Piper project honors pipeline patrols

August 6, 2009

Jim Adams of Pontiac, Ill., just completed a five-and-a-half-year rebuild of the 1946 Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser that he’s owned since 1963, finishing the airplane just in time to fly it to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis. In an interesting twist he modified the airplane into a configuration that pipeline patrol pilots might have flown.

Until recently, Adams owned a 90-horsepower Super Cub that had been used by Gleason Romans Pipeline Patrol Co. of Tulsa, Okla., to patrol pipelines. “Nobody ever makes a point of pipeline patrol being a part of general aviation history,” Adams said. “That’s a good thing to pass along.”

His PA-12 carries the logo of the now-defunct company, which depicts a bee looking at a pipeline through binoculars. With its back legs, the mischievous bee is playing tic tac toe. “I love that logo so much, I decided I had to put these together,” he said. “[Gleason Romans] did use PA-12s so it wasn’t a stretch.”

Modifications that Adams made to the airplane included the addition of vortex generators, flaps, disc brakes, a skylight, larger windows, and wingtip and beacon-replacement strobes. “I’m slow,” noted the retired Delta Air Lines pilot who has always maintained connections to GA. The airplane also has an extensively modified instrument panel; Adams had the original instruments refurbished and installed a Garmin GNS 396. “I may be the only PA-12 in the world with color weather radar,” he laughed.

Adams didn’t expect the rebuild—his first—to take as long as it did. “It didn’t look bad on the outside,” he said, “but we opened it up and it looked awful.” The original metal wing ribs had been drilled, which was not allowed, and they all had to be replaced. Adams focused on updates that would increase safety and comfort, while maintaining the airplane’s original appearance.