JUNE 10, 2010

1947 Stinson 108-2 ready for take-off on May 25 from the Morgan, Utah airport.


Charlie and Matt Pottenger proudly stand by the plane they restored and enjoyed.

Red 1947 Stinson Voyager

   As I stood alone on Morgan Utah’s high mountain runway and watched a beautiful red 1947 Stinson Voyager airplane rise into the sunny sky my heart flowed with two emotions, sadness and elation. I watched as the red slowly faded to a spot and the little plane I had just sold faded into the eastern sky carrying the happy new owner to its soon to be home in Kenly, North Carolina.

   My sadness was due to the six years I had toiled restoring that plane to better than new status from a skeleton and boxes and boxes of strange parts. The happiness was due to the check in my pocket that will help me restore another project that I have been doing for several years.

   The Stinson I watched fly away came to me as a project in 2004 when I answered an ad in a national aviation paper for a project Stinson 108-2 with a freshly overhauled 165 HP engine. It needed lots of work and would be a challenge, but I have always loved fabric covered airplanes and flying, so off to Illinois I went and got a project to fill the newly retired time.

   I arranged with a regional horse trailer dealer to pick up a new 26 foot stock trailer in Shenandoah, Iowa and to have its use to bring the project back to Idaho. Other than severe blizzard conditions along the way, the trip was uneventful and I soon dove into the work. 

   Much to my surprise my optimistic projections of finishing the restoration in about a year were soon impaled on the reality of my shortcomings. First, I found that buying a project in loose parts and boxes leaves a great void when there are no drawings or instructions available to help in the assembly.

   Second, since I am not a rated aircraft mechanic, a hurdle to obtain guidance and inspection services of properly rated mechanics continuously slowed progress. Also, finding parts for sixty-plus year-old airplanes requires lots of search and negotiating time.

   After five years, much of which was spent reinstalling electrical wires to serve all aircraft and instrument requirements, I learned that with no knowledge of where the original wires were run that I did many circuits multiple times until I finally had learned enough from others to recreate the proper wiring.

   In the spring of 2008 the entire plane was assembled, all radios and instruments were installed and functional, the brakes were replaced with modern equipment and all that was needed was a final coat of the special red paint and then a full final inspection from an FAA rated inspector. This is when the plane began to be called “Lucifer” because we did a devilish amount of work to correct my mistake.

   On that final coat for the cabin I made a mistake mixing the paint and failed to use the right catalyst. Two days after spraying that final, beautiful coat of red I was astonished to find it was still wet.  I called the factory and they gave me their condolences and several things to try. I did them all and the paint seemed OK.

   At that time, about June of 2008, I was unable to schedule a convenient FAA inspector and found through my son Matt, who lives in Utah, that his mechanic needed work and that they had a good FAA Inspector available. Deciding to push on, my sons Matt and Andy helped me remove the wings and load the bird on a trailer for a trip to Utah. There Matt and his mechanic and friend Joe Garfield planned to reassemble and inspect all of my work.

   In December I got the call that they weren’t satisfied that the cabin paint was properly cured and decided to cut off all the fabric on the cabin and start again.  Lots of cost, but quickly done and they had it all finished and flying in March.

   I first flew it in March. Matt also owns a Stinson and I was really happy to find this newly reconstructed ship was smoother and faster than his and all-in-all a great airplane. So, we renamed her “Lucy!

   Then last week I drove down and met the happy buyer who left me standing on that Morgan, Utah runway with a check in my pocket, the blessings of fine sons and lots of great memories.