC Tri-Traveler (Tri-Champ)
Rachel's Comments: “Other pilots look at the Tri-Champ and scratch their heads when they realize it’s not a Tri-Pacer. ‘Why would they do that to a Champ?’ they ask. I just point to the cute-as-a-button landing gear as my answer. The Tri-Champ is fun on tricycle wheels, and with burning only five gallons per hour, a heck of a lot of hours of fun can be had.”
The Tri-Champ is the rare, oft forgotten stepchild of the Aeronca Champ. In 1957, Champion brought out the 7FC, with its unique tricycle landing gear arrangement. Cessna ended its production of the 140 in 1951 and switched to the tricycle gear 150 in the mid 50's. Champion wanted to compete for flight schools and added the nose wheel to the Champ. Production ran from 1957 until 1962, and only 472 were built. No United States military use of the Champion 7FC is known.
Its “no bounce” oleo landing gear system made flight training easier, but the nose wheel was prone to buckle upon hard landings. Similar to other Champs, the 7FC used heel brakes. One distinctive feature of the Tri-Champ is its sensitivity to gusty winds. The tricycle gear sits the Champ fuselage higher, causing the 7FC to flip over with strong quartering crosswinds, requiring careful and slow taxiing.
Classification - Standard
Crew - two (1 pilot, 1 passenger)
Power Plant - Continental C-90-2-F 90 HP reciprocating engine
Fuselage - fabric-covered steel tube
Wingspan - 35’ 2”
Length - 21’ 8”
Gross Weight - 1,450 lbs
Service Ceiling - 15,500’
Cruise Speed - 100 mph
Rate of Climb - 700 fpm
Range - 450 miles
Fuel Consumption - 5 GPH
Takeoff Roll - 840 feet
Landing Roll - 400 feet
Rachel's Comments: “While the Stinson is a little rough around the edges, we see a lot of spunk hidden under years of dust. Someday, the Stinson will fly again and with a shiny new coat of paint – desert pink of course.”
History of the Stinson Model 108
The Stinson 108 was a popular general aviation aircraft produced by the Stinson division of the Consolidated Vultee airplane company, from immediately following World War II until 1950. It was developed from the pre-war Model 10A Voyager. All Stinson model 108 aircraft were built by Stinson at Wayne, Michigan. Stinson sold the type certificate to Piper Aircraft in 1948, and the remaining 325 airplanes of the 5,260 model 108's were sold as the Piper-Stinson over the next few years. Piper later sold the type certificate to Univair who built only one 108-5. No United State military use of the Stinson model 108 is known.
One distinctive feature was the partial leading edge slot installed on the wings and aligned with the ailerons on the trailing edge, ensuring that the portion of the wing containing the aileron remains unstalled at higher angles of attack, thus contributing to docile stall behavior. The 108-2 is the same as the original model except it has a right-side cargo door on the fuselage, a larger engine, and an in-flight adjustable rudder trim. 1252 108-2’s were built.
Crew: four (1 pilot, 3 passengers)
Power Plant: 185 HP Lycoming O-435 reciprocating engine
Fuselage: fabric-covered steel tube
Wingspan: 34’ 0”
Length: 25’ 3”
Gross Weight: 2,400 lbs
Service Ceiling: 13,000’
Top Speed: 133 mph
Cruise Speed: 120 mph
Range: 500 miles
Fuel Consumption: 10 GPH
Takeoff Roll: 620 feet
Landing Roll: 290 feet