Off the Assembly Line
Stinson Nine-Seven Mike, manufactured by the Stinson Division of the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation, Van Born Road, Wayne, Michigan received its airworthiness certificate on January 16, 1948. The Application for Airworthiness, signed by "R. J. Hendrickson, Chief Inspector" and the original Computed Weight and Balance sheet, prepared by "J. Sherwood" and approved by "M. Koski" include these facts:
Serial Number: 108-4197 Engine: Franklin 6A4-165-B3 Engine Serial Number: 31976 Empty Weight: 1320 pounds Gross Weight: 2400 pounds
Stinson Voyager production records, obtained from Univair, indicated that 97M was delivered with standard equipment and was a Flying Station Wagon model. The records show that the original color was maroon.
A New England Start
On March 8, 1948, Portland Flying Service, Inc. of Pittsfield, Maine became the first owner of 97M. That did not last long, because on the very next day the plane was sold to Doane's Airport, Inc., 133 Elm Street, South Brewer, Maine, owned by George R. Sailor. The bill of sale was signed by H. F. Troxel, President of Portland Flying Service. (5)
George Sailor had purchased two new Stinsons, NC6059M and NC6197M, to establish a Stinson dealership in early 1949. Apparently, Mr. Sailor's company underwent a few transitions - and so ownership of 97M was transferred from Doane's Airport, Inc. to Eastern Maine Flying Service on October 9, 1949 and to Penobscot Aviation, Inc. on July 14, 1950. As far as I can tell, these three organizations were all based at the Doane's Airport in South Brewer and all associated with George Sailor.(1) Stinson and its assets were purchased by Piper shortly after 97M was initially purchased by Sailor, and the Stinson Division of Consolidated Vultee was dissolved. So much for the Stinson dealership. 6197M was flown very little in hopes of a resale. NC6059M (serial 108-4059) is still on the FAA registry and owned by Paul D. Steck, Jeremy Hill, Pelham, New Hampshire 03076. Mr. Steck has owned 59M since May 16, 1979.
In the spring of '49, there was an apparent mishap that required repair to the outboard left wing. The repair, including recovering with Grade A fabric "from the landing light to the wing tip", was completed on May 26, 1949.
I'm fortunate to have a vintage photograph of NC6197M from August 21, 1949. The photo was taken at the Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton, Maine by Lowell Youngs, a staff photographer for the Bangor Daily Commercial. The occasion was a breakfast flight of twelve planes and 23 individuals from Brewer to Bar Harbor which was covered by the press. (2) Standing in front of the plane is a very young Ralph Mower, who later retired as an American Airlines pilot. The photo was sent to me by Norman Houle, a retired Delta pilot, who in 1949-50 managed the FBO at the Doane's Airport for George Sailor. Norm had asked Ralph to fly the airplane with the newspaper people. I contacted Ralph Mower and he wrote to tell me that the plane was new at the time he flew it, and was painted maroon with cream trim. "It was a nice airplane to fly being brand new at the time. I enjoyed it." (3)
I'm very grateful to Mr. Houle for locating me and sending that photograph, my only photo of 97M as an almost new airplane.(4) The photo shows that the plane was equipped at that time with an Aeromatic propeller. The Koppers Aeromatic propeller was not original equipment. It was installed on June 24, 1949, replacing the original Senenich 76JR-53 fixed pitch wood propeller and spinner. Also, during this time (7/18/49), a flare kit was installed on the back of the right front seat. (6) The flare kit consisted of:
In July of 1950, a Form 337 was submitted to allow a modified Aeronca Sedan Stretcher to fit the 108-3, with the right seats and seat supports removed. It looks like 97M did a little ambulance work. During that same month, a repair was made to the left wing tip and the rear spar extension. Probably using what was on hand, the spar extension was repaired "using reinforcing angles cut from Aeronca butt ribs." The wing was recovered to the number one rib with Grade A fabric and dope.
Norm Houle says that George Sailor sold 97M in late 1950 to a "man in down east Maine." The bill of sale and registration lists that new owner as Laura C. Ketchen of Princeton, Maine. The date of sale was July 14, 1950. Less than a year later, on June 22, 1951, ownership was transferred to Newport Flying Service, Inc., Municipal Airport, Millinocket, Maine. An Aircraft Inspection Report dated 8/11/52, reported that the aircraft and engine had been operated for 632.05 hours. More than a year later, on 10/5/53, an Inspection Report stated that total time was 590 hours - an unexplained error?
On May 11, 1953, Bar Harbor Airways, Inc., Trenton, Maine purchased the plane. It was registered by Thomas Caruso, Vice President. Joseph Caruso was listed as President on the bill of sale, when, the following year, on June 22, 1954, the plane was purchased by Skymeadow Airfield, Inc., Orleans, Mass. Willard E. Ketchen registered the plane as President of Skymeadow. It looks like the plane may have already been in the family a couple of years prior under the name Laura C. Ketchen.
