For pilots seeking a tangible, open-cockpit connection to America’s greatest generation, the Boeing Stearman Model 75 Kaydet provides it. These brawny biplanes trained novice pilots during World War II, served as low-flying crop dusters from the 1950s through 1970s, carried wing-walkers in airshows, performed movie stunts, and the lucky ones have been restored to their gleaming glory.
They’ve been modified in countless ways for each of their specialized tasks, and they’ve been powered by a variety of radial engines ranging from 225-horsepower Continentals to 600-horsepower Pratt & Whitneys (although the 300-horsepower Lycoming with a constant-speed prop is regarded as the ideal combination). The most popular Stearman restorations harken back to their military roots as U.S. Army (PT–17) and Navy (N2S) models, usually with 225-horsepower Continental engines.
The Stearman’s high center of gravity, narrow landing gear, light wing loading, and lack of forward visibility in the landing attitude make takeoffs and landings particularly challenging. Military students also learned aerobatics, formation flying, and spins (both upright and inverted) in the open-cockpit aircraft.
Thousands of surplus Stearmans were sold in the late 1940s for laughably low prices of just a few hundred dollars. Pete Jones, owner of Air Repair in Cleveland, Mississippi, bought large amounts of surplus Stearman parts throughout the 1980s and 1990s and restored dozens of them to showplane condition. Rare Aircraft in Minnesota purchased Air Repair’s Stearman parts inventory in 2014 and now produces signature “Legend Stearman” models for collectors.
For pilots who value history; stick-and-rudder mastery; and the aesthetic feel, smell, and sound of aviation’s formative era, a Stearman is the genuine article.
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For more information contact the Stearman Restorers Association.