The Nevada Wing of the Commemorative Air Force has been hard at work restoring a Stinson AT-19 for a number of years now, and they are close to getting her back in the air again. Located in a hangar at the North Las Vegas Air Terminal in Las Vegas, the CAF Nevada Wing was born from the local support group which formed in 1986 to help repair the CAF’s Douglas A-26 Invader Spirit of Waco, when she was marooned at the airport following a catastrophic engine failure at nearby McCarran International Airport.
The aircraft, bearing its original Royal Navy serial number, FB768 is essentially an uprated version of the Stinson AT-19/UC-81 which served in the US military during the war, and itself a derivative of the civilian Stinson Reliant. Stinson’s factory in Detroit, Michigan built 500 of them exclusively for the Royal Navy under the Lend-Lease program. The type served in many roles from liaison to reconnaissance. FB768 was nearly the last of these Reliants to roll off the production line, having construction number 496. It received the temporary US Army Air Force serial number, 43-44209, before allocation to the Royal Navy in late 1944. She arrived in Newark, New Jersey by air in December, 1944, but it wasn’t until February 1st, 1945 the she was placed aboard a ship for England. The Royal Navy transferred the aircraft to Royal Air Force for service in South East Asia, shipping her to India on March 1st, 1945. After the war, the Reliant was one of many which Britain returned to the USA aboard a Royal Navy-operated Lend-Lease jeep carrier.
The US Navy took her on their books as Bu.11530 in July, 1946, but soon declared her surplus. The War Assets Administration then put her up for disposal. Interestingly, no one would buy the aircraft as “war surplus” as the AT-19 had never received civilian certification. However, Consolidated Vultee recognized a quick profit to be had, buying up as many of the Reliants as it could, and re-certifying them as the V-77 Reliant. Essentially all this entailed was the removal of all military equipment, a quick tidy-up, and a repaint. Vultee issued all the V-77s with new log books and a 1946 manufacture date. Her first civilian owner took her to Southern California, but she changed hands many times over the years, journeying from California to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas before finally the CAF acquired her in August, 1991. They initially assigned her to the CAF Utah Wing, which disassembled the aircraft in preparation for restoration. The restoration unfortunately never took place though, and the unit returned the Reliant to CAF Headquarters in Midland, Texas where she sat in storage for more than a decade. Those years were not kind to the poor Reliant, as she lost parts, presumably to other projects, and her wings apparently received significant damage too. The CAF Nevada Wing took her on about ten years ago, and according to them, the project was missing more essential parts than it came with. They have worked hard on the aircraft, and with a shoestring budget as well.
In late June, the CAF Nevada Wing trucked the aircraft to Dave’s Custom Sheetmetal based at Russ McDonald Field in Heber, Utah. The workshop is located on the same air strip as the CAF Utah Wing, where the project was once based. Several members of the Utah Wing will be volunteering their services at Dave’s Custom Sheetmetal to help keep costs down. Even so, the paid labor is expected to involve an additional US$20,000 in costs, but it is a necessary step forwards to make sure the project gets completed expediently. In addition to the work going on in Heber, the project also needs to have …
i: Cockpit instruments overhauled (est. US$2,500 – $4,000)
ii: Purchase a transponder, radio, intercom, encoder and ELT and install the accompanying wiring and antennas. (est. US$6,000 – $8,000)
iii: Purchase of fabric covering for the aircraft structure and the requisite chemicals, tape, rib-stitching supplies and exterior paint. (est.US$7,500 – $8,500)
She is now perhaps no more than a year away from making her first flight, but needs all the help available. Anyone who is interested in contributing supplies, services or cash to the project should click HERE to find out how. The link also includes a list of items the project is still searching for.
WarbirdsNews will continue to follow this project, and bring you new details when they arrive!