Stearman History 

 

The Stearman and it's origin

The origins of the Stearman bi-plane model 75 trainer began with the model X-70, born in 1933, and which flew for the first time on January 1, 1934. Developed from the model C, the model 70 was named after Lloyd Carlton Stearman (1898-1975) an American aviator and aircraft designer who was originally from Wellsford, Kansas. He had been working in a partnership between 1925-27 with Walter Beech and Clyde Cessna in a company called Travel Air Manufacturing Company before building his own, the Stearman Aircraft Co.

 

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 The X-70 was a military trainer from its inception.

The company operated from Wichita under its own name until April 1938 when Boeing stepped in and created the Stearman Aircraft Division. From 1939 the Kansas plant constructed legions Model 75s.
Nobody could foresee that the Stearman would be built in greater number than any other American biplane.

Before the war Stearmans were mainly belonging to the elite of rich and famous, for hauling mail or sold to oil comapnies.

Just before and during the war until 1945 more than 8,600 primary trainers were produced for the US armybut also the British army and its whole empire. Of very simple and rough construction, difficult to master therefore perfect for training, the PT-17 Kaydet was called the "yellow peril" because of its difficult ground handling and landing characeristics. It was said if one could land a Stearman one could almost certainlymaster any other aircraft without any problem. Many people don't know that most WW II combat pilots, achieving their glorious exploits on Mustangs, Spitfires, Lancaster etc. had in fact, taken their first lessons and been trained as cadets in the cockpit of a Stearman. Only very talented pupils were accepted, some of which had not even driven car before but that were expected to solo after only 6 hrs with a tandem seat instructor.

 

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The Stearman Kaydet was originally referred to be the only American airplane standardised for both the US army and US Navy. The PT-13 (army) was blue with yellow wings and the 2S-4 (navy) yellow. From '42 there was no time left to spend on those specific colours and the standard colour became silver. For a while even the red circle disappeared because too many of our "own" aeroplanes were shot down.

Special design colours were produced for those sent to China (Nationalist Chinese markings) and Canada, Peru Philippines etc.

After the war a less prestigious and a very different life started for them, transformed to crop dusters and sprayers when most of them were sold as surplus by the army. Some got the chance to survive in higher standards exhibited in air-shows.

In February 45 the last Stearman was built at Boeing Wichita. In all some 8,585 model 70-76 were produced from '33-'45 (grand total of 10 346 ref pic.). On Jan 1949 4233 were on the civil register, 1969 only 3000...

Twenty years later at the end of their dusting careers pushed out by environmentalists only 2000 were left. Enthusiastic antique aircraft collectors gave a new life to the old biplane restoring them to their former distinguished looks, as they were then, cheap to buy and easy to maintain due to all the spare parts still available.

As one can see, Stearmans have been and still are famous in the public's eye. Those antique hand-crafted airplanes prove to be timeless, remaining popular more than ever.

In recognition of his contributions to the aircraft industry, Lloyd Stearman was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio in July 1989.

 
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 Reference and pictures:

Stearman Aircraft "A Detailed History" E.Phillips

Stearman "A Pictorial History" J.Avis and M.Bowman

 

   
   
   
   

 


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