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Saturday, May 13, 2017

STEARMAN AIRCRAFT COMES TO SCOTTSDALE

A vintage Stearman PT-17 biplane aircraft arrived in Scottsdale recently and will eventually become a display piece hanging from the ceiling of the future Thunderbird Field II Plaza and Memorial at the Scottsdale Aviation Business Center.  The plane’s flight originated in Cotter, Arkansas and made several stops on its way to Scottsdale.

You may be wondering what the Stearman aircraft was.  I spent four years in the U. S. Air Force in the early to mid 1960’s and must confess that I never heard of it until this year when I read a great book called “Flight of Passage” written by a guy named Rinker Buck.  In that book, Mr. Buck recounts a trip he and his brother Kern made as teenagers in 1966 from New Jersey to California flying in a small unadorned Piper Cub aircraft.

Rinker and Kern’s father was an old time stunt pilot who flew many different planes including Stearmans in an earlier era and had been highly impressed with the crop duster pilots of the mid-west who he referred to as the “Stearmen men of the west.”  More about those guys momentarily but for now I’ll say that Rinker and Kern Buck discovered that some of those guys weren’t exactly the romantic heroes that Mr. Buck senior envisioned.

As far as the Stearman PT-17 Trainer, the company had quite a history after being founded by Lloyd Stearman in 1927 as the Stearman Aircraft Corporation.  Their factory was built in Wichita, Kansas and by 1934 the company was bought out by Boeing.  The PT-17 was a tough little plane and was usually the first aircraft a pilot in training would fly when becoming a U. S. Naval Aviator or Army Air Corps Cadet.

Although the U. S. Army Air Corps needed new bi-plane trainers by the mid 1930’s they were hampered by a lack of funds needed for purchasing them.  Fortunately, after the Navy’s purchase of some Stearmans in 1935, the Army was able to follow in 1936 with a purchase of 26 of their own.  By 1940, 3,519 Stearman trainers were delivered mostly because of the threat of World War II.  It was a popular plane as it was rugged, easy to fly, and very forgiving of new pilots which takes us back to the previously mentioned “Stearmen men of the west.”

Barb, me, and the Stearman
After landing their Piper Cub in Brinkley, Arkansas to get fuel and spend the night, Rinker and Kern got a reality check when they found that the so called “Stearmen men of the west” would never receive any awards for congeniality.   While being lauded by their father, the boys found that the crop dusters had no use for what they called “prettyboy pilots.”  To say those guys were obnoxious and ill mannered would be to give them credit.  They were far from having the great “Stearmen men of the west” label given to them by the boys’ father.

Later, the airport manager explained that a lot of those guys were rejects with bad accident histories, license violations, and poor medical histories who would never be hired by the military or any airlines.  In a word, they were “down and outers” doing crop dusting for a living to support their welfare checks.

Fortunately, the Stearman PT-17 that arrived in Scottsdale is in mint condition and before it is put on permanent display, it will be flown to various locations as a fund raising tool.

PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS BELOW.  THANKS!

23 comments:

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks for reading! Please leave comments here if you wish.

Jim McAllister said...

Nice airplane and the people don’t look too bad either. Thanks for the article.

Jim Johnson

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Jim.

Good to hear from you

Jim

Jim McAllister said...

As always, great article Jim!!

Greg

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Greg. Glad you enjoyed it. Those pilots of the past really had nerve to go up in those planes.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

Nice picture of you and Barb. You both look in good health. The plane looks pretty good also.

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Mike.

I'm looking OK for 76 I guess but how good can anyone look at that age? LOL I've managed to keep my weight in check so it helps a bit.

That was a cool little plane. They made great crop dusters after their military use. Those were some tough pilots in those days to go up in those things but they were damned dependable; they had to be to do crop dusting after their years of being trainers for the military.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

I worked out west of the Valley around Buckeye and Tonopah for years and remember seeing those crop duster planes spraying all the fields out there. Once in a while I would see one that had crashed in a field. It's a dangerous job.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

Very dangerous. Those guys are depicted in Rinker Buck's book as being really "down and outers" covered with sweat, grime, and insecticide. Definitely not a glory job.

Rick Kepple said...

Jimmy, my friend Nori Marie (first and middle) shared this of her husband's police car camera (six years ago) while engaged in a high speed pursuit on I-44 of a terrorist suspect after he tried to enter Fort Leonard Wood military base armed with an assault rifle. Nori said that she's been answering questions all morning ever since Fox News aired it. She teaches martial arts and has taught some of Hollywood's stuntmen. So her husband Curtis has to be one heck of an officer, huh? Stayed on that guy like glue for forty miles! https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLdRD98FtX-sfLRfgWHc4oqHDbxyEsk7hY&v=kb1PQVMYHtE

Rick Kepple said...

