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Utah CAF Restoring Historic Biplane

Posted On
Jan 25, 2016

The Utah Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, based right here in the Heber Valley, at Russ McDonald Air Field was recently featured in a KSL article on January 20, 2016. 

A group of volunteers and aviation experts have taken on the painstaking task to restore the WWII era aircraft. As stated in the KSL article this craft was used to train pilots in the Army Air Corps during WWII.  Read more about the life of the plane, the restoration process, and future plans for this airplane on KSL. 

Local Volunteers work to restore historic Boeing PT-17 Stearman - KSL.com.

The restoration on the Stearman began on November 1, 2015 with the removal of the four wings.  The original plan was to restore the bottom two wings this winter, the top wings during the winter of 2017, and the fuselage and control surfaces during the winter of 2018.  But minimal damage and the strong turnout of volunteers quickly moved things along. 

The aircraft under restoration served as a WWII trainer in the Army Air Corps. After the war she was a crop duster; fully restored in 1980. Then, while on a cross country flight to California -- August 1986 – she suffered a catastrophic crash in the trees of the Oquirrh Mountains west of the Salt Lake Valley.  The Utah Wing of the CAF recovered the wreckage and she was completely rebuilt, taking her maiden flight in 1988.  Since then, hundreds have flown in her; thousands have touched her or sat in her.  She has thrilled crowds at countless airshows, flown over numerous parades and cemeteries and honored veterans of all branches of the military.

“We have had an unbelievable amount of volunteer support from our unit for this project,” said Beth Ann, project manager.  She added, “It has moved beyond the restoration of a very cool historic airplane.  Friendships have formed and our membership has unified around a common cause.  They are anxious to get started on the final phase of the restoration.” 

Plans are underway for the four wings to be put back on in the next few months.  She is already scheduled to fly at numerous airshows this summer and she is a popular choice for rides and parade and cemetery flyovers, and she will appear at a few local events at the Heber City Airport.  

This project is partially funded by a grant from the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, Park City Rotary, the Jack Wells family, and Watts Enterprises and is sponsored by Polyfiber Aircraft Coatings, Riverside, California.

The Utah Wing thanks the volunteer restoration team: 

  • Steve Guenard
  • Paul Schneider
  • Bill Noland
  • Bruce and Rob Kirchenheiter
  • Chris Ryan 
  • Christian Cassens 
  • Dave Barber 
  • Dave Bernard 
  • Dave Wood 
  • David Gorrell
  • Dave Hansen
  • Jim Church
  • Jim Morgan 
  • Matt MacNemera 
  • Skip Slyfield
  • Steve Guenard 
  • Thayne Harbaugh 
  • Timothy Lapage 
  • Tom Meecham 

The mission of the Utah Wing Of the Commemorative Air Force is to collect, restore, display and fly historic aircraft as a way to honor and remeber the aviation history of the armed forces. Today, the Utah CAF has three air planes that they regularly fly and on display for the public. Just as important as collecting the planes, is collecting the stories that go along with them and passing them down. 

Contact the UCAF for more information about upcoming projects, touring the museum and even flying in one of these historic air crafts.