On 9/20/54 the Aeromatic propeller and flare kit were removed. A Narco VHT-2 Superhomer radio, antenna, antenna cables, audio cable and jacks, and a McCauley 1A170-7654 were installed. Empty weight was recorded as 1349 pounds. On July 20, 1955 the plane received a 100 hour inspection, the wheel bearings were repacked, and repairs were made to both doors by George W. Blanchard, A&E 55212. My airframe and engine log books begin with this 100 hour inspection on July 20, and the log book lists the owner as Sky Meadow Airfield. I have not been able to locate log books from 1948 to 1955. On 9/2/55 the plane was inspected for re-certification. The elevator and rudder tab horns were rebushed and reinforced and the rudder was repaired above the trim tab. The mechanic was Ralph W. Beasley, Jr.. A&E 14702.
The plane was sold on September 6, 1955 to Robert Eldridge of Brewster, Massachusetts. On October 15, 1956, a new tachometer was installed. Total time at the point was recorded as 1223 hours. Fabric on the inboard two thirds of the top left wing was also installed then. On 12/19/57 the log reads, "Non-vented battery installation removed and battery & box installed (new). Birds nest removed from inboard wing fairing... AD's 1967-57:24 C/W. Routine maintenance. Fabric test minimum green on right wing." The work was done by Gordon Harper, AE 237352, of Lang Beechcraft.
On to a Flying Club in Missouri
Eldridge kept the plane for more than two years and sold the plane to the Wing Flying Club, Grain Valley Airport, Grain Valley Missouri. When the Wing Flying Club applied for registration on December 24, 1957, Wayne Hagler was President of the club. When they sold the plane on March 13, 1963, Kenneth L. Smith was President.
The engine received a partial overhaul in February 1959. The log book is not clear because of water damage, but some of the words are legible: "Cylinders and valves reconditioned by factory - new piston, pins, plugs, cam..." At the same time, the right front lift strut was replaced due to chafing from the fairing at the lower end. Tach time at that point was listed as 759 hours. The plane was inspected by Frank E. Winter, A&P 693874. A Fram PB-5 oil filter was installed on the firewall on 3/14/59. On 2/6/60, the brakes and inside wheel halves were replaced and the Fram oil filter was replaced with an "automotive type".
The plane flew a lot in 1959 and 1960, as the inspection on March 18, 1961 indicated a tach time of 1047.87 hours. The top of the wings and the fuselage were recovered "per CAM 18 using 2 1/2" pinked tape and 8" tape on leading edge. Fabric finished with 4 coats CAB clear dope, 4 coats aluminum CAB dope, and 2 coats Acme enamel". The mechanic was James Flanagan of Independence, Missouri. A log entry on May 15, 1962 states. "Install new windows back rear, patched s. small holes in wing." The plane was inspected on that date by William Manchester.
The engine received major work again on 12/10/62. With 1230 on the tach and 1871 since a major overhaul, a major overhaul was accomplished. The log reads, "Engine overhauled. Installed new piston pins, pistons, intake and exhaust valves, rod and main bearings, new rings, new cam bearings and followers. All new seals & gaskets. All steel parts magnafluxed. Installed new valve guides and seats. Overhaul carburetor. Flushed oil cooler."
On March 13, 1963, the Wing Flying Club sold the plane to Frank L. Ellis of Garden City, Missouri. On 3/28/63, the engine and airframe were inspected and total time was reported as 1251 hours.
On September 12, 1964, Frank Ellis sold the plane to Stanley E. Gunnels, Box 223, Adrian, Missouri. Gunnels would own the plane for more the 11 years, a new "long time" record for 97M. The airframe and engine received an inspection on 11/14/1964 and would not be inspected again until June of 1967. After that, the plane was inspected annually until it was sold on January, 1976. An EBC 102A ELT was installed on the left side panel above the pilot's leg position on 9/25/76.
To Kansas, Texas, and Florida
On 10/25/74, Total Time to Date was corrected to be tach time plus 641 hours, and a reference was made to see the log book entry for 10/15/56 when the tachometer was replaced. Total time was now listed as 2178.0 hours. A new right muffler from Univair was installed by A&P Tom Winters. The plane was inspected in November of 75 and then sold to Bruce Ponder of Augusta, Kansas on January 18, 1976.
The plane was not inspected again until February 1, 1977, just before being sold to Mary M. Latimer of Vernon, Texas. (Mary Latimer is listed on FAA records as owner of two others Stinsons.) New Bendix mags were installed, a dent was repaired in the right wing tip and the left elevator tip. Mary Latimer sold the plane a year later (after an inspection on February 1, 1978) to Kent Elliot of Lakeland, Florida. The bill of sale was dated February 18, 1978, but Elliot did not apply for registration until April of '78. His address was later listed as 5203 Bayshore Blvd. #7, Tampa Florida.
