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Sweepstakes: N number artSweepstakes: N number art

Tin Tail Numbers makes a Sweeps keepsake

Editor's note: This article was updated August 10 to correct the spelling of Tin Tail Numbers owner Mitch Osowski's name.
The inspiration for a new business can strike at some unusual times. But right after an airplane accident? Mitch Osowski was a passenger in a vintage Naval Aircraft Factory N3N-3 biplane on a summer evening in Minnesota when its radial engine quit, and the pilot made a forced landing in a farm field. No one was hurt but the airplane would have to be completely restored.
Pilot Briefing September 2020
Photography by Chris Rose

Osowski, owner of a sheet metal fabrication business in the Twin Cities, made a keepsake for the biplane pilot in the form of a metal sheet that re-created the damaged airplane’s N numbers. He fashioned a curved aluminum form, strengthened it with aircraft rivets, then faithfully reproduced the airplane’s original colors and markings. The finished product was a work of art, suitable for hanging in an office or hangar, and carried a personal connection for the recipient.

“The pilot seemed really touched by the gesture,” Osowski said. “He told me pilots often remember the N numbers of the airplanes they made their first solo flights in, or ones they’ve owned. Many N numbers themselves are personified with letters and dates that are personally meaningful, so recreating them seemed like a natural thing to do.”

The AOPA 2020 Sweepstakes RV–10’s N number is meant to highlight its horsepower (260) and people’s exuberant reaction to it (OMG!). When Osowski saw it, he sent a package to AOPA headquarters with a slightly downsized version in aluminum that had been painted to match. And even though he only had published photos—not paint samples—to go on, the red, black, and gold are indistinguishable from the real thing. The aluminum on the re-creation is much thicker than that used on a real RV–10. It’s made to last and the extra weight isn’t a consideration for a piece that’s not meant to fly.

Osowski’s company, Tin Tail Numbers, has created mementos that pilots treasure. The company sells through Sporty’s Pilot Shop and its own website. Retail prices start at $200.

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Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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