My First Stearman Fly-in

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I don’t mean to mislead but I’m not talking about the annual get-together in Galesburg, IL or even the end of season gathering in Jennings or any dozens of other fly-ins where more than one Stearman would be in attendance.  No, I’m talking about the first time ever that a couple of us got together as a brand new group of people.  We’ve created something new.

 There are quite a few Stearmans in Texas.  Whether it’s the near year round flying weather or crop-dusters left over from years past that have been restored to their former glory or the fact that over 6 million people live in my metropolitan area alone…law of large numbers says there has to be a couple Stearmans around, right?  Well the law of large numbers also says that one day I’ll open up my dryer and all my laundry will be folded.  But I digress.

 There are a number of us in the area so we thought it would be handy to have all of us in one spot.  I equate a private Facebook group to an old school phone tree.  All of us in one place, electronically speaking, though we’re spread out across the great state of Texas.  The winter season didn’t lead to much flying, I really wanted to do a polar bear flight until I actually flew the aircraft when it was only 45º out and suddenly it didn’t seem like a good idea anymore.  But in February on a warmer day I accepted an invitation to an airpark south of Fort Worth where two Stearman owners and pilots make their nest and boom, three of us in one place with Stearmans.  I’m calling it!  Officially our first meet up!  We feasted on a meal of burgers from what could generously be described as a trailer the size of a fishing shanty but the cook is an honest to goodness CIA graduate and master chef.  (the other CIA, he’s not a spy).

 Couple things neat about having 3 Stearmans in one place – one Stearman is awesome, three is like, 10 times more awesome.  They’re all different.  People have different touches or things on the plane that no one else has.  It’s like attending a custom car show.  See a dozen 1931 Fords and they’re all unique.  One of my new friends keeps his exhaust shroud polished.  Looking at the state of my own I resolved to polish mine and a rainy week gave me that chance.  Honestly hadn’t crossed my mind until I saw Bob’s.  Everyone has their own idea for a GPS mount; some have kept wartime original touches that were lost in the conversion to duster and back.  We all have radios these days and how they are mounted and installed varies across all the aircraft.  I spend a lot of time working on my plane and sometimes you can lose sight of the forest for the trees.  What I mean is I look at my plane and see projects; clean this, fix that, replace that screw, polish this, oil change coming due, touch up paint, and the list goes on.  I look at the other aircraft and I see a whole Stearman in all its beauty.  Helps me appreciate my own I think.  We can share tips and tools and secrets, even the simplest things.  One guy asked my how I tow the plane and I showed him a photo, then he asked how well it worked with my tow rings on the gear being angled.  Angled?  No, they spin.  Mine are attached with castle nuts and a cotter pin to safety it but they aren’t super tight, they are loose enough to spin around so there are no weird loads on the towbar or landing gear.  His were installed with locking nuts tight and has been that way since restoration.  Easy fix for him and not a terribly big deal but only because we got together would that ever have been figured out!  Sometimes you just don’t think about these things.  Little things you take for granted or simply live with because that’s the way it is get brought to light in a gathering like this.  Like a tow ring or polished exhaust shroud.

 Hopefully as the season warms up we will be able to do some formation flying and get more burgers.  Rumor is he does the best breakfast burrito in Texas.  Maybe meet up and visit some grass strips nearby or show up en masse for a pancake breakfast fly-in and blow some minds when a bunch of warbirds rumble in.  In the end, like I’ve said before, it’s all about the people.  Whether it is Stearmans or Swifts we would find each other to socialize and become friends.  The airplane isn’t an excuse to go flying.  Who the heck needs an excuse to go flying?!?  We don’t bring the airplanes together, they bring us together.

 -Nate Perlman

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