There are no entries in the airframe log from 1978 until 1986, when it was re-certified in Florida by George Heinley, a well known Franklin Engine specialist. The last engine overhaul was in 1982 by George Heinley.
97 Mike Comes to Maryland
My wife and I became the 16th registered owners of '97M in September of 1986. We bought it (for $8750.00) shortly after our daughter was born and we needed more seats than provided by the Aeronca Champ we owned at the time. After seeing an ad in Trade-A-Plane, I took a commercial flight to Orlando, then rented a car and drove to Lake Francis, Florida. My first flight in 97M, on 8/31/86, was logged as a "demonstration flight" off of the grass strip at Lake Francis. The plane was owned by Bill and Debbie Snavely, though it was still registered under the name of Kent Elliot. Bill and Debbie had taken over the operation of George Heinley’s shop in Lake Francis, when Heinley retired to Texas, and would later take over the National Stinson Club from George Leamy. It appears that N6197M came with Heinley’s shop. When we bought it, the plane had a fresh coat of paint (white with red trim) and just a few hours since the George Heinley overhaul. The logs were a little sketchy about the history of the last cover job and there were no 337 forms to be found, but it was clear that there was Ceconite on the airframe. The paint scheme was similar to one on the Snavely's 220 HP 108-3, so I suspect they did the paint work. The low-time George Heinley overhauled engine, as well as the low price, were selling points. If I were to do it today, I would be more careful about the paperwork, but - hey - that was over twenty years ago and I was young, on a tight budget, and fairly new to aircraft ownership.
I paid expenses for the Snavely's to deliver the Stinson to Maryland. Initially, we based the Stinson at Davis Airport, Laytonsville, Maryland, owned and operated by Mina Paille. During '86 I purchased the Petersen Aviation STC for use of auto fuel and installed an EBC-102A ELT transmitter in the baggage compartment (The ELT installed in 1976 was gone). During 1987 I installed a new spinner, new seat belts, and Cleveland brakes. I installed a communications antenna to use with a handheld radio on the cowling just ahead of the windshield center post, replaced the right rear wing strut after discovering a large dent filled with body putty (!), replaced the fuel gauge sending unit, the altimeter, and the instrument panel overlay. In 1988 I replaced the oil temp gauge, added an electric turn coordinator, and had the airspeed indicator overhauled. I also installed an STS C-110 Loran, a Narco AT-150 transponder, and an ACK encoder. The airplane was weighed and a new weight and balance calculation was completed after the avionics installation. Empty weight was now 1383.4 pounds.
July 30, 1987, Chardon, Ohio.
October 18, 1987. Daughter Joanna has all of the required traveling equipment.
On July 23, 1989, I moved the plane to the Frederick, Maryland Airport. I had been on the waiting list for a hangar at FDK, and a slot finally came up. The Stinson now lived in Hangar #9.
Fall, 1993. Co-pilot Andy with the Stinson in the original Hangar 9. Notice the dirt floor - the Stinson did not benefit from luxurious accomodations.
Over the next few years, 97M did a lot of local airport hopping. We attended fly-ins in the Mid-Atlantic Area: Horn Point, Winchester, Shenandoah Valley, Kentmoor, Wilmington, College Park. There were several trips to Easton, Maryland to visit relatives and vacation flights to the Delaware shore. I flew out to Cleveland to visit a friend (and from there headed to Oshkosh by car) and flew the family to the Columbus, Ohio area to visit friends. I flew to up-state New York to visit a friend for lunch - now that was what owning your own plane was for!.
August 30, 1993 - Traveling kids - Son Andy joins daughter Joanna.
In 1991 I installed new landing gear to fuselage fairings from Univair and fabricated new landing gear and wing strut fairings. A new left rear lift strut from Univair replaced one damaged by chafing from the old strut fairings. I located original metal wheel pants in California and modified them to clear the Cleveland brakes.
October 16, 1993. Davis Airport, Laytonsville, Maryland
In May of 1993, while pulling the plane out of the hangar, I noticed that the tail spring was moving in its mount. Poking around, I found rust in lower longerons, tailpost, and tailwheel attach fittings. There was no choice but to remove fabric around the tailwheel area and begin repair work. With the help of A&P Tom Young, the necessary repairs were made. Tom did the major welding and fabrication of the tailwheel attach point, while I did some minor welding, the fabric work, and the re-assembly. At this time, I also installed a new tailwheel spring and a Scott 3200 tailwheel and made repairs to the rudder. Tom supervised my work and submitted the 337.