Jimmy, you look young for 76. I'm all gray. Be sixty in June and life is brief. I'm gonna run a studio, friends say they're taking me fishing and making more friends in the music industry. Very cool. The VA said to move to Colorado, with envy. Doc said, everyone dies sometime.

Here Jimmy. I don't know if I shared this with you or not. Hummingbirds and Dell Mack tunes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWDE0wcKasI

So Jimmy, did you ever take flying lessons? I have a friend, a former schoolmate, who flies for United. I'll bet the big airliners handle like a hydraulic brick compared to a Stearman.

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks for sending, Rick. Great stuff!

Jim McAllister said...

Rick, Yeah, the years fly by very quickly as we know. I remember when I thought anyone 76 was REALLY old; not so much now. It helps that I stay in pretty good physical shape and still have my hair but 76 is 76 no matter how I look at it.

I've never taken flying lessons but I did do 4 years in the USAF. I flew from New Jersey to Germany in 1963 on a USAF four engine prop plane. Quite an experience!

The Stearmans were tough little planes with the double open cockpit. Looks like something Snoopy would us to chase the Red Baron.

Jim McAllister said...

Dear Jim,

As usual, your latest blog is fascinating. I really enjoyed reading the history of the Stearman and about those crop dusters. It is wonderful that you had read the "Flights of Passage" book. I am sure you were glad you ran on to it. Love the picture of you and Barb by the Stearman - you should frame it!

We had family visitors over the Mother's Day weekend so I have been busy. This cooler weather is delightful!

Hope to see you and Barb soon!

Joy

Jim McAllister said...

Thanks, Joy.

I'm glad you liked the piece and I am especially glad you told me about the event as I may have missed it otherwise.

"Flight of Passage" is an excellent book and a real page turner. Those two kids flying west in that Piper Cub got quite a jolt of the "Stearman men of the west" after they landed in Brinkley, Arkansas. They were not quite the romantic guys they had hoped to meet. It was quite a dose of reality for them!

Thanks for the nice compliments. It was a fun day at the airport.

Rick Kepple said...

Hi Jimmy. I'm stressing or trying to decrease it, I should say. Trying to fathom the future of this nation is very tough on the blood pressure. Amazon music has a complete collection of SN music for no cost under Prime. I'll be jamming on the guitars today. No doubt. Cool.

The letter is hanging on the wall from President Obama thanking me for ideas, but still denying any belief in "predestiny" as he called it. When it's all done, Paul Ryan will be sworn in as President. Weed will be legal. Life will be good.

Jim McAllister said...

Rick,

I agree on the future of this nation. I've never seen so much consternation and confusion; it's almost like we are going third world.

I don't think we will ever see Paul Ryan as President. He has made a lot of enemies lately.

Mike Slater said...

Jim,

I agree with your thoughts on the future of this nation. It's certainly not the country we grew up in. Now the City of New Orleans is taking down the statures of Confederate war heroes. It seems they want to erase history they don't like.

I always wanted to go to New Orleans but now they're off my travel plans.

Jim McAllister said...

Mike,

I saw that yesterday about the statues in New Orleans. I was surprised; so much for "The South shall rise again." It sounds like they have given in to the damn liberals too. Sad.

Barb and I visited New Orleans in 1974. Had a nice time but will never return. Screw 'em.

Rick Kepple said...

Meanwhile in Missouri, Jen rescued a small alligator snapping turtle to release him in a nearby pond. She doesn't care about politics in the least or any of the things that concern us. She reminds me of SN in many ways.

And Jimmy, Speaker of the House is in line after VP. So Paul Ryan would automatically become POTUS if Pence resigned.

Jim McAllister said...

Oh, no! Not Ryan! Something tells me this may get interesting!

Steve Kloscak said...


Jim,
That Stearman reminded me of all the WWI model planes I built when I was a kid. Would have been a lot of fun to fly one of them.

Jim McAllister said...

Steve,

Yeah, it looked very similar to something Snoopy would pilot.

It's amazing to see that plane up close. Open air cockpit with a tail wheel, etc. They were great little trainers for a lot of pilots.

It was cool to be at the hangar when they taxied up. I may not have even known they were coming if not for the ladies of the DAR. Joy Wiseman had informed me of it. They are a great group of ladies.