Rare Stearman Now Retired To Air Shows
The 1928 Stearman C3B mail plane has had a long, colorful
history. From mail plane to passenger plane to crop duster, the
rare aircraft has now been fully restored to its former glory at
its new home at Brodhead Airport in Brodhead, WI.
Mike Williams, a retired Delta Air Lines pilot, and Kent
McMakin, an aircraft restoration veteran, have taken the plane to
mint condition with plans of air show participation this
"It was a total rebuild of the airplane," Williams told the
A tip from the previous owner led him to McMakin and, after
seeing other planes McMakin had restored, "Then, I basically begged
Kent to take mine," he said.
First commissioned by Continental Airlines in 1928 for use as a
mail plane, Williams said, and was based in Blue Ash, OH flying
Civil Air Route 16 between Cleveland and Louisville, KY. It was
also converted to a crop duster at one time and eventually was
owned by five different airlines, including Delta and American
When Williams bought the
plane in 2003, it didn't have its original engine, he said, and the
team was lucky to find a very rare Wright J-5 engine.
"The engine cost twice as much as the airplane did," McMakin
said. "There were a lot of parts on there that weren't original,
and basically we were putting the plane back in stock factory
condition. What we can't find, we make."
According to the Times, there are maybe 14 C3B planes in
existence today. Williams' is reportedly the only one left
manufactured as the commercial version.
Williams managed to not only locate a picture of his plane taken
at an Atlanta airport air show in 1930, he also located former
Eastern Airlines mechanic, Bish Simpson, who remembered the plane
being painted black and orange.
For its air show debut, the Stearman won't have to go far.
Brodhead Airport hosts several fly-in events a year, including the
Hatz-Pietenpolin July and the Midwest Antique Airplane Club
Grassroots fly-in in September.
(Photo courtesy of EAA Chapter 431)