September 19, 1993 - Alexandria Airport, Pittstown, New Jersey
On September 19, 1993, I flew to the Alexandria Airport, Pittstown, New Jersey for an EAA Fly-In. My son Andy, aged three at the time, was with me. During the flight, some of the fabric tape around the left fuel tank separated, and some folks at the airport helped me make temporary repairs so I could get back to Davis Airport. I had been keeping the plane at Davis since September 9 so they could paint the hangar at Frederick. I made some more repairs to the fabric around the fuel tank at Davis, and flew it to Frederick on October 16. That would be my last flight for several years. I was about to embark on a total restoration.
(1) Doane's Airport became known as the Brewer Airport, and still exists today. It is a semi-abandoned 1800 foot grass strip with two large hangers in disrepair and a pair of open front T-hangers. A dozen or so planes are based there, some in non-flying condition. Three non-airworthy Vietnam era helicopters were parked there when I visited in July of 1996 - but there were no people. It was like a ghost town, with "No Trespassing" signs and a chain stretched across the entrance.
It appears that Doane was the family name for the original property owners of the airport now known as the Brewer Airport. F.W. Doane & Co. was listed in an 1891 directory of businesses in the Bangor area, at the Elm Street location in South Brewer. (Bacon, George F., Bangor: It's Points of Interest and its Representative Business Men Including an Historical Sketch of Brewer, Glenwood Publishing Co., Newark N.J., 1891)
George Sailor died on August 8, 1984 at the age of 71. He was 36 years old in 1949 when he was trying to establish the Stinson dealership. An obituary appeared in the Bangor Daily News, August 9, 1984. It states that Sailor moved to Orono in 1937 and to Bangor in 1963. The article mentions that he "worked for the Coastal Agency in Brewer for several years" but makes no mention of his aviation endeavors.
(2) The now defunct Bangor Daily Commercial included an article and two photographs of the Sunday breakfast flight to Bar Harbor in its August 22, 1949 edition, page 9. The first photo is an arial view of the Bar Harbor Airport, with the headline "Goal of Sunday Breakfast Pilots." The photo shows four or five light planes that were part of the flight on the ground at Bar Harbor, as well as a DC-3 and a PBM "used to transport lobsters all over the U.S." The second photo, taken from 97M by Lowell Youngs, shows the "sister ship" to 97M, Stinson NC6059M, in the air. Piloting 59M was Norman Houle, "Chief Pilot at Doane's", with passengers Gloria Haney, Earl Ingalls, and Roy Colford, all of Brewer. 97M was piloted by Ralph Mower and passengers included Edward Cox, the reporter for the Commercial, photographer Lowell Youngs, and Mrs. Youngs. The article, headlined "Light plane Pilots and Guests Journey to Bar Harbor for Sunday Breakfast: Maine's Beauty Revealed From Air", described the flight of twelve airplanes and the twenty-three participants. It mentions that "the group was joined shortly after its arrival [at Bar harbor] by Kent Hassen of Old Town, who flew down in his Stinson station wagon, accompanied by Herbert Robbins of Bangor". I spoke with Robert A. Cossette, Airport Manager at Bar Harbor in July of 1996. He described the airport in its early days, and showed me photos of the airport as it appeared in the mid and late '40's. The small Quonset huts that appear just behind 97M in the 1949 photo were torn down, along with the old terminal building and hangar, when the terminal was relocated in 1978.
(3) Letter from Ralph Mower, February 6, 1996. Mower retired from American Airlines in 1985. Mower had checked his old log books to establish the date of the 1949 photograph, which enabled me to locate the 1949 newspaper article. Mower incorrectly reported that the photograph was taken by a photographer for the Bangor Daily News rather than the Bangor Daily Commercial. Still, a pretty good memory after 47 years! I received a note from Mower's daughter in 2002 saying that her Dad had passed away.
(4) Norm Houle now lives in New Hampshire and flies a Piper Warrior for pleasure. He called me on September 3, 1996 after seeing the 1949 photo of 97M in the August 1996 issue of Vintage Airplane magazine. He provided a few more details about the early history of 97M.
(5) Harold F. Troxel was involved in preparations for a failed transalntic flight, an interesting side note to the history of NC6197M. On August 28, 1939, Thomas H. Smith set off to cross the Atlantic in a modified Aeronca 65-C. Though wreckage of the Aeronca was later found in Newfoundland, Smith was never seen again. For more details, see Phil Mosher's web page about Tommy Smith's Transatlantic Attempt.
(6) The installation of the flare kit was an early example of misguided federal aviation policy. I've been told that the flares were required for single engine aircraft involved in night air taxi operations. The idea was that in the event of an engine failure at night, the flares would illuminate a landing area. Though intended as a safety feature, it turned out that the primary result of the mandate was an increase in forest fires. I've also been told that the flares were known for "uncommanded" ignition, with the result that a number of planes and hangars were destroyed by fire.