If It Ain’t Boeing, I Ain’t Going

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But I thought it was a Stearman?  Yes, but no not really.   It’s definitely a Boeing, but listen up.


Lloyd Stearman, born 1898, worked as an architect after WWI before becoming a mechanic at Laird Aircraft in 1919.  Laird sold the company to some of its employees in 1923 and became Swallow Aircraft Company with Stearman as its head engineer.  In 1924 Walter Beech left Swallow and took his head engineer with him.  Stearman and Beech partnered with Clyde Cessna and formed Travel Air.   Stearman wanted to be his own boss and left Travel Air in 1926 and started Stearman Aircraft Incorporated in California.  They moved to Wichita in 1927 and built a new plant becoming Stearman Aircraft Corporation of Wichita on September 27, 1927.  In August of 1929 Stearman was acquired by a giant corporation called United Aircraft and Transport Company.  They owned several airlines known as United Airlines and also built engines and propellers as well as Boeing, Hamilton, Sikorsky and Vought airplanes.  The depression caused United to move and shuffle a lot of its companies around and although Stearman Aircraft Corp stayed in Wichita, it’s founder left in 1932.


In 1934 the US Government ruled United a monopoly and forced it to separate the airline and manufacturing companies.  The Boeing Airplane Company left United and took Stearman Aircraft with it as a wholly owned subsidiary.  The Stearman Division became the Wichita Division in 1941 but in a great show of brand loyalty all the aircraft built by Boeing with “Boeing” stamped on their data plates and “Boeing” on the sales certificates were still called “Stearmans” by nearly everyone associated with them.


These wartime trainers were all Stearman Model 75 aircraft.  Based on the Model 70 designed in 1933 purely as a military trainer the first Model 75s appeared in 1936.  As war in Europe became inevitable orders for the aircraft piled up.  Produced continuously until 1945 a total of 8,416 Model 75s are built and enough parts left on the production line to build another 1,918 more.  President George H.W. Bush learned how to fly in one of these, almost every other pilot of the war too.


My Stearman shows an assembly date of July, 1942.  The military history of the aircraft says she was ordered in 1943 or 1944 though, and went to California in May of 1944 to start training pilots for the Army.  Many different variants of the Stearman were built for the Army and Navy with different engine combinations and requirements of each branch.  Mine was a PT-13D which wore a Lycoming radial engine making 225 horsepower, this model being the first to be jointly accepted by the Army and Navy.  They left the factory painted grey with both branches markings on them and whichever branch got the plane would just paint over the other’s markings.  The Navy would eventually paint the airplane all yellow like the rest of their Stearmans.

 If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going

She bounced around California to different training schools until the end of the war, then went to Arizona for a couple years then Utah where she was sold as surplus in 1949.  After that the aircraft changed hands several times, becoming a crop duster in Florida in the 1950s.  When the Stearman was used as a crop duster, the front seat was removed and the hopper installed there.  The stock engine was also removed and replaced with a 450hp Pratt and Whitney.  Big and loud she burned a lot of gas but had the power to haul pilot and chemicals into the air all season.   She traveled the east coast changing owners between Florida and Virginia.  She stopped in Texas in the 1990s before being restored to her current state and moving to Missouri, which is where I met her.  Today the aircraft is done up like an N2S-3.  A Navy trainer designation she now wears a Continental engine making 220hp and a metal prop by McCauley as old as she is.  The green band on the wings and fuselage means it is an instrument trainer, though the Navy only used that green band early in the war, changing it to red later.

 If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going

With a history as rich and vast as the Stearman I’m proud to take my turn.  I hope to share this aircraft and her history with as many people as I can.    

-Nate Perlman

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