Would I Stear(man) You Wrong?


By Terry Hogan


Time flies faster than a Stearman.  Another year has flown by. It is about time to peer upward.  It is time to listen for the drone of approaching Stearman.  The Stearman are returning.  It must be September. It must be Galesburg.  It must be the annual Galesburg Stearman fly-in.  The fly-in is the week of September 7-13, 2009 with the peak of activities for us ground-pounders being on Saturday (12th).  There is a detailed schedule on the Internet.


All things considered, this year has been unkind to many of us. Jobs lost; benefits cut; and new economic uncertainties pop-up like in “whack a mole”, but we have no clubs. It is possible that the Stearman turnout might be down this year.  It wouldn’t be surprising.  The economic downturn probably washed to the shores of Stearman owners too.


But even if fewer Stearman dot our skies and temporarily drown out the hum of mosquitoes, it is too good of a show to miss.  Just think about the Stearman fly-in for a moment.  Why should you come?  It’s in your back yard.  It’s cheap.  It is living history, with the Stearman playing a key training role in WWII. The Stearman pilots are friendly and proud of their planes.  One doesn’t take baskets of old parts and various pieces of “this and that” and recreate a biplane for profit.  It is an act of love.  It is an act of dedication to history. Some might say it started out of ignorance of how difficult it would be. But at the end, there it is.  A work of art. A work of love.  Once it lifts off the ground, the love is returned. Life is added. 


I’ve been lucky enough to fly a few times in a Stearman.  It was a unique experience for me. I cannot describe it any more effectively than exhilarating.  Remember the “first time”? (You know what I mean).  Could you find the words to adequately describe that?  It’s the same with your first Stearman flight.  You just have to experience it for yourself.


It is also not uncommon for a few other types of planes to fly-in.  My favorite fighter of all times is clearly the P51 Mustang.  It is an amazing plane.  There is an old saying that “form follows function”.  The Mustang could be Exhibit A in support of that saying. The Mustang was designed, constructed, and flown for one purpose.  In that realm, it has a pure pedigree. I don’t know if one will arrive this year.  I’m sure it is not a cheap plane to fly.  But I sure hope so.


And that brings me to another point.  About a year ago, I was in Washington, D.C.  I had time to spend a couple of hours at the National Air Museum.  It is well worth the visit.  But no plane sitting (or hung from the roof) in a museum can compare with one “in the wild”.  Whether it is the sight and sound of Stearmans or a lone Mustang, the experience seriously overshadows the silent shell in a museum.   There is no comparison.    


If you have children or grandchildren, take them to the fly-in.  What do you want them to remember about you, years later:  They took me to see real biplanes flying through the sky. It was wonderful. (You could do worse).


 When I read this draft, I fear I sound a bit like the county fair barker trying to separate you from your weekly allowance to see the wonders of the world – the bearded lady, the two-headed cow, etc.  I’m neither a barker nor a shill. I’m just a Stearman “wannabe” that makes a 600 mile round trip by car to see and hear planes that barely escaped death by decay and neglect. 


I hope to see you at the Galesburg Airport.  I’ll be there…the old gray-haired guy taking way too many photos. 


Come on out.  Would I Stear(man) you wrong?



Published Schedule of Activities*

Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009

9 AM-4 PM: Art in the Park, Standish Park Arboretum, downtown Galesburg. Juried fine art and craft fair featuring painters, sculptors, potters, weavers, basket makers, and jewelers.                                                                                                                                10 AM-6 PM: Narrated tram rides along Stearman flight line for general public (weather permitting). $1 per person.
12:30 PM: Formation Flying contest briefing at Stearman Fly-In seminar tent, Galesburg Municipal Airport.                                                                                                                   1 PM: Formation Flying contest, Galesburg Municipal Airport.                                          7 PM: National Stearman Fly-In Annual Banquet and Awards Presentations at Jet Air Hangar, Galesburg Municipal Airport. Serving until 8 p.m. Food charge. Beverages additional.

Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009

7 AM.-11 AM.: Galesburg Noon Lions Club Fly-In All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast at Jet Air hangar, Galesburg Municipal Airport. Open to the public.  Food charge.   
Throughout Day: Stearman Departures.

* Extracted and modified from Visit site for full schedule.