Last of a Proud Pedigree
The 1920s and 1930s are considered by many to be aviation’s golden age. The airplane had proven it’s worth in the First World War and people looked at it very differently than they had prior to the conflict. The interwar years saw a great deal of rapid development in aircraft design and its related technologies; this was largely driven by the increasing number of uses people were finding for aircraft.
The Stearman company was a very prominent American name in aircraft through this period. The company designed and produced a range of sport and mail planes that were popular for their refined yet robust design qualities.
In the early 1930s, the company designed a trainer aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Force and the U.S. Navy. By 1934, when the aircraft first flew, Stearman had become a subsidiary to the Boeing company and the trainer was introduced to the world as the Boeing-Stearman Model 75.
The American Moth
In a similar fashion to how DeHavilland’s DH.60 series of aircraft had turned “Moth” into the household word for light aircraft among the British public, the Model 75 did the same for “Stearman” in the minds of Americans.
Unlike the DeHavilland machine, which was designed with civil flying primarily in mind, the Model 75 put the military first. However, both aircraft enjoyed very large production runs and worldwide popularity with those who flew them.
Just as almost every pilot in the British Commonwealth who served in the Second World War got his first taste of flying in a Tiger Moth, nearly every American pilot who flew in that conflict took to the air for the first time in a Stearman.
Just like the Tiger Moth, thousands of Stearmans were sold to the public as surplus at the end of hostilities.
Life After War
While the Stearman, being a biplane, was of little interest to the post war militaries of large countries, the type did see significant post war service in the air arms of many smaller nations.
The Stearman’s success in civilian life largely speaks for itself, it’s easily one of the most instantly recognizable biplane designs ever built due in large part to its extensive use in films and the high number that remain airworthy and on airshow circuits around the world.
Highly acrobatic and usually brightly painted, a Stearman is an eye catching and consistently crowd pleasing aircraft at any airshow it attends. Whether it’s trailing smoke to make designs in the sky, performing acrobatics or being used as a platform for a wing walker; a Stearman gets the crowd’s attention.
Beyond such public appearances, the aircraft has turned its hand to a variety of other rolls in civilian life including agriculture, racing, transport, aerial photography and much more.
The good news for us is that this popular and well loved airplane has a very dedicated infrastructure of restoration and maintenance operators standing by to look after it. As such, many remain airworthy and seem quite set to stay that way for a long while to come.
This link to a Stearman restoration specialist website has very good sections on the type’s history and development:
This link will take you to the web page of the annual Stearman Fly-In event held in America. There’s lots of good information here about both the event and the aircraft: