As we reported HERE in January, the Commemorative Air Force’s Dixie Wing in Peachtree City, Georgia has begun restoring a Stearman (Boeing) N2S-2 Kaydet which they acquired last August. A lot has happened in the interim; indeed the unit acquired a second airframe from near Austin, Texas in February. Maintenance Officer Randy Hawkins explained the reasoning, stating: “I was surfing the Barnstormers website, and I came across an ad for a Steaman project for sale. The condition seemed great and the price was even better. I decided to visit the seller in Texas, and when I saw the project, I knew right there that we could not pass up such an awesome deal.”
After settling up with the previous owner, the Dixie Wing had the airframe transported back to Georgia by road. Hawkins noted: “This second airframe will allow us to jump start this restoration and save a lot of time. The previous owner has done an incredible job with the airplane and, as a result, our volunteers can start this project already with a stand-alone airframe.”
Warbird Digest’s very own Moreno Aguiari is the project manager for the Stearman rebuilds, and shared more details about the decision to acquire this second airframe: “We did not plan to acquire a second airframe, as our economic resources are pretty slim, but this deal made sense. After Randy visited with the owner of the airplane and provided positive feedback, we took into consideration all of the pros and cons, and it very much made sense to pull the trigger. While the acquisition will dry out our bank account in the short term, it will allow us to save money in a long term, and cut a considerable amount of time on the restoration project.”
The Dixie Wing is currently investigating the history of this second ‘Stearman, which appears to be another U.S. Navy example of the iconic WWII biplane trainer. As readers may remember, the Dixie Wing’s first N2S joined the U.S. Navy as Bu.03531 on July 9th, 1941. Her first assignment was at Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi in Texas. The Navy then transferred the Kaydet to a Naval Reserve Air Base in Detroit, Michigan on April 9th, 1942. Her next assignment involved moving on April 1st, 1944 to Naval Air Intermediate Training (NAIT) at Rodd Field, back in Corpus Christi, Texas. The aircraft then moved to join the aircraft pool in Dallas, Texas that November, with the Navy striking her from their books on November 30th. The CAF have listed N2S-2 Bu.03531 as N50329 on the U.S. civil registry.
Earlier this year, the Dixie Wing realized that their most immediate freeing up extra space at the museum to start a proper parts inventory process. With the Dixie Wing’s restoration shop already occupied by wings from the Ryan PT-26 belonging to the CAF’s Heart of America Wing (Dixie Wing members are helping a sister unit), they decided to purchase a 40ft shipping container to use as a storage facility. Members constructed and installed shelves and hardware inside the container, thus allowing them to properly store the parts from both airplanes and begin the inventory process.
The Dixie Wing set up an online orientation meeting for its members. But on Saturday, July 18th, CAF Dixie Wing volunteers were able to kick off the restoration process in person! The unit intends to develop a restoration program with leadership from several of the unit’s female members as a way of honoring “Rosie the Riveter,” the cultural icon who represented women workers at factories and shipyards during World War II.
As the Dixie Wing noted, “One of our goals with this restoration is to involve all our members who don’t have experience with restoring airplanes. The Stearman is a fairly straightforward airplane, and definitely less complex that other warbirds we have in our collection. With the supervision of our A&P mechanics and expert restorers any member could have the opportunity to restore a piece of history.” Maintenance Officer, Randy Hawkins held a tutorial for how to identify parts and consult the airplane parts catalog. He also showed female members how to use a sand blaster to clean up parts, providing them the opportunity to operate the tool themselves. At the moment, there are five female members taking part in the restoration. This will indeed be a great way to honor the real Rosies who made such a critical contribution to the war effort.
CAF Dixie Wing member, Robyn Rosenzweig, who works as a business manager at a medial laboratory during her day job, told Warbird Digest: “This is a great opportunity for us female members to contribute to the mission of the CAF in a very meaningful way. During World War II, women took on a variety of disciplines previously closed to them, but it was the aviation industry that saw the greatest increase in female workers. Indeed, more than 310,000 women worked in the U.S. aircraft industry during 1943; they comprised fully 65% of the industry’s total workforce, compared to just 1% in pre-war years. The intent of this project is to encourage more women to get involved in the CAF, and aviation as a whole. In a way, we are like those women who came from all walks of life and took on the tasks of building airplanes, ships and tanks in American factories. We all have regular jobs, but we want to contribute to the restoration of this Stearman, and honor all the Rosies in the process.”
As of last Saturday, Dixie Wing volunteers have begun the painstaking inventory and parts assessment process which will allow the teams to determine what Kaydet components they can restore/refurbish, and what they will need to build or acquire elsewhere. We look forwards to covering this restoration from start-to-finish here at Warbird Digest!
To support the Stearman restoration, please visit www.cafstearman.com