The Last of the Breed – Mike Porter’s Atomic Stearman

WARBIRD RADIO – Atomic Stearman?  Yes, believe it or not, around fifty Stearman biplanes were still flying in the United States Air Force at the beginning of the atomic age.  It wasn’t until 1949 the newly minted United States Air Force, retired the last of it’s famous biplane trainers.  Stearman artisan, Mike Porter is completing his latest restoration,  Stearman 42-17720.  The buzz number is TF-720.  What, “TF”?  According to Mr. Porter, the “TF” designation comes from same USAF Technical Order that standardized the red stripe inside the national insignia.  Porter added, this was in the age when a Mustang was listed in the “P”, or pursuit category.  “T” was training in this case and the “F” was specific for the PT-13.  Mike says “TA” would have been the buzz number for an AT-6 and “TG” would have been the designator for a PT-17.  How’s that for a little unique history?

Stearman 720 will be like no Stearman flying today, this unique aircraft will be restored to the 1949 USAF specifications, making it a true “atomic” age biplane.  Texas folks should pay close attention to 720, as she served her entire military career in the great republic.  To call 720 the Yellow Rose of Texas, would be fitting for her history.  Her military career began at Goodfellow Field outside San Angelo, then she bounced around the Lone Star state until she was placed in storage at Pyote Field.  Her final few days in service were alongside legends like the Enola Gay, Memphis Belle and many more including the CAF’s B-17 “Sentimental Journey”.  Mike says the story deepens here, 720 left Pyote when American Duster Company purchased her, along with forty-nine other Stearmans (they bought all fifty of the last birds).  The new duster fleet was reassembled and flown off a dirt road, across from Interstate-20.  It was from that dirt road they began their new lives with big engines, spraying crops in Idaho.  Stearman 720 disappeared from the registry in 1970 and hasn’t flown since.   It’s twist in history and lack of flying has helped to preserve it as a real time capsule.  Today, 720 is nearly complete and its list of rare and wonderful original equipment is still growing.

For the warbird purest out there, 720 will fast become their favorite Stearman, here’s why:

  • Original instruments and panel layout
  • Original vacuum tube intercom and battery
  • Original right hand Co2 fire extinguisher
  • Original inertial starter
  • Original electrical boxes (mounted correctly – up front)
  • Original map cases
  • Original wooden seats, wooden control sticks and metal floor boards
  • Stock Hayes wheels and brakes (1/500 sets made)
  • Freshly overhauled engine
  • New wood
  • New hardware – epoxy painted
  • Covered with Ceconite and Airtech Coatings 

Bonus:  According to engineer drawings (see image in gallery) the last few Stearmans were equipment with passing lights on the upper left wing.  Mike is considering installing one after a little more research – neat!

When asked how many of the last 50 were flying, Mike wasn’t sure.  He knows of a few that are still airworthy and operating; however, he points out with a smile, 720 will be the only one flying with a period correct restoration.  The historical significance of the last Stearman biplanes can’t be overlooked.  As the USAF was transitioning from props to jets and conventional weapons to atomic,  a handful of vintage biplanes were still in active service.  Stearman 720 is the last of the breed, and will soon fly again as a reminder of just how far we’ve come. 

Expected completion:  Summer of 2017 / EAA’s AirVenture is already on the list of planned visits.

Offers for purchase will be considered:


Fly The PT-13 – Photo Tour!

WARBIRD RADIO – Take to the skies in the rare PT-13.  So what’s the difference in the PT-13 and PT-17? They a look the same but the engines are different.  The PT-13 uses the Lycoming R-680 and the PT-17 uses the Continental R-670.  The legendary Stearman’s were the first airplanes most WWII pilots trained in.

After the war, many were used as crop dusters and sprayers.  Today the PT-13/PT-17 remains a popular warbird for pilots and enthusiasts alike. The PT-13 featured in the video and photo tour was owned by Jeff Whitford at the time we published.



Crew: two, student and instructor
Length: 24 ft 9 in (7.54 m)
Wingspan: 32 ft 2 in (9.81 m)
Height: 9 ft 8 in (2.95 m)
Wing area: 298 sq ft (27.7 m²)
Empty weight: 1,931 lb (878 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 2,635 lb (1,198 kg)
Powerplant: 1— Continental R-670-5 seven-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 220 hp (164 kW)

Maximum speed: 135 mph (117 knots, 217 km/h)
Cruise speed: 96 mph (83 knots, 155 km/h)
Service ceiling: 13,200 ft (4,024 m)
Climb to 10,000 ft (3,050 m): 17.3 min

Smithsonian’s Spirit of Tuskegee Final Journey – Flying Highlights

WARBIRD RADIO – Tag along as USAF Captain Matthew Quy and Smithsonian Curator Dik Daso fly one of the only surviving Tuskegee Airmen PT-13D Stearmans from Moton Field in Tuskegee Alabama to the National Air and Space Museum. For more information search key work:  Tuskegee on Warbird Radio and listen to Episode 326’s podcast.  Enjoy!


Fly The PT-13! – Video

WARBIRD RADIO – Take to the skies in the rare PT-13.  Tag along as we go flying with Jeff Whitford outside Atlanta, Georgia.  Jeff’s rare PT-13 uses a Lycoming R-680 engine.  That’s the difference (in case you were wondering) between the PT-13 and PT-17.  The PT-17 uses a Continental R-670.  Now that you know the difference…let’s go flying!  Be sure and check out the PT-13 Photo Tour as well.

Spirit of Tuskegee Makes Final Journey – Warbird Radio LIVE! – Wednesday

Spirit of Tuskegee - Warbird Radio LIVE! - Wednesday

WEDNESDAY – Captain Matthew Quy (United States Air Force) and Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Curator of Modern Military – Dik Daso are taking the journey of a lifetime.  Matthew Quy and his wife Tina have tirelessly worked to restore and fly one of the surviving PT-13D Stearman aircraft from historic Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama.  Today the Quy’s Stearman is on it’s final journey into aviation history as it makes it’s way to the Smithsonian’s Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.  Captain Quy and Curator Dik Daso left Moton Field on Sunday and are almost home…  Hear all the details this Wednesday at 10am (EASTERN) during this special Warbird Radio LIVE!

STUDIO LINE:  478.787.4768

SKYPE:  warbirdradio



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