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:


Warbird Radio LIVE! – Safety Month’s Maintenance & Restoration – 3/10/15 – 8pm ET

MerlinMaintenanceWARBIRD RADIO – As winter draws to a close aircraft are coming out of maintenance and preparing to fly.  Learn a few tips for a safe transition back to the air on tonight’s Warbird Radio LIVE!  Restoration and maintenance experts Scott Yoak and Mike Porter join Matt Jolley during a special Safety Month edition of WRL.

Scott Yoak is one of the premiere P-51 Mustang demonstration pilots in North America and Mike Porter is known the world over for his Stearman biplane restoration and flying (another added benefit – both men are Certified Flight Instructors).  Practical advice for a safe flying season, maintenance tips and tricks and your calls and questions are all scheduled for Tuesday evening’s broadcast.

The guys from Warbirds News will also join the show with a look at this week’s headlines.  Show time is 8pm (EASTERN) right here on  Thanks for tuning in!

STUDIO LINE:  478-787-4768

SKYPE: warbirdradio


QUICK LINK:  Scott Yoak’s Website

QUICK LINK:  Mike Porter’s Contact

QUICK LINK:  Warbirds News


From The Archive: John Mohr – Warbird Radio LIVE! – Episode 69

john mohrWARBIRD RADIO – From the archive, legendary air show aviator John Mohr joined Matt Jolley on Warbird Radio LIVE back in 2011.  John (who has since retired from the industry) was routinely compared to the greats like R.A. “Bob” Hoover.  John’s performance is the stock Stearman was truly a think of beauty.

The audience was spell bound because his skill set allowed the Stearman to defy gravity.  Find out what it’s like to fly the “stock” Stearman to the edge of it’s flight envelope.


To listen to the free download click the play button at the bottom of this page.  Thanks for tuning in!

QUICK LINK:  Mohr Barnstorming



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!


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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