Sunday, October 11, 2009
Stearman PT 17 WW1 Basic Trainer
This aircraft is probably my favorite trainer aircraft. Back in the 1960's I attended a model airplane contest featuring scale A/C. The model which most impressed me was a PT-17 from a Sterling kit. I knew at that moment that I just had to have one someday. Then in the 1980's Sterling under the leadership of the founder's son turned out a new production run of the old PT-17 kit. Building from a box of balsa was not that attractive to me at that time since I had just moved in to the old farm house in Russell with a thousand things to maintain and a barn half full with 3 horses, I had no time or place to build the big biplane. Luckily I did haave a good work friend who loved to build and was somewhat of a craftsman to boot, so I engaged him to construct the model for me. After a couple of years of waiting my Stearling was ready for flight. She flew straight as an arrow without any trim adjustments and to my delight landed with a constant sink rate and perfect flare. The big disappointment came when I walked up to her, it was then that I discovered that the landing gear had completely flattened out, even though the touchdown had been very gentle. When I tried to straighten the wheels I discovered to my horror that the wire reformed to it's original shape with almost no resistance. The wire was soft and not heat treated and it would have to be replaced. After much thought I came up with a practical repair which did not involve tearing apart the beautifully built structure. This repair which is far too complicated to describe here, involved pealing away the balsa wood strut fairings and attaching another reinforcing member fabricated from 5/32 music wire and fixing to the bulkhead at the wing leading edge via J bolts.
For a number of years I worked at Rockcliffe airbase home of Canada's Aviation Museum and on special occasions I treated myself to a ride.