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  • Writer's pictureJ.K. Caldwell

Stinson Model 10A

FIRST IMPRESSIONS If it’s possible for an airplane to have a personality, this cute little three-seater would definitely be happy. This airplane is the perfect blend of functionality and fun — and this particular one is an amazing piece of restoration art.

BACKGROUND This Stinson Model 10A was built in 1941. It was used during World War II by the Civil Air Patrol in the hunt for German U-boats over the Gulf of Mexico. A single 100-pound bomb was slung under the belly, and a release mechanism fashioned from baling wire was used by either the pilot or observer to pickle the bomb on a surfaced enemy submarine. As far as I’m aware, no submarine kills were credited to the mighty Stinson, but it served its country well in time of need. By 1969, this airplane found itself in central California, but unfortu- nately an out-of-control grass fire burned the entire thing four years later. The charred bones spent the next 30 years in a barn until sold to its current owner, Hans Steiner, EAA 775948, for $2,000. After being trailered to Hans’ shop at his boat dealership, it spent the next 12 years being restored in meticulous detail. What made this even more interesting is the fact that the owner had no plans to build from and, in fact, had never even seen a Stinson Model 10A. Parts were manufactured from measurements literally taken from charred wood pieces. One dilemma he had was an extra part with no known purpose.

This airplane is the perfect blend of functionality and fun — and this particular one is an amazing piece of restoration art.

Many years into the build, Hans finally laid eyes on another Model 10 and discovered it was the parking brake handle. During the 12-year resurrection, he enjoyed excel- lent assistance from his father; his son, Ian; and his 13-year-old grandson, Conner, making this project the com- bined work of four generations. Their efforts were rewarded with a Bronze Lindy at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014. Today, Conner is quickly becoming a proficient Stinson pilot.

DESIGN: Outwardly the 10A looks like many small taildraggers of the era, but it has a number of well-hidden unique design features. One such feature is the sideways-facing rear seat, reminiscent of a back seat in a 1980s Nissan King Cab pickup truck. In the Stinson’s case, there is one small side-ways-facing seat immediately behind the pilot. Due to the size of the seat, a useful load of only 480 pounds, and a max weight of 100 pounds, it’s basically just a child’s seat. It’s still cool to have that third seat option, though.

The fuselage is a fabric-covered steel cage, and the tail is all spruce, including the skin and ribs. The wings have a spruce wood spar, aluminum ribs, and an aluminum wingtip bow. The landing gear has outboard hinge points and pivot via an oleo strut scissor joint in the fuselage. All the flight control hinge points use ball bearings, giving almost effortless control to the pilot. Three notches of flaps are available with a floor-mounted Johnson bar. Control inputs are transmitted to the ailerons and elevators via pushrods and bellcranks and to the rudder via cables.

ERGONOMICS Dual doors that open fairly far forward make it relatively easy to get in and out. There is surprisingly more room in the cabin than expected. There is actually more front-seat head and shoulder room than in a Piper Pacer. Since the back seat is limited to 100 pounds, I didn’t give it a try, but I imag- ine it would be okay for short flights, especially if you’re a kid who loves flying.

3rd Seat (sideways facing)

POWERPLANT The Model 10A was originally equipped with a 90-hp Franklin 4AC-199, but the one I flew has an STC for a 140-hp Lycoming O-290-D2. The thrust is delivered via a polished aluminum Sensenich cruise prop. The original fuel capacity was 20 gallons, but with the upgraded engine, a second tank was added, bringing capacity to 40 gallons.

PREFLIGHT/TAXI/TAKEOFF The cowling easily opens and hinges upward on both sides, provid- ing easy access to the entire engine compartment. I have never seen an engine or an engine compartment so clean, which clearly shows the care and attention Hans and Ian give to their piece of art. The preflight inspection is fairly standard for most fabric airplanes except there are no external control cables to inspect. A unique rudder trim mechanism uses an internal machine screw on the rudder with the screw head protruding from the fabric. Turning the screw clockwise decreases the camber of the left side of the rudder, and counterclockwise rotation increases the camber by slightly pulling the fabric out, causing the rudder to deflect right. This is definitely an uncommon method of trim that I’ve never seen on any other aircraft. This 10A is equipped with an electric starter and has no issues firing up, even without use of the primer. Taxiing requires a moderate amount of power and some brake pumping to make hard turns. Toe brakes are only installed on the pilot’s side, while the right seat has rudder pedals only. Run-up and pretakeoff checks are basic. Once you’re ready, line up on the runway, put your heels on the floor, and push the throttle full forward. Don’t expect to be amazed at the acceleration, but it’ll get the job done. Climb-away speed will initially be about 60 mph, and then you can set about 70-80 mph for cruise climb.

FLYING QUALITIES The Voyager is an honest flyer with no disagreeable habits. Differential ailerons reduce adverse yaw during turns, and fixed leading-edge slats built into the wing keep positive aileron authority even at near-stall speeds. Normal cruise will produce 110 mph while burning only 7.5 gph. Elevator trim is adjusted via an overhead crank knob on the ceiling. While the control pressures are by no means excessive, frequent trimming is required if you enjoy zeroing out control pressures like I do. The smooth and positive control from the pushrods, coupled with the ball-bearing hinges, are noticeable and make this an enjoyable little plane for cruising around. The leather-wrapped round “steering wheel” is similar to one from a Ford Model T and adds to the nostalgia, even giving it a bit of a luxury feel.

LANDING It’s the pilot’s choice of whether to use 20 or 30 degrees of flaps for landing. An approach speed of 70 mph for a wheel landing or 65 mph for a three-pointer is recommended. Either method will produce ample visibility. There are no particularly difficult landing characteristics once the wheels are on deck.

WRAP-UP Out of the ashes a phoenix will rise. While this glossy red Stinson 10A may not immediately remind you of the firebird from Greek mythology, its resur- rection from charred remains found in a barn to a better-than-new, award-winning beauty is truly an astounding story. This Stinson Model 10A is one of only 24 still airworthy out of 775 Model 10 variants built. If you are fortunate enough to fly or even to own one, you’ll be happily rewarded with a very pleasant and true flyer.

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