In Part I of our blog series on the Beech D17-S Staggerwing N25K, Museum Director Jim Jenkins gave a brief history of this incredible aircraft. In Part II, Jim talks about overcoming the barriers preventing the museum from acquiring the Staggerwing. He picks up the story at the point where John K. Desmond has just finished restoration of the plane.
by Jim Jenkins, Museum Director
First flight took place after J.K. Desmond’s restoration during 2008 and would be flown by well-known Joe Flood of Franklinville, N.J. Joe had the great opportunity to befriend John Desmond and in turn John let Joe Flood fly the Staggerwing about 14:00 hours over a three year period.
With failing heath Mr. Desmond had Joe Flood return N25K to Pottstown-Limerick Airport where I would have the opportunity to lay my eyes and hands on her in April of 2015. My main mission in going back east to look at the collection was to see if there was anything that would “fit” our Golden Age period era aircraft that our collection was leaning towards. I found many–and I do mean many–that fit.
While in Pennsylvania I was chauffeured around by Steven Lindrooth of Eagles Mere Air Museum who has been helping Mike Posie finish many of the Desmond airplanes prior to being sold, and on one our three stops we had the opportunity to look at the Staggerwing. She was in the middle of a Cleveland wheel and brake conversion and had some of her fairings removed, so I was able to see some of the interior of the airplane and actually get up inside and sit in her. Quite a machine I thought to myself but being realistic thought N25K would be out of our price range even with the 1″ of dust and dirt scattered over most of her scarlett finish.
Reluctantly I wiggled the controls and climbed out taking one last look over my shoulder thinking that Harold Hanson and myself in previous years had talked about how great a Staggerwing would be for his growing collection, and walked away not thinking there was a remote possibility in acquiring N25K for NCVAM.
Well, life can be full of surprises. And this surprise came many months after my return from the Desmond Mega Collection. Our President Barry called me a day well into September and had mentioned that he talked with John Desmond’s son Kenneth and that they had talked about the Staggerwing and were being more realistic with the price and, amazingly, a wonderful deal was put together in a matter of days, along with the blessing of our executor, Jim Ladd of the Hanson Family Trust. Next, piles of paperwork from Kokie Adams, our attorney, we were given the green light to go out and get N25K airworthy for the ferry flight back to Concrete.
The work to make N25K fly again…..maybe.
With myself–an IA, along with my son Drew and Brian White–both A&P`s, enough tools, charts, GPS`s, backpacks with clothes for a week boarded a brand new Alaska 737-900, we winged our way to Philadelphia, PA. We arrived late afternoon at Heritage Field in time for the guys to see the actual N25K they had heard so much about and heard me question our sensibility in getting this big old biplane ready to fly 2350 miles over two mountain ranges to the great Northwest.
Their impressions made feel good–” is she worth it” I quipped ?? Both gave me the thumbs up and we started going over her like chicks pecking on mamma hen.
Drew jumped right in and turn on the master switches and to our surprise the battery was charged, all the lights came on, the avionics lit up and the gorgeous landing lights lit up and extended down into their place of honor. We were all happy but also very tired, it was a long day from 5 am in Seattle to 7 pm Eastern time.
Next in Part III, Jim talks about how the three of them got the Beech D17-S Staggerwing N25K airworthy for its cross-country trip to Concrete, WA. If you missed Part I, catch it here and for part III click here.